Cane – Can Jimmy Smits Carry a Show?

An interesting question will get answered this fall as Jimmy Smits stands in a seat he has never occupied before. With his history in ensemble casts like his days on LA Law and NYPD Blue as well as his most recent work on the hit sitcom The West Wing, Smits will move from being one of the show’s stars to the prime position on CBS’ most talked about new show, Cane.

For five seasons, Jimmy Smits played Victor Sifuentes on LA Law. The hit NBC show had one of the most talented casts on primetime television. With stars like Blair Underwood and Corbin Bernsen, Smits fit right into the legal drama. After his portrayal of Sifuentes, Jimmy Smits did five seasons on NYPD Blue where he costarred with Dennis Frantz. As Detective Bobby Simone, Smits played a hard-charging New York City police detective in a precinct dominated by solid police work and bubbling romance. In between these two stints, he worked in movies like The Tommy Knockers and Star Wars Episode II.

When The West Wing called in 2004, Smits again was cast to play an ensemble role. For some time The West Wing had been one of NBC’s biggest hits on Sunday nights. With popular actors Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe, The West Wing truly played the ensemble cast role to a tilt. No actor or actress dominated the series allowing all the cast members to receive prominent roles and storylines. After his election as president, Smits and The West Wing went the way of all presidents, off to the pasture.

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With his new role on CBS’ Cane, Jimmy Smits will leave behind his days of sharing the responsibilities of carrying a show. Cane will survive if and only if Jimmy Smits is able to carry the weight on his shoulders. While veteran actors like Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno have prominent roles, the show is based on Smits’ character, Alex Vega.

Cane is set around the Vega family of which Alex (Jimmy Smits) is an adopted member who has married the patriarch Poncho’s, daughter Isabel. In the show, Alex is at war with his brother Frank who believes the family should sell the sugar business that made the family its fortune and focus its attention on the rum. Set in South Florida, Cane is the perfect Cuban-American story with the perfect lead actor in Jimmy Smits. A modern day Dynasty or Dallas, Cane appears to be a vibrant candidate for a long-term journey on primetime television if Smits can answer the question looming over his head as the show premieres on September 25.

The question of carrying a show is a familiar one that has played out in front of our eyes before. Jimmy Smits is but the latest actor to try his hat at carrying a show for the first time after years and a great deal of success in ensemble series. The most recent example of this is David Caruso. After success on NYPD Blue with Smits and Frantz, Caruso tried his luck at movie-making before accepting his current work on the hit show, CSI:Miami. What Caruso had that Jimmy Smits will not have is an established brand. CSI is a franchise unto itself. With successful spin-offs including Miami and New York, CSI has become the second hit franchise besides Law & Order.

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Cane has received more attention than any new show on television this fall. With networks looking to depart from reality series, Cane looks like a must-win for CBS as it looks to regain ground it lost to Fox with its hit American Idol. One thing that may help the show is the fact that one of CBS’ top shows, The Unit will precede it.