'Homeland Security'

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This unscripted hour from the stable of the esteemed Arnold Shapiro ("Scared Straight," "Rescue 911," "Big Brother") once was titled "Border Security USA," and that's pretty much what we get here: snippets about the security cops who keep our nation safe 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 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 in ABC's "Homeland Security USA" premiere, 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 might be. (Note: She does happen to be pretty hot.)

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 Shapiro and company do a commendable job establishing the formula early. The problem is that the concept is, by nature, wholly repetitive. There's only so much people do, and that cameras can therefore capture, at the border crossings in San Ysidro, Calif., and Blaine, Wash., that separate the U.S. from Mexico and Canada, respectively.

There's the search for undocumented immigrants roasting in the heat, smugglers hiding narcotics in baby diapers to throw off 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.

At the end of the day, I think most Americans probably would rather see a show titled "Homeland Securities USA" that tracks the unsung heroes struggling to rescue America's economy from the predatory tentacles of its financial institutions. (partialdiff)
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