For the 2nd show in our Give it a Chance series is on that is already endangered – Fox’s The Chicago Code. It’s no surprise that this show is good, after all it comes from Shawn Ryan, the same guy who gave us Terriers and The Shield. But much like Terriers, the ratings just aren’t there. Granted, it gets roughly 8 times the amount of viewers that Donal Louge and gang got, but on network TV that still may not be enough.
At first glance this may appear to be ‘just another cop show’, but it’s more than that. It’s actually what ABC’s Detroit 1-8-7 should’ve been. Where 1-8-7 looked at my beloved city and ignored the corruption, The Chicago Code has embraced it. Detroit is rotten almost entirely though with corruption reaching the highest levels of local government (Kwame Kilpatrick, Monica Conyers, Stephen A. Hill), 1-8-7 choose to ignore much of this and instead act a publicity piece for the city. The creators constantly sucking up to a city council that didn’t want them there and the characters continually defending the city as if they’d never been there. Refreshingly The Chicago Code instead recognizes the flaws of its setting, and it’s characters attempt to fix said flaws. Perhaps a fantasy of Ryan’s, as he grew up in the ‘Windy City’. I know if I were gonna make a cop show in Detroit I would want my version of the city to be fought for by my protagonist. And that’s whats happening on The Chicago Code.
The fight to save Chicago is done so with some inspired casting. First the guardian of the city and new head of the C.P.D. is Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) and she is on mission to cleanse the city’s government of corruption. Her muscle – her Ex-Partner Detective Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke). Wysocki is joined by Friday Night Lights star Matt Lauria who plays his young partner Caleb Evers. The trio seem to have excellent chemistry.
Jarek and Caleb are given Carte blanche as far which cases they get to take. This is not popular among the other police which only makes their jobs harder. Also on the job is one of the stars of the short-lived NBC show The Black Donnellys – Billy Lush. Lush plays Undercover Detective Liam Hennessey and is known as a cop to only a very select few.
Liam is undercover with the intent of bring down the most powerful man in Chicago – Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Gibbons not only controls the Police budget, but is also as corrupt as they come. This is the basis of the show. Colvin bringing down Gibbons, the man who appointed her.
Ok, so reading that it does sort of sound like ‘another cop show’, but the stories are woven together in a way that forces you to see the situation from multiple angles. The dialogue is well written, and while not as good as The Shield or Terriers, it’s about as good as you can hope for on network TV…
I’d rank this among the best cop shows on TV right now, right up there with Southland. I gave the show a chance because of Shawn Ryan, but I return to it each week because it is awesomely entertaining. I urge you to give it a chance as well…
Victory laps are usually reserved for the revered, the celebrated or the most popular. We are just going to have to settle for the best in this case. As Friday Night Lights made its final season debut on April 15th to tie for last place in the ratings, we must think whether they deserved such an awful way to end its run. DirecTV viewers have been done with the season for months, heck , this fifth season is already out on DVD right now. From a television executive standpoint, you have to wonder, why does this show, the little show that could, even bother? Well, it is the same reason why I was asked to do this article: Friday Night Lights was one of the best damn shows on television in the last decade.
I have been an avid watcher of this show when it first launched back in 2006 to mediocre ratings. I had seen the movie and thought it was worthwhile enough to give the show a shot. Obviously no Billy Bob but hey, life is not meant to be perfect. I remember the pre-launch of the show, and that it had garnered the best reviews, some even declaring the pilot to be one of the best ever made. Granted, critics and opinions do not mean much in the world today of bloggers, or just people who troll IMDB message boards (right boss?), but it was something that had to be seen and watched. I figured, if it is a show about football, it has got to be at least watchable right?
I remember the pilot being easily being unforgettable. It had several moments of intensity, sincerity, levity and just pure fun that pulled me into its grasp. Although it had the same principle plot of the movie, (powerhouse team becomes underdog after horrible injury with a twist), the episode was very well constructed and kept the pace original and fresh to make the idea seem less stale.
Now, I admit, I have a soft spot for dramas. Not only stuff like 24 or Boardwalk Empire or anything dealing with action and HBO, but I love The O.C. I get crapped on about it every once in a while, because let’s face it, it is not something someone would readily admit out loud. The reason I mention this was because for the most part (effin’ Oliver), the first season of the The O.C. was brilliant. They captured the dynamics of friendship, comedy, relationships so well that I wanted to hang with Seth Cohen, crush on Summer Roberts, and have awesome benefactors like Sandy and Kirsten Cohen. The humanity of people was prominent during the season, and the one thing I always noted was the dynamics of the parents relationship. Sandy and Kirsten acted like adults. They had their issues, ups and downs but they got through it because they did not have their heads up their asses. Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) are that couple.
They keep the show, and everyone involved, as grounded as possible. I give the writers a lot of credit. They threw obstacles at them, but there was not an ex, or a ridiculous plot in order drive a wedge in between the two. It was bigger houses, money , jobs…things real couples argue about in life. They were not perfect, they had their flaws. But they were perfect for that show and for each other.
Watching the first season made me come to the conclusion that it was so good, it probably would not last more than two or three seasons. This came out around the same time that Arrested Development was still struggling to find audiences despite the perfection of that show. No one gave any hope to the critical darlings that kept people entertained, or at least those that watched it. They wanted the low-concept projects that the A.D.D generation did not have to think too much about. Which is fine, I am not here to preach about peoples’ television watching habits or their tastes. I am just happy that this show was able to last five seasons after going down to wire like the Dillon Panthers and the end of every game.
The characters drove this show, obviously being led by the Taylors (Chandler, Britton, and Aimee Teegarden) but as with any ensemble show, they are only as good as the surrounding parts. You had Jason Street (Scott Porter), Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki), Smash Williams (Gaius Charles), the Lyla and Buddy Garrity (Minka Kelly and Brad Leland), Kronner’s boy Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons – Paul), and even Grandma Saracen (Louanne Stephens) in the first season that clicked together.
As the seasons progressed, they added more characters such as Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria – The Chicago Code), Vince Howard (Michael B. Jordan), Jess Merriweather (Jurnee Smollett), and Becky Sproles (Madison Burge) for the last two seasons but it was always the Taylors that took center stage.
They responded to situations in the most human way possible, whether to compromising, arguing, and not doing overly stupid things. They were the moral compass of the show and their impact showed through the last five years in the growth of everyone, even themselves.
The second season had its hiccups with a plot to build new viewership that was just unnecessary and stupid, but we still had the same base. They rebounded the next few seasons and still helped build a consistent and entertaining show to watch. It is interesting to think that people did not watch the show because it was about football. Or maybe, because it was not about football at all. This is a show about courage, compromise, family, and growing up. Football was just the backdrop. This could have been about basketball, baseball, badminton, whatever, it was just there to help get from point A to point B.
I truly believe that if you give this show a chance, you will walk away impressed and wanting more. There may not be explosions, Kiefer, vampires, or a mysterious island – and the concept may be boring to some, but it truly is one of the best shows on television. There is just something about hearing, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”, that just makes me smile. Give it shot and it may make you smile too.