The last time we saw "Paris" -- Saturday night, Oct. 27 -- the program was having ratings pangs in its berth at the end of a long night of CBS duds. Tonight, "Paris" moves to Tuesdays at 10 (on Channel 9), where competition is weak and where it may get a chance at the audiences it deserves.
For the re-premiere, the series comes up with a solid wallop, a story about how a casual remark from a murder suspect opens new doubts about the guilt of a man who has spent six years on death row. Captain of detectives Woody Paris, played by James Earl Jones, races to get the man's now imminent execution delayed until the new evidence is evaluated.
Again, the incomparably commanding presence of Jones is the strongest assest of the show, although Jones may be a bit too stentorian to sound comfortable with dialogue like, "You goof us around and you ain't got no future, sucker." On tonight's program, he shares several moving scenes with the gifted, volatile Georg Stanford Brown, who plays the man waiting to die. t
Unfortunately, probably in deference to network expectations, more of the program is given over to the manhunt for the murder suspect than for scenes between Jones and Brown, who play characters linked by both a mutual hostility and a mutual respect. The script, by executive producer Steve Bochco, is required to include more car chases and sensational turns of event than are dramatically plausible.
Still, the last five minutes of the program are as riveting and troubling as anything seen on any television series this year. "Paris" has the potential to become the "Lou Grant" of cop shows -- serious, crackling, issue drama that only occasionally deteriorates into Hollywood Preachment.
In its one coherent and considered hour tonight, "Paris" says more about hazards and inequities of the legal system -- maybe of any legal system -- than that meshuggeneh diatribe "And Justice for All" says in its two hysterical hours on the motion picture screen.
Constrictions applied by the CBS censor limit the way violence and street reality can be portrayed on programs like "Paris." Ironically, the networks apply the same standards to serious programs that they do to something like "The Incredible Hulk" when it comes to showing the nature and effects of violence.
But within the limitations of the genre and the forum, writer Bochco, director Jerry McNeely and the sterling cast led by Jones and Brown, do a superlative job of story-telling and thought provocation. "Paris" is one worth fighting for.