Well, it looks as if you won't have

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

to kick around anymore.

NBC had planned to give it the hook next Monday and replace it, at least temporarily, with a new series called The Black Donnellys. But Studio 60 was sinking so fast in the ratings, the network couldn't wait.

Studio 60 fans may not agree, but The Black Donnellys has a chance to patch things up, numbers-wise, Mondays at 10 p.m., following Heroes. The creators acknowledge it's supposed to be myth, not reality, and like Heroes, it has lots of good-looking young folks, though not necessarily anyone you'd recognize.

Don't be fooled by the title. The Donnellys aren't African American. They're Irish American, so-called Black Irish, which means that maybe they're part Spanish, or maybe that they're just messed up.

"Something is in their blood," says the dear old dad of gorgeous Jenny Reilly (Olivia Wilde), whom one of the brothers has loved since he was 10, in next week's episode. "No matter how hard they try to do good, that blood is always gonna seep through, and it poisons whatever it touches."

Tommy (Jonathan Tucker), Jimmy (Thomas Guiry), Kevin (Billy Lush) and Sean (Michael Stahl-David) live a life of petty crime in Hell's Kitchen. Sean's so beautiful he can get starlets to make out with him at the drop of a hat. Kevin and Jimmy are limited, to say the least, and big brother Tommy is left to keep everything from unraveling when their escapades escalate out of control.

A big problem is Sal Manetta, who has done business from the same booth in the same restaurant for 46 years. "Some people say he had a toilet under the table," says Joey Ice Cream, who serves as a one-man Greek chorus on the show. (Maybe you'll remember how he got the name or maybe you won't.)

Joey (Keith Nobbs) knows way more about everything than he should, and he could be making it up, but it's a swell story, if sometimes grim, featuring a panoply of rough customers, including one fellow who would rather use an ax than a gun to maintain his image.

And the soundtrack is pretty amazing, including Van Morrison (who else for an Irish gangster show?), the Traveling Wilburys and an assortment of more contemporary tunes.

Getting involved in the wrong way with a guy named Louis Downtown, the Donnellys wind up just where you don't want to be in the gangster world, the middle. The show will be about their efforts to keep life and limb intact while evading detection by:

1. The Italian mob.

2. The Irish mob.

3. The police.

The estimable Paul Haggis, who wrote Oscar-winning films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, is half the brains behind the show. Bobby Moresco, who produced those movies, is the other half - if you don't count the additional nine million people behind

the scenes.

Haggis, and to a much lesser extent, Moresco, collaborated 10 years ago on one of the best TV shows of all time, EZ Streets, which, of course, lasted a total of 10 episodes. It starred, among others, Joe Pantoliano, Ken Olin and Jason Gedrick and was about Irish gangsters and cops in a decayed city that seemed a lot like Detroit.

The Black Donnellys is nowhere near as dark as EZ Streets, though no one would mistake it for, say, The New Adventures of Old Christine. There are even a few laughs every week, mostly provided by Joey Ice Cream, who somehow manages to be mysterious and a buffoon at the same time.

But when the show gets serious, it's as serious as a vengeful Irish gangster with an ax. There's something it's a mistake to turn your back on.

Jonathan Storm |


The Black Donnellys

Premieres on NBC10 tonight

at 10:03

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