Tuned In

Smith: Short Story Long

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Tonight, CBS premieres Smith, its entry in the one-name-title, high-class-thieves sweepstakes (Hu$tle, Thief, Heist). I’ll keep my review short, as compensation, since CBS, mercilessly, did not do the same with the pilot. Big Big Movie Star Ray Liotta occupies the grim title role as, you guessed it, a family man with a double life, heading a big-stakes heist ring on the side. Virginia Madsen (Sideways) is sadly wasted in an underwritten role as his beginning-to-suspect-something wife. You can see where the producers were going with Liotta, who has managed to combine menace with a twisted likability in movies like Goodfellas, but here he’s weighted down by a surrounding cast of recognizable crime-movie types and a beautifully-directed but plodding script, full of unnecessary exposition, that takes far too long to get pretty much exactly where you’d expect it to go. Because of all the background info written into the script, tonight’s pilot runs extra long and will be presented with "limited interruptions," most of which will take the form of your snoring.

Like FX’s superior Thief, Smith presents a dark, morally ambiguous view of thievery, and it is good to see that the makers didn’t reflexively go the standard Ocean’s Eleven, it’s-all-a-good-time route. The problem is, Smith isn’t smart or original enough to earn its gravity, and it isn’t fun enough to keep you watching despite it. By the end of tonight’s episode, all the thieves of Smith will have made off with is an hour of your precious time on Earth.