September 09, 2013

TV Review: Detroit 1-8-7 (2010)

Cops shows on TV are a dime a dozen, from the various CSI series to the boy/girl shows such as Castle and Bones.

I've never gotten into the CSI shows or Law and Order, assuming that they're all essentially the same basic plot repeated over and over, which is why I avoided similar shows in years gone by, such as Barnaby Jones, Ironside and the original Hawaii 5-0. However, I was a fan of NYPD Blues because of its gritty realism and complicated relationships, so I never completely avoided cop shows.

Detroit 1-8-7 was not on my radar when it originally aired in 2010, but I decided to give it a try since it's one and only season is out on DVD. I've now watched all 18 episodes and, to my surprise, I was quite taken by the cast of characters and how they managed to come across as real people with real
problems that aren't always solved during the shows 42 minute run time.

What really sets a cop show apart from all the others, aside from the basic murder mystery plot, is its characters. They don't have to all be likeable, but it helps if they're at least unique and interesting.

Detective Louis Fitch played by Michael Imperioli is one of the most compelling characters on any show I've watched in recent years. There's a mystery going on with Fitch that slowly reveals itself over the course of the 18 episodes that helps keep the plots from getting too predictable and cliché. Fitch is, at first, very much a loner who seems to have trouble developing relationships within the rest of the precinct. However, as the show progresses, we get to gradually understand the dilemma he's facing and how he finally deals with a difficult situation that wraps up, fortunately, before the series' final episode.

The show has at least two storylines in each episode, sometimes three, as each team works on their current case. Finch, the veteran cop, is partnered with Detective Damon Washington (John Michael Hill), a rookie, and their relationship stumbles through a several episodes as Washington tries to figure out how to deal with Finch's quirky, isolationist personality. He never truly succeeds, but they do find a harmonious, though frustrating, way to work together. Both actors do a great job of developing their partnership so that it feels realistic and, by the end of the series, they've come to a workable understanding once Finch's situation is worked out.

Sergeant Jesse Longford (James McDaniel), the veteran cop who is close to retirement, is dealing with the sudden death of his wife and is partnered with Detective Vikram Mahajan (Shaun Majumder). Detective Ariana Sanchz (Natalie Martinez) and Detective John Stone (D.J. Controna) are partners who develop an intimate relationship that creates some sticky situations within the precinct. All three teams have their moments through out the series. Lieutenant Maureen Wilson, as played by Aisha Hinds, is the den mother of all three teams and fills out the ensemble cast as a strong, but caring leader as she jugglles raising her teenage daughter with the stress of police work.

The problem with a lot of cop shows is the plots become too predictable. No matter how much danger the lead characters have to face, they always win in the end, so much of the drama is mute. Therefore, it was a nice surprise when one of the main characters gets gunned down unexpectedly. No spoilers here. You'll have to watch the show to find out which one. This alone puts Detroit 1-8-7 a step ahead of many other similar types of shows.

Finally, for once a show that is set in a city is actually shot in that city. Detroit plays an integral part of the atmosphere, especially with the soundtrack and music selections. Having grown up across the river from Detroit, it's sad to see the city having so many problems. Detroit 1-8-7 makes you
realize that with all the crime and financial difficulties, there are still people in the city who care.

Unfortunately, quality shows like Detroit 1-8-7 all too often don't get high enough ratings to keep them on the air for very long. However, with 18 episodes, there's enough to enjoy what could have been a long term stalwart for the network if only they had given the show a bit more time and publicity to catch on with the TV viewing public.

Note: Reviewing cancelled TV shows that are available on DVD will be a regular feature.

Detroit 1-8-7  Trailer


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