The Black DonnellysMondays at 10 p.m. on NBC
The tagline you'll never see: When Irish eyes aren't smiling.
The basics: Four Irish American brothers wheel and deal in the shadows of organized crime. Living in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York, these lads grow up as petty thieves, watching out for each other and their mother. Their father was beaten to death by Italian mobsters years earlier, prompting the Donnellys' hatred of Italians. When one brother needs money to pay a loan shark, the others -- who have found a bookie's cellphone filled with payoff information -- set out to collect the cash, administering a few beatings along the way. A low-level wiseguy named Joey Ice Cream ("because I'm like ice under pressure"), who has always worshipped the brothers, spells out the detailed family history in flashbacks from his prison cell.
The lowdown: Fans of "The Sopranos," "The Godfather" saga and other Mafia-inspired fare will find familiar territory in this world of whackings and vendettas. The language is strong, and fisticuffs are always on deck. The show's creators are Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, whose theatrical credits include Academy Award winners "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby." "Donnellys" moves into the time slot previously held by "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which NBC says will return later this season with original episodes.
Reality check: Riding a lead-in from "Heroes," NBC's top-rated drama, the program's main competition is "CSI: Miami" on CBS. The show has already spawned Internet loyalty, with message boards abuzz over its characters and plot. Viewers drawn to serial dramas will be intrigued, but they'll need to pay close attention to understand who's giving or getting a beating.
-- Kathy Blumenstock