Shades of Blue: Pilot

The limelight loves Jennifer Lopez; she’s everywhere again. A new season of American Idol on FOX, and a new TV series called Shades of Blue on NBC. Apparently, she hasn’t given up hope on an acting career, even if everybody else has. It’s too bad, the way her days on the big screen came to a screeching halt after Money Train, Blood and Wine, U Turn, Anaconda and Out of Sight. She was this close to becoming a force to be reckoned with, but then Ben Affleck happened, I suppose. That, and the pull of the music biz.

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Uphill Battle
Now Jennifer Lopez The Actress is back. Starring in her own executive produced cop show Shades of Blue. My expectations beforehand were low. The trailer didn’t look like much. Too ‘clean’. Too contrived. Ray Liotta. Drea de Matteo. Created by Adi Hasak, who’d written John Travolta’s From Paris with Love and Kevin Costner’s 3 Days to Kill. Directed by Barry ‘hit or miss’ Levinson. Meh. This series was going to fight an uphill battle with me.

70, 20, 10
It’s about corrupt cops, and Harlee Santos (Lopez) is one of them. In fact, the whole precinct seems to live by the Book of Mackey*; as long as crime goes down, everything is permitted. Including cover up rookie mistakes, work together with drug dealers, lie, steal, extort and kill. Head of this Strike Team is Matt Wozniak (Liotta), a ‘good man’, who goes to the high school music recital of Harlee’s daughter, but one with a dubious moral compass. And even though De Matteo’s on every billboard all over town, we don’t get to know anything about her character Tess Nazario. The show’s 70% Lopez, 20% Liotta and 10% Warren Kole (24, The Chicago Code, Common Law), who plays FBI agent Robert Stahl. Blink and you’ll miss everybody else.
* Book of Mackey: Vic Mackey used to be the leader of a similar corrupt team of cops on The Shield.

The Best Deal
If the precinct wasn’t enough, Internal Affairs is also in Wozniak’s pocket. Basically, every cop is a bad cop on this show. Luckily, the FBI has managed to employ one good guy. Stahl goes after Harlee. She’s shit out of luck when she unknowingly makes a deal with one of his undercover agents. Normally, that would be jail, but he tries to turn her into an informant. In exchange, she gets total immunity. That’s silly writing right there. There’s no negotiation. There’s just: give us Wozniak and you’re free to go. The first thing Stahl does, is put the best possible deal on the table. First rule of the FBI, I imagine, and screenwriting is you never put the best possible deal on the table. At best, they’ll reach some sort of compromise.

No Morals Whatsoever
Harlee’s made to wear a wire and camera, in her necklace, when she goes over to Wozniak’s house. He pulls her aside. There’s a mole, he says. How he came to know this, we don’t know. Of course, Harlee thinks he’s on to her, even though she hasn’t said or done anything yet. But no, Wozniak’s got his eyes on somebody else, and wants her help to kill him. I must say, Liotta surprised me. He’s the bad guy, but a nice guy. He’s really made The Woz a character of flesh and blood. Lopez is alright. I can’t quite get a grip on Harlee yet, though. She’s a loving mother, absolutely, and she’s a tough cop, maybe, I don’t really buy her toughness, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. The thing that bugs me is her belief that she’s doing the right thing. It’s not the right thing, and she should acknowledge that, and then do it anyway because of circumstance. But that’s not how Lopez’ character is written. Harlee is a woman without any kind of morals. To her, everything is just peachy, as long as crime statistics stay low and she doesn’t get caught. The writers clearly have over-simplified her. Audiences don’t want to invest themselves in a woman with such a one dimensional world view, no matter how exciting all of her informant missions are going to be.

Beautiful People?
That’s really the problem of Shades of Blue; it’s too simple. They may have gotten away with it in the nineties, but television has come a long way. Speaking of two decades ago: what an odd choice it was to use the song ‘Beautiful People’ by Marilyn Manson during a chase sequence. Looks like the music supervisor forced his own dated record collection onto the production. It may have been cool in 1996, but come on. The scene didn’t even involve beautiful people; what were they thinking?

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