It is a
mystery why Denis Leary has never become huge. He's one of the
funniest guys in show business, and yet none of his films or TV ventures
seems to catch on. He is a brilliant stand-up comedian (just track
down his old CD No Cure for Cancer) who has tended to stand out in a series of
not very good movies. He never captured the potential he showed in
his debut starring film, The Ref, with Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis,
one of the great overlooked movies of the 90s. After that he got
stuck as the third lead in a series of misconceived messes like
Operation Dumbo Drop, Judgment Night (where he did play a pretty
blood-curdling criminal), Two If By Sea, The Sandlot, Suicide Kings,
The MatchMaker and The Thomas Crown Affair.
2000, his movie career was mostly limited to voiceovers in animated films
(Ice Age, Small Soldiers, A Bug's Life). So he was hooked up
with writer Peter Tolan to spin out some ideas for television. This
show was the fruit of their labors.
was, for a short time, the funniest show on television and the
cutting-edge of cool cop banter.
the Job was on ABC during the whole Who Wants To Be A
Millionaire? fiasco, where that game show series took up several
timeslots a week. The constant barrage of Regis asking "Is that
your final answer" knocked at least four of the best sitcoms (although
none of the four could exactly be called sitcoms in the classic sense) off the net's
schedule, this one, Sports Night, Spin City and It's Like, You
Know... (release that great forgotten series on DVD, please!) The
net hit a free fall when it jettisoned all of its good programming, a
free fall that was only stopped this season with the hip new series
Lost and Desperate Housewives. If those four vanished series were on ABC together with the new blood, ABC would be the hippest
network on TV, wresting the title from HBO, which has lost or is losing
Sex & The City, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos all in the
period of a little over a year. However, as good as The Job
was on ABC, it would have been even better if it was on HBO, so that the
writers could have really let loose and not worried about standards and
The Job follows the adventures of
perhaps the most dysfunctional squad room in New York history. (Even
Dennis Franz' character of Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue would be the
most grounded guy in this staff.) The ring-leader, and our hero, is
Mike McNeil (Leary) a cop who is a smoker, a drinker, a gambler, a
pervert, an occasional thief and has a drug problem. He has a
beautiful and long-suffering wife (Valerie Mahaffey) on Long Island and a
girlfriend (Karyn Parsons) in the city. He is out of shape, has
anger management problems, and treats people like trash.
doesn't sound like someone that you'd want to hang around with, but The
Job has a quirky, funny vibe that allows you to wallow in the bad
behavior and the show does unexpected things with pat storylines. For
example, there is the inevitable episode when McNeil has to go to anger
management classes after being videotaped pulling an irate New York cabbie
out through his window. However, unlike most shows which would make
Mike atone for his sins, in The Job he wreaks havoc on the class,
starting a riot and making the teacher (Zeljko Ivanek) cry.
The basic philosophy of
the squad is pretty much summed up by Frank (Lenny Clarke),
“You’re a cop.
Mike and his co-horts will joke, play
pranks and berate suspects on calls. He will chase men in
wheelchairs down hills or pretend to beat up a suspect's grandmother to
get a confession.
“You sure those guys are cops?” a witness asks at the
scene of a crime, and this is not an unreasonable question.
However, Mike does have an odd sense of honor.
Though, granted, one that extends to other people but not him. For
example, he was furious when he found out that the new boyfriend of Jan
(Diane Farr of Loveline), the only woman in the precinct, is dating
a man who turns out to be married. Can you believe that guy?
Mike explodes with disbelief to his
partner Pip (Bill Nunn of Do the Right Thing).
married partner just got off the phone with his girlfriend,"
Pip observes. "Now he’s upset because
she couldn’t score the Tylenol with the codeine. No, I don’t believe that
Of course, Mike and Pip have different views on
marriage. Pip has been married to Adina (Janet Hubert-Whitten) his
overbearing, religious wife who disapproves of everyone in the squad; but
particularly she dislikes Mike. “The Lord is going to smite
him sooner or later," Adina rages to Pip,
"and I don’t want you standing next to his ass
when it happens.” Still, she is the only woman
that Pip has ever been with and he would never consider cheating on her.
He also tells her squad room secrets, which amazes Mike, because he tells
his wife NOTHING. “Your wife was just here,”
Mike yelled at Pip
when she made a surprise visit to talk with the Sergeant. “My wife
doesn’t even know where this building is.”
Most of the other cops have
dysfunctional relationships as well. Frank, the
hefty, food-obsessed and just a little lazy older cop meets an old friend
and asks him how he's doing. The guy said he was getting a divorce,
to which Frank effervesced, "You're living my dream!" Terminally
single lothario Tommy (Adam Ferrara) finally finds love with a violent,
aggressive woman that they arrested on assault charges, stating dreamily
that she reminds him of his mother. Ruben (John Ortiz), one of the
shy rookies, has to deflect come-ons from elderly women and gays.
Jan has the worst of it, though, in different episodes she dates married
men, a cross-dresser, a bank robber and
homeless man. The worst romantic decision that
Jan did not make, though, was the apparent mutual attraction that she felt
for Mike, though neither of them were willing to act on it. In a
commentary by Leary and co-creator Peter Tolan, the two did acknowledge
this relationship was something they were planning on exploring down the
road had the show been
It's probably just as well that never happened.
Mike is not one to get all touchy-feely,
deflecting heartfelt conversations with a snide “All right, this
is beginning to sound a little too much like a tampon commercial for my
taste.” He is also extremely dismissive of people
who can't be of help to him, particularly women. At one point, when
he pisses off a little girl who is the daughter of the district attorney,
Jan cackles, “It’s official. Women of all ages hate you.”
reason that this particular little girl hated him was because she was
supposed to go a ride-along with Mike and Pip, but Mike made it very
obvious she was a pain for him. He made her get them coffee and pick
up his dry-cleaning. She also was doing a report for her school
paper, which Mike also took lightly. When she asked if he took
bribes, Mike said they considered them tips. When she asked how many
unarmed men he had shot, he asked "Today?" Then she said,
“So you think it's
right shooting unarmed people?” Mike
replied flipply “Well, I don’t know if it’s right, but it makes a
lot more sense than shooting the armed ones. Those guys are dangerous.”
The Job has an offbeat, sarcastic, slightly
antisocial attitude that springs from its star. Luckily, Leary seems
to be getting some success, on a more modest, cable-television scale, with
his new series, Rescue Me, which explores the psyche of New York
firefighters in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster.
Some of the cast members of The Job have shown up on the new show.
Ironically, that series is being released on DVD at the same time as this
one. If you have just discovered Leary on the new series,
give this lost treasure a shot.
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Posted: September 27, 2006.