Yup, it’s finally time for us to review the long-awaited (by Jed and I, anyway), much-anticipated (ditto) but now-it’s-actually-on-we’re-kind-of-bored-with-it corrupt cop procedural, Shades of Blue.
Or #DetectiveJLo, as it’s formally known at Unpopcult HQ.
Showbiz icon Jennifer Lopez herself plays Det. Harlee Santos, right-hand woman to boss Ray Liotta’s Lt Wozniak; their tight-knit unit uses “extra-curriculars” to keep order on the streets – a protection racket for local businesses, safe zone arrangements with local drug dealers, that type of thing – which turns out to be a very effective, and lucrative form of team-building. Till Harlee’s caught by the Feds and forced to turn “rat” by the obsessive, difficult Agent Stahl (Det Trent from Stalker!!!) or risk going to jail and losing her blessed daughter Christina, that is.
A relatively simple choice for Harlee, you might think, except that a) she loves her buddies and doesn’t want to be a rat; b) Woz already suspects there’s one on the team and is ready to, er, exterminate them; and c) there’s a Terrible Secret (of the Guilt, rather than the Pain variety) in her past which means that, if he goes down, he’s very probably taking her and the house of cards she’s built for the precious Christina with him.
It’s all trying very hard to be dark and murky – as far as it can be within Network TV constraints, anyway – so there are some clever ideas, and plenty of sleazy, satisfyingly nasty shocks every week. A lot of care has been taken with characterisation as well, with considerable effort put into giving every single character a distinct personality, rather than just the leads. The difficulty, however, is almost all these personalities suck.
JLo and the most impressive hairdo on tv – this is not just big hair, it’s big hair with such purpose and intent that it’s practically a character in its own right – are terrific, but I find myself getting less sympathetic and more irritated with the conflicted Harlee as the weeks roll on and the lies trip off her tongue. Be a rat, or don’t be a rat, girlfriend, but decide one way or the other. And stop crying about it.
Ray Liotta, meanwhile, is terrifying as the unexpectedly complicated Woz, and Warren Kole as Agent Stahl switches from sympathetic (there’s the Secret Pain!) to psychotic a lot more successfully and believably than his one-time love rival Stalker Jack did. It’s a brave decision on the part of the writers to make his crush on Harlee incredibly creepy and unnerving – he gropes her, secretly films her and names prostitutes after her – rather than cute or noble, but it’s very confusing when I’m looking for someone, anyone, to like or ship or even feel remotely good about.
The rest of the characters aren’t exactly sun time fun time, either. The huge amount of screen time given to Loman, the rookie, in the first few eps is an exercise in endurance more than anything else, since he’s an idiot. Tess, the other woman in the team, forever whining about her failing marriage and thumping everyone except her cheating husband because of it, is both exceptionally dull and a useless police officer. Her partner Escada’s too busy being in love with her to do anything else, including his job. The Princess Christina exists solely so that Harlee and Woz can wring their hands and say everything they do, they do it for her. Self-styled love machine Tufo is ok, yes, if you ignore the sexist jerk side of his personality, but that’s a medium-sized if. Which means the only really likeable characters are the aptly-named Sap, who’s not only called that but is one (so he obviously isn’t making it to the end of the season), and the sweet, decent ADA James Nava who tries to hide his hotness under a beard, but can’t hide it from me. I see you, James Nava! I see you. Not as much as I’d like to, though. Could you not have some of Loman’s screen time instead?
Having said all that, though, while #DetJLo isn’t exactly an unqualified success, the combination of impressive performances, interesting ideas and magnificent hair has kept me watching this long. And fear of missing out – I mean, what if James Nava shaves?! – may well keep me watching, if not necessarily reviewing, till the end of this season at least. Will it bring me back for season 2, though? Hmm. We shall see.