"Chicago Story," the NBC movie at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channel 4, has "Series-Pilot" written all over it, but the possibilities are not precisely mouth-watering. The hook here is that this is a crime show that concentrates not only on the police but also on lawyers and doctors and others who interact as the case unfolds.
So far, so what? What it all boils down to is a genre pastiche, with none of the modules turning out to be particularly distinguished, although the wintertime location shooting in Chicago is at least a pleasing change of place. Imagine, all those cops and not a palm tree in sight.
The film opens as a notorious thief robs a liquor store and shoots the owner dead. A stray bullet travels across the street to a playground and lodges in a little girl's head, though the police don't figure that out until the last 15 minutes of the show.
Soon the parallel story lines are firmly fixed: the public defender and the district attorney, old school chums, haggling over the fate of an innocent man charged with the shooting of the little girl; two buddy cops trying to find the real thief and doing a pretty pokey job of it; and two doctors at the hospital who argue through nearly the entire two hours about whether to operate on the little girl, who remains in a coma with the bullet near her brain.
Eric Bercovici wrote (and executive-produced) the film and Jerry London wrote it; the same team filled similar roles on "Shogun." They haven't found enough excuse for embarking on this lifeless project, however, and only one performance on the premises earns much attention: Michael Horton as the simple-minded chestnut vendor charged with the crime.
The look of fear and confusion on his face as he squeezes precariously through the wheels of justice suggests the whole movie should have been about him and to heck with the gimmick at hand. 'Riker'
CBS is tireless in its efforts to under-stoop itself in new programming, especially, for some reason, in the 10 p.m. Saturday time slot. Its estimation of the audience watching at that hour must be just a tad shy of goondom; the season started with the low-minded "Midland Heights," which was replaced by the slow-minded "Concrete Cowboys," which tonight gives way to the un-minded "Riker."
Frank Riker of the title is a defrocked cop turned crack undercover investigator, but as played by soap-opera escapee John Taylor, he's really just another of TV's bland, innocuous, yawnable lugs (at least Tom Selleck of "Magnum, P.I." has a look, even if it is the look of a Marlboro Man).
For the premiere of this wildly unworthy bore, Riker is helping a crippled Vietnam vet who's being harassed by a protection racket. First the villains kick the man's crutch out from under him when they bust up the bar he owns. Later they use the crutch to beat him to death.
In a future episode, promises CBS, Riker "protrays a procurer in an attempt to set up and bust a big-time pimp connected with ponography and gambling." If a factory poured as much pollution into the American mainstream as the commercial television networks do, it would be closed down by the EPA.