THE CHICAGO CODE, the compelling new police drama from critically acclaimed creator Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), follows the Windy City’s most powerful and respected cops as they navigate the city’s underbelly to fight crime and expose corruption within Chicago’s notorious political machine.
Set and shot on location in Chicago, THE CHICAGO CODE is a fast-paced series centered on JAREK WYSOCKI (Jason Clarke), a local legend and a larger-than-life veteran of the Chicago Police Department who wields considerable power thanks to his relationship with TERESA COLVIN (Jennifer Beals), his ex-partner and the city’s first female superintendent, now in charge of a 10,000-member police force. While Teresa diplomatically governs amidst the complicated landscape of Chicago politics, Jarek works the streets on a crusade to clean up corruption and crime and avenge his brother’s murder. Along the way, they will stop at nothing to bring down their powerful adversaries, including ALDERMAN RONIN GIBBONS (Delroy Lindo), a building-magnate-turned-politician who has ruled his ward with a velvet glove for over two decades.
Joining Jarek on the street is CALEB EVERS (Matt Lauria), an eager young detective trying desperately to prove himself. Also in Jarek’s charge is his niece, VONDA WYSOCKI (Devin Kelley), a rookie beat cop whose father – Jarek’s brother – was killed in the line of duty when she was young. Jarek keeps close tabs on her and is less than thrilled with the risk-taking ways of her cocky hotshot partner, ISAAC JOINER (Todd Williams). Also in the mix is low-life LIAM HENNESSEY (Billy Lush), an Irish thug who blends in with the gritty world of local crime. – FOX
8 out of 10
So here we are asking ourselves again, why, oh why, do the best scripted dramas always wind up on FOX? They are only going to canceled when FOX inevitably pisses their pants after a couple of episodes. The Chicago Code is eerily similar to Lone Starin that it’s a serialized, well-written, well-casted and well-acted dramatic series… that probably won’t last a single season because FOX has no patience for shows like this. For the sake of this review, though, let’s pretend that FOX won’t cancel it before the end of the first season.
The Chicago Code is everything it claims to be and perhaps a bit more. Jason Clarke (Brotherhood) is brilliantly cast as the down-to-earth, old-school detective who is used to thinking unconventionally and using unorthodox methods in order to effectively do his job. Beals, is his former partner and newly appointed Police Superintendant who has recruited him to help her to clean up the corruption in Chicago. If you think you’ve seen this before, you have. This is almost the exact same scenario as in Brian De Palma’s 1987 classic The Untouchables when Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) recruits Jim Malone (Sean Connery) to help him take down the corrupt politicians, corrupt police department and Al Capone.
Watch this scene to understand The Chicago Code:
… and THAT’S The Chicago Code. There is no sugar-coating it. This is a modern-day telling of a classic story of crime and corruption and Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit) is not even being subtle with his homage to The Untouchables. Good for him because he’s a brilliant writer and he’s smart enough to know that if you are going to use someone else’s source material for inspiration, use only the good stuff. What made HBO’s Deadwood so good was the fact that it was Shakespeare set in the Old West. It’s no different with any good drama and The Chicago Code excels in exploiting its predecessor.
Ryan’s no slouch, either, when it comes to stories about corruption having been the creator of F/X’s hit The Shield which lasted for six seasons which revolved around a group of corrupt detectives in the L.A.P.D. And like The Shield, The Chicago Code does something that we absolutely love and we praised it before in our review of A & E’s The Glades; it uses the city itself as not just a backdrop, but as a living, breathing character. One gets the feeling that they know Chicago as well as the residents do by watching The Chicago Code and that is a key factor that makes the show compelling and worth investing in for audiences. It’s also beautifully shot and is a visual pleasure to enjoy in high-definition. Unfortunately, though, as previously noted, we don’t think the show has much of a chance at survival.
To be fair to FOX, and as much as we rip on them, there is a big problem with The Chicago Code that has nothing to do with bad management at FOX: it’s a serial. Serialized television has no place in major network schedules any more. It just doesn’t play with this generation of viewers who are inundated with 300 plus channels of cable television, the Internet, and reality television. This generation of television viewers expects everything to be immediate with their entertainment and they simply have no patience for a story that doesn’t effectively conclude itself at the end of the hour. This isn’t a criticism, this is just a fact and if you’re wondering when the end of serialized drama on network television officially occurred, it was May 24, 2010, which is the day of the series finale of 24 and the day after the series finale of Lost. It’s getting more and more difficult to put any effort in writing reviews for serialized drama on network television because we are kind of at the “what’s the point?” stage as we expect every serialized drama on network television to be canceled no later than the end of its first season.
Now, that being said, we believe that FOX has made the same mistake with this show that they did with Lone Star and that is airing it on FOX instead of F/X. F/X has been consistently able to support to serialized dramas and The Chicago Code would be a perfect fit there.
Of course, we certainly hope that we are dead-wrong about the lifespan of The Chicago Code on FOX but the numbers were only OK for the premiere (2.4 rating for 18-49) and the tendency for serialized shows is to lose audience after the premiere, not pick them up. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed but we aren’t very optimistic about any long-term success for this show.
“The Cape” is a one-hour drama series starring David Lyons (“ER”) as Vince Faraday, an honest cop on a corrupt police force, who finds himself framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. He is forced into hiding, leaving behind his wife Dana (Jennifer Ferrin, “Life on Mars”) and son, Trip (Ryan Wynott, “Flash Forward”). Fueled by a desire to reunite with his family and to battle the criminal forces that have overtaken Palm City, Vince Faraday becomes “The Cape” – his son’s favorite comic book superhero – and takes the law into his own hands.
Rounding out the cast are James Frain (“The Tudors”) as billionaire Peter Fleming, The Cape’s nemesis who moonlights as the twisted killer Chess; Keith David (“Death at a Funeral”) as Max Milani, the ringleader of a circus gang of bank robbers who mentors Vince Faraday and trains him to be The Cape; Summer Glau (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) as Orwell, an investigative blogger who wages war on crime and corruption in Palm City; Dorian Missick (“Six Degrees”) as Marty Voyt, a former police detective and friend to Faraday; Martin Klebba (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) as Rollo, member and unassuming muscle of the circus gang of bank robbers; and Vinnie Jones (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) as Scales, resident thug and cohort of The Cape’s nemesis Chess. – NBC
7 out of 10
Let’s us start by saying that the relatively high rating that we’ve given The Cape of a “7” is a very qualified “7” and we kind of had to convince ourselves that it was worth the rating. The problem for us in reviewing The Cape is despite its glaring flaws and no matter how much we wanted to give it a rating of about a 5 or 6, we kept coming back to the fact that we really liked it. That being said, if it starts getting stupid, we reserve to take back that VERY generous rating.
Here’s the thing about The Cape: it’s exciting, it is literally a comic book come-to-life, and it’s very well-produced. The problem is that there is nothing original about it at all.
EVERYTHING is a conglomeration of other comic book/superhero and genre story lines and to make it worse, it rips-off elements from the more modern incarnations (see: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Christopher Nolan’s Batman, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, The Punisher, Robocop, Superman and, yes, even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… to name a few). Now, we’re not suggesting that they use these elements badly, but it’s such an obvious copy-and-paste that you can’t help but notice and cringe… a lot. Hell, they even ripped-off Heroes which would seem like a bad idea considering that NBC just canceled that show.
Now, that’s the biggest issue with The Cape. The other more irksome issue is the absolute ridiculousness of the action sequences and the visual effects. They are way over-the-top and go beyond the level of, “Well, we’ll just have to suspend our disbelief.” We are personally sick and tired of standard bullets from sub-machine guns and pistols causing fuel tanks explode. Has no one in Hollywood watched Mythbusters? The only way to make a fuel tank explode into a massive fireball is with with incendiary rounds…. and a FRAKKIN’mini-gun.
Oh, and one more thing: a human being cannot survive a fall out of a 50 story building by using a car to break their fall. Do you now see why these sequences irk us?
Beyond those problems, though, we hate saying this but this show is a crap-load of fun and has a lot of potential to be one heck of a ride week after week if audiences are patient with it. The characters are pretty are well-developed and the performances are strong and believable and there’s enough complexities with them to flesh out some compelling story lines. It has more the feel of a summer blockbuster than it does a weekly prime-time drama.
What hurts The Cape is the aforementioned lack of originality. On its surface it doesn’t bring anything new to the table and this generation of audience is a fickle lot with genre in prime time. The Cape has a lot of potential to be a great show. Let’s just hope it becomes a great show that people want to tune in to.
Part Five of the Seven Six Part Series (This has been edited because I realized that there’s nothing on Saturdays but College Football, COPS and America’s Most Wanted. Do you really need a review of those?)
The CW: Smallville (September 24, 2010)
Vic: The final season of Smallville begins this fall and we have Clark Kent finally on the cusp of eventually becoming what he is destined to become: Superman… the ‘Man of Steel.’ This season is what we Smallville fans all have been waiting nine years for. We have all hung in there through some exceptional stories, heart-wrenching losses, great heroes and villians and now it would appear that the baddest of the bad is coming to Smallville: Darkside is looking to take over our planet it seems that Clark will have no choice now but to jump into those tights that Mrs. Kent has been saving for him all these years… or does Lois have them now? That is why you must tune in and continue hanging in with what has been one of the most enduring Sci-Fi, Fantasy Dramas in recent TV memory. Smallville still has the chops. The performances are still great all the way around. Tom Welling still proves that season after season he can command every scene he is in and even in lighter moments he shows us an endearing and clumsy side. Erica Durance as Lois is quick, sharp and she has range. She proves that she has mettle as Lois up against Welling’s Clark. I can’t say enough about Allison Mack as Chloe. I just can’t wait to see how this all turns out this season. I for one hope to see the big guy finally fly and soar this season and hope you all watch as well.
In this drama based on a graphic novel of the same name, Mark Valley plays Christopher Chance, a for-hire bodyguard and private investigator who integrates himself into his clients’ lives so that he becomes a target instead of them. Assuming a new identity for each job, Chance relies on the help of his associates Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), but he can’t outrun his past — or the secrets driving his odd choice of work. -FOX
Shawn: Alright, so this is a little out of the norm because I normally don’t put show descriptions in with previews of returning shows. I’ve made the exception with Human Target because I think it’s a show that too many people are unaware of because it was a mid-season replacement last year and unfortunately, FOX will most likely kill it by putting it on Friday night where they put all shows to die. I cover this sad state of affairs in my column regarding the changing network attitudes towards Friday night prime-time and how FOX is, as usual up to the same old bag of tricks (read it here). So, it’s basically like this: I am on a crusade for the critically acclaimedHuman Target because it was one of the best new shows on television last year and needs everyone’s support.
The description is a little misleading. Chance doesn’t just have a mysterious past, he’s a former freelance assassin who was a really bad dude, completely amoral who had a seminal moment in his life that made him reevaluate his own personal morality and vow to use his skills to protect people from now on. It’s a fast-paced action show based on the DC Comics Graphic Novel and they couldn’t have picked anyone better for this role of Christopher Chance than Mark Valley as the dashing yet compassionate former assassin (…and I’m just thrilled to see that Mark Valley finally has regular gig!). The supporting cast is fantastic with Chi McBride (Boston Public, The Nine) as Winston, the gruff, former San Francisco police detective who works with Chance to keep him ahead of the game and regularly uses his connections from the old job to help Chance on his missions. Then you have the other, more mysterious and far more deadly Guerrero, played by Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, A Nightmare on Elm Street) who is a hi-tech wizard and a former associate of Chance’s in his prior profession but unlike Chance, really hasn’t had a change of heart, he’s just helping out an old buddy, but he does have a very strict personal moral code that abides by religiously.
Great action, unique stories, wonderfully written and compelling characters are the hallmarks of this show. I highly recommend that you set time aside on Friday for Human Target (or at least Divver it).
Dr. Megan Hunt (Dana Delany) was in a class of her own, a brilliant neurosurgeon at the top of her game. Her world is turned upside down when a devastating car accident puts an end to her time in the operating room. Megan resumes her career as a medical examiner determined to solve the puzzle of who or what killed the victims. Megan’s instincts are sharp, but she’s developed a reputation for graying the lines of where her job ends and where the police department’s begins. It turns out her career isn’t the only thing that will need to be rebuilt; Megan’s family has taken a backseat to her ambition, and now she’ll discover there’s a lot of work to do when it comes to dissecting her relationships with the living. – ABC
Shawn: If it hasn’t become abundantly clear by now, I really dislike procedurals in general. It doesn’t matter if it’s police, law, medical, detective… whatever, I really have no use for them. And it’s not that this show looks particularly awful, because it doesn’t. It’s just the same thing I’ve seen time and again which is also one of the big reasons I have no use for sit-coms. There’s just no originality in any of these programs and with the incredible batch of new shows that have come out this season, it’s not like there is a lack of originality in Hollywood, it’s just not being utilized enough.
What bugs me the most is that the procedurals don’t have to be unoriginal. Hollywood producers and execs choose to go that route because it’s safe and easy to pitch to advertisers and the general viewing audience. For example, NCIS is by definition a procedural, but it’s still a good show because of how original it always has been. Body of Proof doesn’t have anything resembling an original premise. Not even the title is original, which like most procedurals and sitcoms reverts to the use of cringe-worthy “clever” double-meanings for phrases and words to convey a commonly known phrase to attract the audience’s attention, e.g., House, The Whole Truth, Outlaw, Grey’s Anatomy, Rules of Engagement, Raising Hope, Running Wilde, The Biggest Loser, Bones and Blue Bloods. That’s just from this Fall. I didn’t even mention the stupidest one of all, HawthoRNe (well… now I have). This show literally is a hybrid of Quincy, Crossing Jordan, CSI, House and Everwood. Like I said, Body of Proof doesn’t look awful, and it does have a good cast, but it just looks ordinary.
FOX: The Good Guys (September 24, 2010)
From Matt Nix (“Burn Notice”), comes THE GOOD GUYS, a new action comedy about what happens when an old-school cop and a modern-day detective expose the big picture of small crime.
Once upon the 1970s, DAN STARK (Bradley Whitford) and his partner, Frank Savage, were big-shot Dallas detectives. So big, in fact, that they were lauded as American heroes after saving the Governor’s son. Thirty years later, Dan Stark is a washed-up detective who spends most of his time drunk or re-hashing his glory days. A stranger to modern police work who would much rather trust his old-school police instincts, Dan has the reputation as being a bit of a wild card. Able to skate by on the heroic deeds of his yesteryear, he is still a semi-active presence on the force, and with the help of his liquor of choice, occasionally comes through to solve a petty crime.
Dan’s new partner, JACK BAILEY (Colin Hanks), is an ambitious, by-the-book and overall good detective, but is sometimes a bit too snarky for his own good. His habit of undermining himself has earned him a dead-end position in the department, and he is stuck solving annoying petty theft cases that nobody else wants. Worse, he’s been given the thankless task of babysitting Dan, the drunk pariah who can never keep partners for long. Jack may not see it, but he has little chance of getting out of his situation; his knack for making enemies at the station has assured he is not going anywhere.
His only ally is ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY LIZ TRAYNOR (Jenny Wade), a quick witted former girlfriend whom Jack hasn’t quite gotten over and the one person he turns to for help with his current professional predicament. Until Jack finds his way out of this situation, he is stuck awaiting the day when he can turn everything around, get back to solving actual cases and return to being a real detective.
On one fairly typical day, as Jack and Dan are pursuing a Code 58, the Dallas police code for routine investigations, which puts them hot on the case of a stolen humidifier, they inadvertently become engaged in a shootout over a stolen golf bag belonging to a notorious drug smuggler. This starts Jack and Dan on a wild chase to retrieve the bag, recover the contents inside and go after the drug smuggler – all while dodging his hired assassin!
The excitement of the case reminds Dan of the way he and Frank busted punks back in the good old days, and he convinces Jack to go along for the ride. Needless to say, many departmental rules are again broken in the reckless pursuit, showing their boss, LIEUTENANT ANA RUIZ (Diana Maria Riva), that Jack and Dan will be spending many more days in the Property Crimes Division, assigned to investigate seemingly minor crimes in order to keep them out of major trouble.
Shawn: Yep, I broke the rule again about not posting show description in regards to returning shows (well… not technically as this is just a continuation of the first season that went on hiatus at the end of August.). But again, like with Human Target, I have to do this to counteract FOX’s continued insanity regarding good shows left to die on Friday night. For the point of brevity (and because copy and pasting is a helluva lot easier) here’s the skinny on how FOX is abusing this show as I mentioned in the same column that I discussed Human Target.
It’s not even remotely fair what they’re doing to The Good Guys even by FOX’s idiotic standards, premiering it on a Monday in the middle of May when all of the other shows are wrapping up, letting it run for nine episodes over the summer and then dumping it into Friday night because it didn’t catch fire fast enough for them.
Simple, but to the point… it’s the same standard operating procedure that they’ve used with Human Target and countless other shows.
Now that the rant is complete, I really like The Good Guys. It is very funny and full of action and Hanks and Whitmore play off each other brilliantly.
CBS: Blue Bloods (September 24, 2010 – NEW SERIES!)
BLUE BLOODS is a drama about a multi-generational family of cops dedicated to New York City law enforcement. Frank Reagan is the New York City Police Commissioner and heads both the police force and the Reagan brood. He runs his department as diplomatically as he runs his family, even when dealing with the politics that plagued his unapologetically bold father, Henry, during his stint as Chief. A source of pride and concern for Frank is his eldest son Danny, a seasoned detective, family man, and Iraqi War vet who on occasion uses dubious tactics to solve cases. The sole Reagan woman in the family, Erin, is a N.Y. Assistant D.A. and newly single parent, who also serves as the legal compass for her siblings and father. Jamie is the youngest Reagan, fresh out of Harvard Law and the family’s “golden boy;” however, unable to deny the family tradition, Jamie decided to give up a lucrative future in law and is now a newly minted cop. Jamie’s life takes an abrupt turn when he’s asked to become part of a clandestine police investigation even his father knows nothing about, and one that could impact the family’s legacy. – CBS
Shawn: Blue Bloods is one of the most anticipated dramas this Fall for good reason. Simply look at this cast. Your leads are Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, and Bridget Moynihan… all television and film superstars (Len Cariou is no slouch either). Superstars like that don’t just arbitrarily sign on to do a show if they don’t already know it’s brilliant. The concept is definitely unique. An original cop show that focuses on a multigenerational family of cops and all of the dynamics that go along with that. I’m very excited about Blue Bloods.
Few jobs are guaranteed for a lifetime, and a Supreme Court appointment is a position that no one ever quits – unless he is Cyrus Garza (Smits). A playboy and a gambler, Justice Garza always adhered to a strict interpretation of the law until he realized the system he believed in was flawed. Now, he’s quit the bench and returned to private practice.
Using his inside knowledge of the justice system, Garza and his team will travel across the country taking on today’s biggest and most controversial legal cases.
Garza’s team includes his best friend since childhood, Al Druzinsky (David Ramsey), a brilliant defense attorney with liberal beliefs; Mereta Stockman (Ellen Woglom), a hopeless romantic who is Garza’s loyal law clerk; Lucinda Pearl (Carly Pope), a wildly unorthodox private investigator who uses her sex appeal and wit to gather information for Garza; and Eddie Franks (Jesse Bradford), a tightly wound, rabidly ambitious Yale-educated attorney, recently hired as Garza’s law clerk. – NBC
Shawn: I’ve already done a complete review for Outlaw, here. It is by far the worst drama on television.
Terriers from Creator/Executive Producer Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven, Matchstick Men) and Executive Producer Shawn Ryan (The Shield), is a comedic drama starring Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve) and Michael Raymond-James (True Blood). It centers on “Hank Dolworth” (Logue), an ex-cop, who partners with his best friend “Britt Pollack” (Raymond-James) in an unlicensed private investigation business. – F/X
7 out of 10
Two weeks ago, my Dad was bemoaning the fact that there weren’t any private eye shows on television any more. He doesn’t have cable any more so he hasn’t seen Monk and he misses shows like Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, Hardcastle & McCormick, Remington Steele and The Rockford Files (which I’m sure he’ll be happy to know is coming back). Well, if you like original private eye shows ike my Dad does, then Terriers is your type of show.
Terriers, on the surface hearkens back to the by-gone days of the classic buddy-detective shows but once you start getting into it, you realize it’s got a lot more going on with it than the classic procedural who done-its.
Hank Dolworth is a former detective for the Ocean Beach, California Police Department who was “dishonorably discharged” (I put that in quotes because it was mentioned in an episode but I don’t think they use that phrase outside the armed forces… whatever.) for reasons not mentioned as of yet, but one can assume it stems from the same issue that caused his marriage to end: his alcoholism.
This is important to note because Hank being a recovering alcoholic is an integral part of the character. We learn a lot about his personal character because of this skeleton in his closet that as any recovering will tell you, stays with you forever. Hank seems like he’s on a continuous journey of redemption with everything he does.
We see this in his approach to justice, where he often severely bends the rules to see that the right bad guys are put behind bars and it’s obvious that he is trying to make up for what he sees as his failings while he was with the police. From almost the opening scene of the pilot it’s obvious that he still deeply loves his ex-wife, Gretchen (Kimberly Quinn) constant attempts to make things right with his ex-wife , even going so far as not only buying the house they lived in together so that she could move on, but even knocking down the wall between the family room and the dining room that she had asked him to do five years earlier. It was a pointless gesture, because he has just moved into the house and she was moved out but it was obvious that Hank is trying to make amends for everything, even for that.
Now, on to the lighter side: Hank’s partner, Britt, is there for one reason and one reason only as far as I can see it: to provide some kind of balance to Hank and comic relief for the audience. Despite how the show is being billed, it’s not a comedy at all. It’s a decent crime drama but what keeps you coming back is the back-and-forth between Hank and Britt. The dialogue is very clever and all of the characters are very well-written and what’s refreshing is the often “shades of gray” approach to all of them, even some of the bad guys.
All in all, Terriers grew on me by the second episode and it’s the type of show that works perfectly on a network like F/X with only 13 episodes per season.