TV Review - Shades of Blue

One of my favorite TV series of all-time is The Shield (2002), which aired on FX. In terms of cop shows to come in its wake, no series has been able to match the power and the thrills of that FX program. That is until now. This show might not be as gritty or as quick and dirty as The Shield, but the web it weaves is just as powerful and thrilling. Its characters are just as interesting and surprising, and despite its dark tones at times, it's a fun but mostly compelling drama.

Jennifer Lopez stars as Harlee Santos, a detective with the NYPD. She's a single mom of a teenage daughter. Harlee is part of a special unit within the NYPD. If you've seen The Shield, this unit is comparable to the Strike Team, which was a special task force targeting drug gangs. This NYPD unit appears to be a similar kind of task force.

Emmy-winner Ray Liotta is more known for his films like Field of Dreams and Goodfellas, but here he co-stars as Matt Wozniak, the leader of this NYPD unit or squad that, like the Strike Team, secretly works with criminals to maintain order on the streets but also to get them some of the illegal money too.

Warren Kole (Common Law and The Following) also co-stars as Robert Stahl, a FBI agent who is investigating corruption in the NYPD and has his sights set on taking down Wozniak. To do that, he needs proof and he decides to use Harlee as a way to do it.

The first, seven episodes are about Stahl having to convince Harlee to be a part of his operation, as she learns just how far Wozniak will go to protect himself, up to and including murder. The Shield had Vic Mackey go as far as one could go in the first episode. Writer Adi Hasak takes seven episodes for Wozniak who is older to arrive on screen where Vic Mackey is by the first hour.

This is probably due to Hasak and the writers here weaving a lot of subplots with many of the other characters, including Harlee. The Shield didn't delve too deep into the members of the Strike Team in the first season. This series does delve into those members in the first season and early on.

Dayo Okeniyi (The Hunger Games and The Spectacular Now) plays Michael Loman, the newest member of Wozniak's unit who is the most morally conflicted about things the unit does. He also is the most conflicted as an African-American cop in a time when race relations between African-Americans and cops are at an all-time high.

Emmy-winner Drea de Matteo (Sons of Anarchy and The Sopranos) plays Tess Nazario, a woman just as tough and strong as Harlee, if not more so. Yet, she's having marital problems. She found out her husband is cheating, so she decides to have her own affair with fellow detective, Carlos Espada, played by Vincent Laresca.

Rounding out Wozniak's team is Hampton Fluker who plays Marcus Tufo, the womanizing, slick playboy-type, along with Santino Fontana (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) who plays David Saperstein, a mama's boy and neighborhood cop who is perhaps a young version of Wozniak but less bitter and cynical.

Oscar-winner Barry Levinson (Rain Man and Bugsy) was at the helm for the first, two episodes and laid down the tone and look as continued by stalwart TV directors like Dan Lerner (In Plain Sight and Once & Again), which is a slightly more cinematic version of Law & Order. It's not just competently portraying procedure. Levinson and the directors do add stylized flourishes. Given the series is about growing distrust and paranoia, Levinson and company do stylized shots to convey that distrust and paranoia.

The Shield was a sexy show, but this show is sexier in that all the leads are ridiculously attractive. The casting in The Shield was more realistic, whereas the casting here leans more toward the glamorous. It just leads to so much sexual tension all over the place, even gay sexual tension. Of course, Lopez has chemistry with any and every body.

In a scene where Harlee goes on a date with James Nava, played by Gino Anthony Pesi, a lawyer with the District Attorney's office, seems as if it could only end with the two of them in bed. It makes the show certainly fun to watch in addition to the intrigue of Wozniak wondering if he's going to be busted and running around trying to cover his tracks. It's exciting.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-VLSD.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Thursdays at 10PM on NBC.

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