Bottom of the ninth

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It appears ABC has stuck a fork in The Nine, which wasn't one of the best new fall series but was one of the most interesting (in its place: more exciting episodes of Primetime and 20/20!). Although it enjoyed an enviable time slot, following Lost, the series's neither-fish-nor-fowl nature—part suspense drama, part soap opera—regularly drove away half the viewers of its lead-in. But its equally schizoid aesthetic—imagine a P.T. Anderson script directed by Tony Scott or (God help us) Michael Bay—had the curious side effect of creating tremendous opportunities for the cast. Tim Daly's performance as a cop with a gambling problem revealed a subtlety and intensity that he's never displayed before, and Kim Raver's portrayal of a prosecutor precariously engaged to her boss reconfirmed my belief that she'll be an Academy Award nominee within five years if she can just land the right agent (her gig on The Nine deprived us of the chance to see her return to 24 as Audrey Raines, but my fingers are crossed in the hope of the cancellation changing things). Scott Wolf's cocky surgeon role finally banished the ghost of Party of Five's Bailey Salinger, while Chi McBride's work as an altruistic bank manager again proved that he's one of the best utility players in the business (speaking of which, whoever designed his amazingly convincing toupee deserves major props). The good news is that actors this talented won't have any trouble landing more work; the bad is that they're unlikely to ever again wind up on the same show.

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