Shades of Blue: Original Sin – The Tell Times Two (Review)

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Shades of Blue with Original Sin falls down a bit after such a promising  pilot.  Harlee (Jennifer Lopez) turns out to have been “dirty” from her uniform days and episode two has one glaringly huge continuity error and the world’s most obvious “tell” times two.  For those who have not watched a plethora of cop shows where they explain how suspects have a “tell” when they lie,  the explanation of what that is can be learned by watching this episode.

Apparently, the director, the star of the show and, possibly, the writers all decided to rely upon the “Body Language for Dummies” approach to this segment.  As Wozniak (Ray Liotta) works through who his “rat” is, it seems that his first suspect is Harlee. The corrupt cop leader looks over an old interrogation tape where he is interviewing a younger and still uniformed Harlee.

During the Q&A, where the young Santos is asked about setting up Miguel Zepeda for murder (she did) Harlee’s “tell” is to very obviously lift her left hand and smooth hair over her ear.  The gesture screams, “I am lying.”  To make sure that the slower members of the audience get the idea, they are treated to the footage repeatedly.

Later, when Woz zeroes in on Harlee during her solo polygraph test, she makes the same gesture, or tell.  Once again, Wozniak notices it (it is hard not to) and the viewer is treated to another repeat of the original tell, back during the Zepeda investigation, and compared by Wozniak.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Woz, getting the shotgun wrong…

By the time the show ends Woz knows who his rat is. If he does not one can only wonder how he has managed to keep his detective badge.

While the  Shades of Blue  makers worked overtime to make sure the audience “got” the point of Harlee’s “tell” they completely blow the entire subplot of the “shooter” outside the shop.

At the start of the episode, during a party, Woz and Harlee respond to a liquor store owner, who pays for protection, to “hold his hand.” After arriving at the business, the car reported to be cruising in front of the store repeatedly comes by and opens fire with a:

“Single-grip shotgun.”

In the shooting scene said shotgun is a chrome, single barrel pump. Later, when Woz and Santos go to the shooter’s apartment, Matt grabs a sawed off double barrel shotgun and replies to Harlee, after she mentions finding mood stabilizers:

“And the shotgun…”

Regardless of whatever else has been going on in this episode this blaring “WTF” moment takes the viewer right out of the story.  Suddenly the importance of Harlee’s FBI handler Robert Stahl (Warren Kole) being a jerk and uber douche does not really matter. What does, is that the show’s makers really believe the audience is so simple-minded, or unobservant, that they missed this “shotgun” mixup.

The shotgun held by Matt Wozniak is a shotgun but not the shotgun. However, with three short words, the character states that it is.  Viewers can be forgiven or switching off at that moment.

This comes on top of the blazingly obvious “tell” that Santos exhibits when lying. A tell, by the way, that is not apparent when being questioned (in the pilot) about her rookie partner’s shooting of a drug suspect  who was armed with an Xbox controller. A coverup that Harlee orchestrated to make it look as though the dead man shot at Loman first, which is a massive lie,  is easily pulled off with no tell whatsoever.

It seems  wasteful to have excellent actors, like Liotta and Lopez, going through their paces while the program makers spoon-feed the audience in one instance and then assume that their viewers are inattentive as well as stupid in the next.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Sarah Jeffery as Cristina Santos

Apart from the annoying things in this episode,  the audience do learn why Stahl picked Santos to be the rat and of her deep love for daughter Cristina (Sarah Jeffery) and the connection that the two have. 

It also appears that Tess Nazario (Drea de Matteo) may have a problem…a large one.

Stahl is revealed to be someone who is not afraid to break the rules while busting Harlee for breaking others.  The FBI hotshot is petty and not likable at all, which puts him firmly in the villain slot.  Unfortunately all of the cops in Wozniak’s little band of rule-benders also fall into the “wrong side of the law”  category, so presumably Stahl is painted as being much worse so the audience know who to cheer for.

Shades of Blue airs Thursdays on NBC. While not exactly “quality television” the show is entertaining just for Lopez and Liotta alone, tune in and see if you can overlook the “boo-boos.”

Shades of Blue: Shades of Irony (Review)

For a new series “written on spec” by Adi Hasak, Shades of Blue is not bad. The pilot could be referred to as “Shades of Irony,” as Hasak’s opening salvo ladles the irony on pretty heavily.

Shades of Blue - Season 1

For a new series “written on spec” by Adi Hasak, Shades of Blue is not bad. The pilot could be referred to as “Shades of Irony,” as Hasak’s opening salvo ladles the irony on pretty heavily. Starring Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta, “Blue” is about “crooked” cops who do so for the “greater good.”

And the extra money for things like putting your only child through an expensive school.

From the very start we learn that not only does Harlee Santos (Lopez) think fast on her feet, the cop never hesitates to falsify a crime scene. Granted she does this  to protect her rookie partner Michael Loman (Dayo Okeniyi) but Santos never misses a beat in setting up a scenario that will clear her partner of murder.

First Ironic Moment:

As Santos urges a young girl away from the apartment that she and her partner are about to enter, two shots are heard behind the closed door. Loman is heard to kick in the door and fire twice. Harlee comes in and finds a dead man on the sofa, with an Xbox controller slipping from his lifeless hand.

Immediately the senior cop starts explaining “what happened.” As she finds a gun, that was in a bag with heroin on a coffee table, Santos sets up the “scene” and shoots Loman with no warning.

The irony is pretty heavy in this first set up. A lesson to would-be heroin dealers, do not play a First Person Shooter on your Xbox with the volume cranked to top decibels.  As the two cops survey the room, and the newly dead guy on the sofa, the game states:

“You’re dead. You’re dead. You’re dead.”

The script tries to be topical and modern.  Santos is seen at the start doing a video diary entry where she begins the pilot explaining how things went wrong.  Very modern day and this does beat the old fashioned “voice over” narrative of most shows.

As one reviewer mentioned, this is not new territory. Michael Chiklis and his gang of cops broached  similar legal issues  in The Shield (2002 – 2008). More recently, on TNT, Public Morals, a personal project that  Edward Burns created and starred in, was a period cop piece where a lot of 1960s police officers walked that fine line for “the greater good,” aka controlled chaos on the streets.

Granted, neither of the aforementioned cop shows had Jennifer Lopez or Ray Liotta. Both these stars are returning to their television roots for this NBC police drama.  Both Ray and Jennifer started on TV and each have returned occasionally.

Back to the pilot of Shades of Blue,  an enormous amount of irony is evident in the first hour of this new series. Santos gets a guilt-ridden Loman through his first accidental shooting only to be caught out by an FBI sting operation. (Technically this could count as “ironic moment number two, but hey ho.) To further complicate the implications of being “owned” by the FBI,  Santos’ boss, Matt “Woz”  Wozniack (Liotta) takes out the dead man’s partner to save his “family” member Harlee.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Harlee Santos (Lopez) going for the “save” and failing

Second Ironic Moment:

Once Harlee agrees to set up her boss Woz, he then turns over the “loose end” of Earl, who knows that Michael Loman killed his drug partner, to the drug pusher that he, Wozniack controls. Woz tells Earl, before letting him out to meet his death:

“For the greater good Earl. I protect and serve it.”

Sidenote: It has to be noted that after repeated viewing of the second of the Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg cornetto trilogy; “Hot Fuzz,” the phrase “the greater good” always manages to evoke a chuckle or two.

Once again, irony rears its omnipresent head as we see Woz protecting the woman who is now working as a “rat” for the feds. (A scene later has Harlee’s boss excitedly revealing that he knows there is a rat in his group and he is not happy.)

Third Ironic Moment:

After yelling that he needs to kill the rat, Woz tells Santos that he wants her to help as:

“You’re the only one I trust.”

To be fair to show creator Hasak, and to NBC, this is a storyline that has been around for years. From Joseph Wambaugh’s many tales of cops and their various peccadilloes  to ensemble pieces like Hill Street Blues, television is full of cops who walk that line, some more than others.

In this new series we have a familial type of cop group where all “work” the street to keep drugs away from the schools and to keep juvenile and violent crime stats down.  On top of this “doing good for the community” there are the requisite paybacks and under-the-table bribes that enable the police under Woz’s leadership to improve their lot in life.

Lopez is good in this small screen exercise in irony. Shades of Blue may have the star looking a little too glam, but hey, this is Jenny From the Block.  Even without makeup and a more “realistic” hairdo, Lopez is going to look “high end.”

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Liotta kills it.

The rest of the cast are capable and manage to impress in varying degrees, despite some not having a lot of screen time. Sarah Jeffery (who just recently impressed in ABCs Wayward Pines) plays Harlee’s daughter Cristina and she impresses in this series as well. Warren Kole is the FBI agent who pulls Harlee’s strings and Dayo Okeniyi is Michael Loman, who Harlee helps out and Drea de Matteo is Tess Nazario, a fellow cop who believes her husband is cheating on her. 

This new crime drama looks to be pretty interesting, at least on par with other shows on offer at the moment. Shades of Blue is more focussed on what it wants to be than, say, Quantico and while the storyline may not be overly original, it does have at least one powerhouse actor (Liotta) in the cast.

The series airs Thursdays on NBC and if the pilot is anything to go by, it will be entertaining and chock full of irony.

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