Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Premiering Tonight: Dark Blue

An initial thought that came to mind while watching the pilot episode of TNT's new cop drama Dark Blue: the script writers must have watched a million undercover-cop movies when they were kids. My second thought was a question: are they paying homage to these classic films or have they seeped so far into their subconscious they can't help writing in cliches?

Whichever the case may be, the show comes across, save for a bit of grit here and some testosterone there, as a watchable and less dramatic version of A&E's overly dramatic, unwatchable undercover-cop series The Beast.

While Dark Blue sticks to the grungy alleyways and dingy fight clubs pretty much all gritty cop shows are known for, the cinematography manages to pick it up a level or two over other examples of the drama. This may be no surprise coming from creators of the CSI, Eleventh Hour and Cold Case franchises - especially Cold Case - the two seem to have very similar pale-lighting, pretty dives visual styles.

Dylan McDermott leads the cast as Carter Shaw, a stylishly gruff lieutenant leading an undercover operation for the Los Angeles Police Department that's so far off the radar the F.B.I. have a hard time figuring out it even exists. Not too sure how likely such an outfit is, but damn if they don't have a really cool, exceedingly photogenic abandoned loft-cum-office that would require major amounts of off the books dough for rent.

While Patrick Swayze was The Beast's only saving grace, McDermott doesn't seem to have that burden upon his shoulders, and thankfully so. The performance is pretty solid but his character comes across as an overly tortured sort. Weary eyes, heavy sighs and an "I need to save everyone and everything" attitude would probably work just as well had the part been that of a depressive artist or well-meaning but beaten down single father (or something else equally depressing).

Production for the show is rather slick at times, but nothing compared to the overly stylized CSI's. There's a few slick spots, particularly one when the bad buys douse a hide-out in gasoline and exit slow-mo style to their pretty get away car with flames bursting behind them. At one point I thought an otherwise impressive gun battle seemed a bit like a trigger-happy (and again, slow-motion) Chevrolet commercial, but who even notices product placements these days?

The story line for the episode was pretty ho-hum for a pilot about this subject - handler and partner wonder if undercover-cop has gone so deep he's switched sides. It's been done before but it's just one of many stories to come, so hopefully they'll get over that bump and start giving us more original fair. There's a reason people drool over undercover-cop stories and hopefully the writing crew will figure that and their own voice out soon enough, lay off the old cop flicks and give us a great show. The potential is certainly there.

Dark Blue premiers tonight, Wednesday July 15th at 10pm (EST) on TNT.

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