“17th Precinct” brings “BSG” alumni back together

If great casting guaranteed a great TV show, NBC’s 17th Precinct would be a sure thing.

Of course, as we have learned the hard way: sometimes, bad shows happen to good actors. (I started to list a few, but decided not to throw myself into the flames so early in the week.)

In the case of 17th Precinct, though, I’m finding that I just can’t help getting my hopes up. For one thing, the mind behind the show is Ron Moore, also known as the creator of Battlestar Galactica. That alone is enough to get me to watch.

But get this (slight spoilers ahead): In this series, the world ruled by magic! According to NBC, the show follows a police squad in the fictional town of Excelsior, which is a futuristic San Francisco complete with Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. In this “Harry Potter meets Law & Order” world, cars don’t have steering wheels because they steer themselves and the Internet is gone, replaced by a sort of smoke stream that puts exactly the info you need on a piece of paper waved through the smoke. So much for the paperless office.

Casting started as a BSG reunion, with James Callis, Jamie Bamber and Number Six herself, Tricia Helfer.

Helfer plays Morgana, a necromancer, which is the 17th Precinct’s version of a coroner. Deadline calls her “an expert at manipulating the potions, tools, herbs and spells of her trade.” (Anyone who just thought, “Put a spell on me baby!” raise your hand. Now use it to slap yourself.)

Also on board is Stockard Channing, whom I’d love to see score another TV hit, as veteran detective Mira Barkley, a former Excelsior cop who’s just returned to the precinct. And we have reason to think that Mira is lesbian or bisexual.

In the pilot, Mira is quite surprised to meet Detective Inspector Liam (not yet cast) because Liam and Mira have a romantic history – except Liam was Lisa at the time. (This could be played for cheap laughs, of course, but I trust Ron Moore to be better than that.) Of course, people may be able to change their appearance, gender, age, etc., so sexuality might be so fluid that gender means nothing at all.

The most recent addition to the 17th Precinct cast has some experience with supernatural worlds already — Kristin Kreuk from Smallville plays Susan, the wife of Bamber’s character, Caolán Longstreet.

According to some insiders — and here come some spoilers that are more than slight — the mythology of the series sounds very BSG-ish. A group called the Stoics objects to Excelsior’s reliance on magic and is creating havoc to try to return the world to life as it used to be. Hmm.

That’s not to say that 17th Precinct won’t work. I loved the worldview of BSG and Caprica and would not mind visiting an Earth-based evocation of those shows, especially by Ron Moore. And in the likely event that the pilot gets picked up, we get a chance to see where Moore takes the concept.

Does 17th Precinct sound like a show you want to see? Do you like the concept of using magic to fight crime?