TV: The Black Donnellys

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It's hard to portray the world of the New York mob on broadcast television.

Can you imagine Tony Soprano blurting "You frickin' idiot! I ought to shoot the livin' spit outta you!" Somehow, that doesn't raise the hair on the back of my neck.

But NBC's new entry in the East Coast Mafia scene, "The Black Donnellys," tries to bring the reality of an urban crime drama to government-regulated broadcast TV by focusing the tension on characters, not coarseness.

It may not be as heavy or sassy as "The Sopranos" or as violent as a Martin Scorsese classic, but the family of intense brothers makes up for it. The series premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on KSL Channel 5.

Tommy, Sean, Kevin and Jimmy Donnelly are four Irish-American brothers living in New York City and sworn to a code of helping each other under any circumstance. The problem is Jimmy (Thomas Guiry), who's always looking to con someone and make a quick buck through any scheme.

Sean (Michael Stahl-David) is the pretty one, more interested in women than money, and Kevin (Billy Lush) is the dim-witted brother content to follow any brother he's with, particularly the smart sibling, Tommy (Jonathan Tucker).

Tommy is known as "The Fixer" because he's charged with getting his brothers out of trouble, whether it's covering up Jimmy's murder of a local bookie or setting up their broken-down bar for a last-minute wake.

There is a hard, sometimes violent edge to "The Black Donnellys," which definitely makes it a crime drama fit for the 9 p.m. hour, but what's appealing is that the show remains focused on this group of disparate but loyal brothers. The performances are solid, and series creators Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco (who directed and wrote the Oscar winner "Crash") keep the storylines on track, at least through the first five episodes.

"The Black Donnellys" doesn't bring anything new to the contemporary mob drama genre, but it's a tightly-wound journey seen through the eyes of a shady family with heart.

To the rescue: Tonight's "Supernanny" focuses on a Sandy family with three children (and a fourth on the way!) that is in crisis mode. Karolee and Jay Goins have a 7-year-old son with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, an aggressive 5-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl following in her brother's footsteps.

Just hearing about their situation makes me too tired to watch it. Others who dare can tune in at 8 p.m. on KTVX Channel 4.


* VINCE HORIUCHI can be reached at or 801-257-8607.