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Watching TV: "The Chicago Code"

By admin Published: February 7, 2011

Fox has quite often mentioned that its new police drama, "The Chicago Code," which premieres tonight, comes from the creator of "The Shield." As the show goes along, bear this in mind -- in fact, use that notion as a big reason to come back for more telecasts after tonight's. I would argue that some of Fox's promotional spots have, in fact, been somewhat misleading in tone because they overlook how very close to "The Shield" the narrative arc of "Chicago Code" becomes.

You may remember that "The Shield" began with the assigning of a cop to go undercover in the unit overseen by the dangerous Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), to expose the ways Mackey was abusing his power. In that setup, the show appeared to be following a somewhat conventional formula -- good guy forced to befriend a bad guy. Viewers might have reasonable expected something like "Wiseguy" to ensue. Only, in a moment of brilliance, the undercover cop was shot dead at the end of the first episode, and it was clear that (a) Mackey was our focus and (b) he was not going to go down easily. Over the remainder of the series' run, which had its up and down moments, Mackey proved consistently elusive, and his eventual punishment, on a par with that premiere's genius, required putting him in hell instead of a cell.

I bring all this up regarding "The Shield" because the promos make it appear that the show is about good cops -- particularly street detective Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke of "Brotherhood") and police Superintendent Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) -- going after a bad guy, Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Only, as good as Clarke and Beals are as actors, Lindo can have them for lunch any time he wants. And, especially in the second episode and even more in the third, Gibbons proves to be an adversary whose schemes and manipulations are so adept, the cops are both outmatched and less interesting characters. In this cat-and-mouse game, Gibbons is clearly the cat.

That being said, I like the show a lot. I was a little lukewarm about tonight's premiere, which has to introduce a lot of characters, establish relationships and let the actors settle into their roles and accents. But I gave the show a second chance, and a third, and I strongly recommend you do likewise. The show offers action, political maneuvering, good to great acting, and plotting that will often have you guessing -- and even when you don't, you will shake your head in admiration at what the characters, especially Gibbons, are setting up.

I do want to see more details about the characters' lives; the show offers some, but it is more often busier pushing the story along. And there's a plot line in the third episode which is familiar cop-show territory, although the conclusion of it works well. So tune in, and stay tuned.

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