The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: Invasion of the Cop Shows 2.0

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

If you recall (and I hope you do, as a loyal follower of my column) at the beginning of the fall season I took a look at three freshmen cop shows and tried to predict their chances of sticking around. To wit these shows were: Chase, Detroit 1-8-7 and Blue Bloods. So I reckon it’s time to take a look whether I was right with my prediction and what the shows have done with their first twelve to thirteen episodes.

I am aware there are even more new cop shows on the air these days (Hawaii Five-0 anyone?), but for the sake of argument let’s focus on the three I have actually kept up with.

First up, as last time, the U.S. Marshals of Chase, a show now firmly established as “on the bubble“. Given its home is NBC, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The network has not had a lucky hand for a long time, but it looks like they might have a hit on their hands with the new legal drama Harry’s Law.

In the case of Chase, the show actually got a lot better in my opinion over the course of the season, but it was too little too late. The most interesting dynamic is the one of hinted romantic feelings the central bad-ass Annie Frost might have for her partner Jimmy, who has just gotten engaged to another (quite likable) woman. Annie is a multi-layered character anyway, carrying daddy issues around (her father is a high-caliber criminal) and putting her life on the line in almost suicidal ways. It’s like she doesn’t really care about the future, she is just constantly trying to make up for deeds she didn’t even commit herself.

The integration of Jesse Metcalfe’s newbie character also worked out remarkably well, given that I was very disappointed with this storyline at the beginning. He struggles to find his place within the team, even though Annie tells him it is his for the taking. And even Marco, the Spanish speaking member of the team, gets an interesting back story in the midseason two-parter “Narco”.
I maintain my original premise though: Chase is wasted in the hands of NBC, because as a network it can’t handle the flashy fun this show could be. As a summer show on USA, I still believe Chase could be saved. Since this is the real world though it will probably be gone after the season is up.

ABC fares a little better than NBC with its cop entry Detroit 1-8-7, which pulls in a little over 5 million viewers each episode. Great numbers those are not, however some critics are speaking out on the show’s behalf and ABC may just want to have some faith in the procedural yet. I myself remain unimpressed for two reasons.

First, I fail to connect with any of the characters. I simply don’t care. Detective Washington is sometimes fairly charming, when he makes fun of his quirky partner Finch, but his failure to keep his private life from interfering with his job is truly astonishing and annoying. Finch, on the other hand, is supposed to be a lovable eccentric like House, yet he fails to elicit any real emotional response in me. His opposition to the white collar crime boss of Detroit is well and noble, yet his utter lack of parenting skills, his inability to even call his son on a regular basis, is simply inexcusable to me. That may be the abandoned child in me speaking, but the show has yet to give me any palpable reason for why Finch is so emotionally unavailable that he can’t even speak about personal issues with his partner directly, only over the phone, even when they stand 20 feet apart. That’s just goofy.

My second reason for remaining to be unimpressed is this: Southland is back! Next to this down-to-the-grit, boots-to-the-streets bona fide COP SHOW in all caps, all other cop shows look like oatmeal cookies. I will keep this spoiler-free, but let’s just say the plot twist Southland pulled last week blew all other cop shows of recent and not-so-recent years out of the water! (And kudos to all those involved in the show for succeeding in keeping this shocking twist secret until the very last day!)

Where Detroit 1-8-7 is still a slave to its formula, Southland continues to break the mold. So if I want to watch homicide detectives do their work, I will tune in to Southland, because that show has more to offer and doesn’t tie up its cases in a neat little bow.
TV Land won’t be any poorer if Detroit 1-8-7 goes off the air.

A big loss, however, and thankfully one that doesn’t seem likely to happen, would be the cancellation of CBS’s Blue Bloods. A tribute to the show’s overwhelming success was its recent move from the challenging Friday shift to the well-established Wednesday schedule. I judged this show’s pilot very harshly, but pilots are tricky business and I understand why the makers had trouble fitting all they thought we needed to know into the first 42 minutes of what can only be looked at as a Cop Dynasty in the making.

Over the past weeks I have gotten all the members of the Reagan family straight and I like every single one of them, which is quite the feat to accomplish. I don’t always agree with the choices the characters make or the (moral) attitudes they display, but the beauty is that the Reagan family themselves doesn’t always see eye to eye on issues ranging from law enforcement to parenting to loyalty at all costs.

Blue Bloods draws its strength from the strong ensemble cast. Even Donnie Wahlberg, who might get a bad rap from what people think about his brother Mark, is a vital, integral part of the show’s internal structure and delivers the experienced New York homicide detective Danny Reagan convincingly, sneaky sleezeball moments well hidden in his “perfect husband and father” persona.

The “secret society storyline” thankfully is only a background backbone with the youngest brother Jamie slowly but steadily discovering more about his brother’s death while on duty. In an interesting parallel to the aforementioned brilliant Southland, Jamie is a newbie on the police force – a “boot” – and the advice he gets from his partner Sgt. Renzulli is sometimes banal on the surface, but ultimately very useful to Jamie on the streets and give us much treasured insights into the daily struggles of a street cop in NYC.

I cannot forget to mention Bridget Moynahan’s nuanced because quietly understated portrayal of the only Reagan daughter Erin, who works at the District Attorney’s office and hence has a lot of male politics to deal with. Not only does she handle this with as much integrity as possible, she is also a wonderfully realistic, unassuming mother of a teenage daughter, who asks a lot of questions you’d rather not always answer truthfully as a parent.
Blue Bloods truly has found its footing and is going as strong as the Reagan Dynasty is going in New York.

To sum up: Chase is currently chasing its own cancellation, Detroit 1-8-7 remains unimportant and Blue Bloods reigns supreme among cop shows on the Big Four networks.
However, soaring above them all is the No.1 cop show to watch: Southland! (Cue everyone at NBC biting their asses letting that one go.)