January 5, 2009 / 6:25 AM / 10 years ago

"Homeland Security" borders on the mundane

Homeland Security USA , 8-9 p.m., ABC)

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - ABC’s “Homeland Security USA” tracks the cops who save our nation from illegal aliens, drug smugglers and the occasional scofflaw belly dancer.

It’s less about terrorist threats than the title might indicate, perhaps in large part because there just aren’t a whole lot of those on a daily basis. In lieu of that kind of breach, we get a lot of criminals hiding weed and cocaine in spare tires during the premiere episode, which isn’t exactly Code Red Terror Alert time. So while the opening hour has a reasonable degree of success in holding our interest, the vibe one gets is that it might be tough to sustain sufficient dramatics week in and week out to keep viewers interested no matter how hot the Swiss belly dancer without a work visa may be.

The show labors through quick-cut camera work and a driving musical beat to keep things moving at the requisite fever pitch. And to be fair, it works as well as can be expected considering the limitations of the format. Creator/producer Arnold Shapiro and company do a commendable job establishing the formula early on. The problem is that the concept is by nature wholly repetitive. There’s only so much people do, and the cameras can therefore capture, at the border crossings in San Ysidro, Calif., and Blaine, Wash., that separate the U.S. from Mexico to the south and Canada to the north, respectively.

There’s the search for undocumented immigrants roasting in the heat, smugglers hiding narcotics in baby diapers to throw off the drug-sniffing dogs and virtual pharmacies hidden inside children’s toys. It’s interesting and agreeably voyeuristic, but by the end of the 13 ordered episodes, it’s likely we’ll have pretty much had it with studying passports and marijuana bricks.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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