Ray Liotta -- every bit as scary when he's trying to play a stable husband and father as when he's going utterly bat-guano crazy -- is Bobby Stevens, typical suburban husband and father. He has two kids, a cookie-cutter house, a job selling paper cups and a wife (Virginia Madsen) whose name -- Hope -- isn't a coincidence. They're a couple with a troubled past and plenty of secrets.
Bobby's past, it turns out, isn't a secret. He's an expert at his real job, which happens to be planning ambitious robberies. He's got one of those specialized teams that includes weapons suppliers, document forgers and a couple electronics whizzes. The supporting characters would be interchangeable if they weren't played by actors like Simon Baker,
"Smith" is counting heavily on the reservoirs of good faith for the cast, because Bobby's team isn't made up of "Ocean's Eleven"-style quippy, jovial hoods. The characters in "Smith" are the kind of bad news that you usually get on cable, rather than network TV. Bobby, who steals, lies to his wife and is prone to fits of eye-popping rage, is probably the most socially mainstreamed of the characters. Baker's charismatically psychotic Jeff and Smart's diversely amoral Annie are probably the most dangerous, with the other actors filling the shades in-between.
Directed by executive producer Chris Chulack, the pilot has a cold, austere visual sensibility and takes advantage of the steely Pittsburgh locations for the main heist. The pilot draws much of its relatability from putting its not-so-nice characters into welcoming environments, whether it's a beautiful sun-drenched romantic scene between Madsen and Liotta at a piano, or a vibrant sequence at a wedding. The characters are introduced early in the first episode amidst the somewhat botched robbery, so putting them in different contexts later makes them human, if not particularly sympathetic. Like so many post-Scorsese/Tarantino bands of criminals, the characters have shared history that includes romances, grudges and deep resentments, but they're all still pure professionals.
In addition to its familiarity, "Smith" is cursed by the kind of over-bearing seriousness that has colored much of John Wells' work, the quality that made shows like "Citizen Baines" and "The Evidence" difficult to watch and that
Where "Smith" goes after its well-acted opening is something of a question. In the very last minutes the