×

The Shield

FX breaks new ground in a big way with "The Shield," the most innovative, electric and foul-mouthed hour to hit the tube since one of its obvious influences, "The Sopranos."

With:
Vic Mackey - Michael Chiklis Claudette Wyms - CCH Pounder Danielle Sofer - Catherine Dent Shane Vendrell - Walter Goggins Julien Lowe - Michael Jace Curtis Lemansky - Kenneth Johnson Holland Wagenbach - Jay Karnes David Aceveda - Benito Martinez

FX breaks new ground in a big way with “The Shield,” the most innovative, electric and foul-mouthed hour to hit the tube since one of its obvious influences, “The Sopranos.” Often funny, always frank and strikingly filmed, series takes the set-in-stone conventions of police theater — good cops, bad cops, charming criminals — and fashions a completely new take on law and order. Everything goes (nudity, language, violence), but that’s just the beginning; one-upping any overhyped “NYPD Blue”-like controversy over whether or not it’s kosher to show someone’s backside on TV, it’s also a tour de force of assorted emotions, layered relationships and raw dialogue.

The only question is: Can the relatively new cabler find an audience? Having turned a corner in January with the terrific madefor “Sins of the Father,” original programming arm is placing all bets on its first drama skein to establish the banner as a major player on every front. People will surely say things like, “I don’t even know what channel FX is,” so the promo team better rev up and find a way to attract viewers. This one is worth the effort.

Having gathered a handful of accomplished directors, including Clark Johnson (HBO’s “Boycott”), Gary Fleder (“Don’t Say a Word”), D.J. Caruso (“The Salton Sea”) and Stephen Gyllenhaal (“Losing Isaiah”), FX ups the ante in terms of quality but also in terms of narrative elements. Whereas only a few years ago, certain things hardly could be said on TV, “Shield” uses a relative boatload of nongratuitous profanity and maturely. And to be fair, it’s a harder task: While “Sopranos” gets the benefit of appearing on a pay net, “The Shield” is more restricted due to its basic cable status.

The major force is LAPD Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), a crude, loud, obnoxious and rogue cop who is terrific at what he does. Able to make silent perps squeal at a moment’s notice, he’s both extremely well-respected — nobody wants him on another team — and hated. Clark-helmed pilot, written by creator Shawn Ryan, highlights Mackey’s loose-cannon personality at every turn while slowly turning auds onto his illegal ways, a la Denzel Washington in “Training Day.”

His colleagues are clearly defined. Officer Danielle Sofer (Catherine Dent) is a loner whose affair with Mackey has made her somewhat of a Nervous Nellie. Detective Holland Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) is a calm, nerdy thinker who uses reverse psychology to great effect in order to extract admissions of guilt, and Detective Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) is the wily vet whose demeanor befits a professor but whose attitude is perfectly suited for dangerous work.

They’re all under the watch of Capt. David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), a crafty hunk of a leader who pits everyone against each other while incurring much wrath for being a test-taker, someone who rises through the ranks without uniform experience. Politically speaking, he spends most of his time trying to weed out his department’s bad seeds in order to look great since his ultimate goal is to become L.A.’s mayor.

Debut follows two storylines. Aceveda tries his hardest to bring down Mackey even though everybody else advises against it. Using an unproven yes-man (Reed Diamond) to report back all of Mackey’s indiscretions, Aceveda unwittingly is sending a lamb to slaughter; Mackey’s too smart to think that the rookie is trying to become one of the guys, and the consequence is extreme.

Mackey and Aceveda’s ongoing tension plays out against the backdrop of a kidnapped girl: Her crack-addicted father killed her mother and sold her to a pedophile for a pittance. Eventually discovering a trail of sickos who know where the girl is, Wyms and Wagenbach do their best to find out if she is still alive. Realizing his reputation will suffer if he can’t find her, Aceveda gives in and tells Mackey that he needs him — a sign of obvious forfeiture in their power tussle.

“Shield” has no shortage of explosive moments, with either Johnson’s wonderfully understated gritty approach or coarse language popping up at the appropriate times in appropriate ways. Critics who claim TV has gone too far will cry bloody murder, but as a slice of reality, nothing is overdone.

Anchored by a perfectly pitched Chiklis, cast is solid across the board, from the men in blue who collar the bad guys to the prominent supporting characters. Standouts include newcomer Karnes, who personifies the office geek while maintaining his ability to do his job. Pounder is the voice of reason who’s tough when she needs to be and even-keeled when faced with difficult situations. As the two-faced department leader, Martinez is either extremely cool or hot-tempered, depending on what earns him the most points with his subordinates.

As for the inspiration, the muses are evident: “The Sopranos,” “Law and Order,” “Homicide.” And while it’s a sure bet that some will see “Shield” as just another shoot-’em-up, the argument for its familiarity is this: If you’re gonna take a cue from something, it might as well be the best.

Surprisingly, however, all of this feels extremely new, which, of course, it isn’t. Shaky cameras and dark streets are staples of everything from “NYPD Blue” to A&E’s recently canceled “100 Centre Street.” Here, however, the point is crystal-clear: No matter how often this structure and method are aped, quality plots and relevant leads are the key.

Performances are sustained by an explosive style that includes Steve Polivka’s dynamite quick-cut editing, Rohn Schmidt’s bleached-out camerawork and James Newport’s fitting production design — the precinct is cramped and dingy, and there’s a constant sense of urgency.

The Shield

FX, Tues. March 12, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Fox Television Studios in association with Columbia TriStar. Executive producer, Shawn Ryan; co-executive producer, Scott Brazil; director, Clark Johnson; writer, Ryan.

Crew: Camera, Rohn Schmidt; editor, Steve Polivka; production designer, James Newport; music, Evyen Klean, P.J. Bloom, Ray Espinola; casting, Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood, Barbara Fiorentino. 60 MIN.

Cast: Vic Mackey - Michael Chiklis Claudette Wyms - CCH Pounder Danielle Sofer - Catherine Dent Shane Vendrell - Walter Goggins Julien Lowe - Michael Jace Curtis Lemansky - Kenneth Johnson Holland Wagenbach - Jay Karnes David Aceveda - Benito MartinezWith: Reed Diamond.

More TV

  • Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce Writers

    Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce First Class of Writers and Mentors for TV Incubator

    Rideback, Dan Lin’s production company, and MRC have announced the inaugural class of writers and mentors for their TV incubator.  The new TV writers residency program, which was launched in February, offers a paid, eight-month residency program to a group of writers who have each previously been staffed on series and want to create their [...]

  • CBS Viacom

    CBS and Viacom Move Closer to Merger Talks

    The CBS Corp. board of directors is moving closer to initiating acquisition discussions with Viacom, according to multiple sources close to the situation. The move has been expected for months, although there may still be obstacles on the road to a reunion for the two sides of the Redstone media empire. Price could still be [...]

  • Santa Fe Studios Netflix

    Santa Fe Studios Competes With Other New Mexico Stages for Streaming Business

    Albuquerque Studios entered the spotlight last October when it was purchased by Netflix. While the complex is clearly the jewel in the crown of New Mexico’s production infrastructure, with eight soundstages totaling 132,000 square feet, 100,000 square feet of production offices, a large backlot and support space, it’s not the only modern studio facility in [...]

  • Wahlburgers

    'Wahlburgers' Renewed for 10th and Final Season at A&E

    A&E has renewed “Wahlburgers” for a 10th and final season. The reality series following brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg will debut the new installment at on May 15. A&E has also released a trailer for the season. Season 10 will continue to focus on the Wahlberg brothers as they balance family and their eponymous [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    From 'Game of Thrones' to 'Big Bang Theory,' Spinoffs Will Keep the Hits Alive

    By this time next year, many of the brightest lights in the current TV universe will cease to shine. Some of the most popular and acclaimed shows are set to air their swan songs this year and during the 2019-20 broadcast season. While programs come and go all the time, the sheer number of iconic [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Empire

    TV Ratings: Jussie Smollett's Final Episode of 'Empire' Season 5 Goes Low

    Last night, Jussie Smollett’s final episode of “Empire” season 5, and potentially his last episode on the show ever, went up in the ratings from previous weeks, but still posted low figures for the series. The episode, in which Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon tied the knot in TV’s first-ever black, gay wedding, returned a 1.1 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content