×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Shades of Blue’

With:
Jennifer Lopez, Ray Liotta, Drea de Matteo, Warren Kole, Dayo Okeniyi, Vincent Laresca, Hampton Fluker, Sarah Jeffery

The opening sequence in “Shades of Blue” feels unexpectedly timely, as police shoot an African-American suspect, then cover up the details. After that, though, this NBC drama becomes extremely familiar, focusing on a cop forced to go undercover, risking detection from her corrupt colleagues. That’s not to say the show is without its strong points — including Ray Liotta, this time playing a wiseguy with a badge — but the star being used to sell it, Jennifer Lopez, while surely representing a promotional coup, feels like as much a distraction as an asset, looking absurdly glamorous regardless of the circumstances.

Lopez’s Harlee is a single mom, who has the misfortune to break into the wrong apartment with an itchy-trigger-fingered rookie (Dayo Okeniyi); he shoots a drug dealer who’s merely playing videogames. She helps obscure what happened, but the guilt gnaws at him, although that plot soon becomes secondary to a larger one.

Caught by the FBI, Harlee is pressured to inform on her crew, led by Wozniak (Liotta, in not much of a leap from the mobsters he’s played), who soon becomes aware there’s a rat in the ranks, placing everyone under suspicion.

Meanwhile, Harlee spars with her FBI handler (Warren Kole), who relentlessly pressures her, despite the dangers she faces given Wozniak’s ruthlessness. Indeed, the camaraderie and loyalty among her gang collides uncomfortably with her callous treatment by the FBI, echoing a dynamic from Sidney Lumet’s “Prince of the City.”

Created by Adi Hasak (“Generation Kill”), with the first two episodes directed by Barry Levinson, “Shades of Blue” — a title, frankly, that sounds as derivative as the show feels — is handsome, polished and occasionally twisty, from the gritty, tension-filled situations associated with undercover work to the first-rate cast, which includes Drea de Matteo as part of Wozniak’s squad.

Liotta’s crooked cop — whose paternal qualities are only rivaled by his fierceness — is easily the most interesting presence here. But because Lopez is, well, Lopez (and not incidentally, serves as an executive producer on the project), the focus on Harlee remains front and center, with the actress acquitting herself honorably enough as a character who is tough and resourceful but, as written, relatively thin and uninspired.

Practically speaking, NBC has struggled to find series to pair with “The Blacklist” on Thursday nights, and Lopez’s star power might be an asset in helping lure viewers into the program’s serialized plot. “Shades of Blue” is reasonably compelling by that measure, and clips along smartly enough (eight episodes were made available) that the show should inspire some return business if it can generate the requisite sampling. Nevertheless, it’s too bad “Blue” couldn’t bring at least a few new, more colorful hues to a crime drama that paints, ultimately, with a rather familiar palette.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Shades of Blue'

(Series; NBC, Thur. Jan. 7, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New York by Nuyorican Prods., EGTV, Ryan Seacrest Prods. and Jack Orman Prods. in association with Universal Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Adi Hasak, Jack Orman, Jennifer Lopez, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Benny Medina, Ryan Seacrest, Nina Wass, Barry Levinson; co-executive producers, Mike Daniels, Yahlin Chang; supervising producer, Tamara Becher-Wilkinson; producers, Priscilla Porianda, David DeClerque; director, Levinson; writer, Hasak; camera, Stefan Czapsky; production designer, Sam Lisenco; casting, Laura Schiff, Carrie Audino (pilot), Amanda Mackey, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond. 60 MIN.

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ray Liotta, Drea de Matteo, Warren Kole, Dayo Okeniyi, Vincent Laresca, Hampton Fluker, Sarah Jeffery

More TV

  • The Plague Season 2 Spanish TV

    Telefonica, Atresmedia to Create Content Factory Behemoth

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — In a game-changing move for Spanish-language production Telefonica, Europe’s third biggest telco, and Atresmedia, the original co-creators of “La Casa de Papel,” are uniting to create a new joint contents production giant. Aimed at gaining more scale and uniting talent relations – writers, directors and producers – the 50/50 joint venture will [...]

  • Media Company Formed Through Merger Given

    KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Takes the Name Leonine

    The KKR-backed German media company formed through the merger of Tele München Group, Universum Film, i&u TV, and Wiedemann & Berg Film has been given the name Leonine, it was revealed Friday. Fred Kogel, CEO of Leonine, said: “When choosing the new brand as our company name, the following aspects were decisive for us: it [...]

  • PERFECT LIFE

    San Sebastian: Leticia Dolera on Canneseries Winner ‘Perfect Life’

    SAN SEBASTIAN —  “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) may be the most seen of Spanish series this year. Leticia Dolera’s still-to-bow “Perfect Life,” however, is the most laureled, sweeping at April’s 2nd Canneseries TV festival both best series and best special performance for its female leads, Dolera herself, Celia Freijeiro and Aixa Villagrán, from [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Dickinson First Look Teaser

    TV News: Apple Drops New 'Dickinson' Trailer With Hailee Steinfeld (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Apple TV Plus’ “Dickinson” series released a new trailer and Netflix released the trailer for the fifth season of “Peaky Blinders.” DATES The “Cash Cab” revival will come to Bravo on Oct. 7. The game show takes place inside a New York cab, where unsuspecting passengers become contestants in a game of [...]

  • Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team

    Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team for Medical Drama in Development at CBS

    CBS is developing a medical drama that hails from writer Katie Wech, Variety has learned. Currently titled “Good Sam,” the series follows a talented yet stifled surgeon who embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content