Sometimes I wonder why anyone even tries to do cop shows anymore afterThe Wire nailed the genre so perfectly. Of course, by that logic, filmmakers would have given up after The Godfather and we never would have been treated to Goodfellas.
Still the genius of The Wire hasn't been intimidating enough to make show producers quit trying altogether. Shows like Detroit 1-8-7,Southland and Blue Bloods currently populate the airwaves. Now, Shawn Ryan, the television guru behind The Shield,The Unit and Terriers has thrown his hat into the ring with FOX's The Chicago Code. It's more David E. Kelly than David Simon but is still a good use of the genre.
The Chicago Code tells the story of Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals), Chicago's first female police superintendent. The corrupt powers that be, specifically Alderman Ronnie Gibbs (Delroy Lindo), gave her the job to be their puppet. But Colvin decides to create an unofficial task force to battle corruption within the city. She enlists former partner Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) to help. Wysocki's new partner Caleb Evers (Matt Lauria) joins the fray soon thereafter.
The broad strokes of The Chicago Code are imminently recognizable. You have your hot-headed cop who can't quite seem to get along with any of his partners. You have a career woman who's trying to excel in a male-dominated field. And you have the nefarious politician who shakes hands, says some inspiring rhetoric then cozies up to the Irish mob.
But The Chicago Code does an excellent job of filling in fun little details here and there to keep a generic story in a well-worn genre fresh. Characters ask each other "Cubs or Sox?" upon first meeting each other. One cop tries to use the precinct bathroom to get a statement from a suspect ... only to find another cop already using it for that exact purpose. Shawn Ryan even takes a plot contrivance as tired as voiceover and uses it to effective, and even shocking, means late in the pilot episode. The cast and scope is small enough to suggest that Shawn Ryan may be going for more of a Terrier or even Bones feel - which could work fairly well with its strong cast.
It also doesn't hurt thatThe Chicago Code is shot on-location in the eponymous city. Ryan is from the area and his clear love for it infects every frame. This may be the best the city has looked since The Dark Knight. Even if every other aspect of The Chicago Code were completely inept, the show would be worth a peek for the coverage of the city alone. Or as Jarek says at the end the pilot: "If you can't love Chicago, you can't love anything." Amen, brother.
-Alec Bojalad is a junior studying journalism. If you also enjoy well-done copycat dramas, e-mail him at email@example.com or follow @ThePostCulture.