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Tubegazing: Prime-time premières

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One of TV's most successful writers and producers, Dick Wolf, finally got his comeuppance when his most recent "Law & Order" spinoff ("Trial by Jury") failed. He said he needed to reach out to younger audiences, so he's back with Conviction (Friday, March 3, 10 p.m. EST), a new NBC drama about assistant district attorneys in New York City (r.). The promos make a big deal out of the fact that they're all younger than 28, that they're much more confused than Sam Waterston and Dianne Weist ever were, and that they seem to fall into each others, um, private lives more than the folks on all those "Law & Order" shows do. The pilot is decent, but even with lots of sexy young actors, it's not clear if there is room for yet another New York-based crime-solving procedural. Stay tuned. Grade: B-

You don't need to like playwright David Mamet to enjoy his new CBS drama, The Unit (Tuesday, March 7, 9 p.m. EST/PST), about the military's Special Forces. It helps, though, not to mind his "me man, you woman" thing. These Zen tough guys speak Mamet's signature macho-haiku aphorisms about honor and loyalty even while being tortured. And you haven't seen macho till you've seen the men of Alpha team train with live ammo against the Bravo team. Meanwhile, the loyal wives stew over their strong but silent types, and are ruled with an iron hand by queen bee Molly Blane (Regina Taylor), wife of the Alpha team leader played by Dennis Haysbert. This could all get old really fast, but Taylor's steely performance keeps the home front interesting, while the globe-trotting soldiers bring home the reality of how many troubled spots this small planet still has. Grade: B+


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