The Chicago Code (FOX – Monday, 9:00 p.m)

THE CHICAGO CODE, the compelling new police drama from critically acclaimed creator Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), follows the Windy City’s most powerful and respected cops as they navigate the city’s underbelly to fight crime and expose corruption within Chicago’s notorious political machine.

Set and shot on location in Chicago, THE CHICAGO CODE is a fast-paced series centered on JAREK WYSOCKI (Jason Clarke), a local legend and a larger-than-life veteran of the Chicago Police Department who wields considerable power thanks to his relationship with TERESA COLVIN (Jennifer Beals), his ex-partner and the city’s first female superintendent, now in charge of a 10,000-member police force. While Teresa diplomatically governs amidst the complicated landscape of Chicago politics, Jarek works the streets on a crusade to clean up corruption and crime and avenge his brother’s murder. Along the way, they will stop at nothing to bring down their powerful adversaries, including ALDERMAN RONIN GIBBONS (Delroy Lindo), a building-magnate-turned-politician who has ruled his ward with a velvet glove for over two decades.

Joining Jarek on the street is CALEB EVERS (Matt Lauria), an eager young detective trying desperately to prove himself. Also in Jarek’s charge is his niece, VONDA WYSOCKI (Devin Kelley), a rookie beat cop whose father – Jarek’s brother – was killed in the line of duty when she was young. Jarek keeps close tabs on her and is less than thrilled with the risk-taking ways of her cocky hotshot partner, ISAAC JOINER (Todd Williams). Also in the mix is low-life LIAM HENNESSEY (Billy Lush), an Irish thug who blends in with the gritty world of local crime. – FOX

8 out of 10

So here we are asking ourselves again, why, oh why, do the best scripted dramas always wind up on FOX?  They are only going to canceled when FOX inevitably pisses their pants after a couple of episodes.  The Chicago Code is eerily similar to Lone Star in that it’s a serialized, well-written, well-casted and well-acted dramatic series… that probably won’t last a single season because FOX has no patience for shows like this.  For the sake of this review, though, let’s pretend that FOX won’t cancel it before the end of the first season.

The Chicago Code is everything it claims to be and perhaps a bit more.  Jason Clarke (Brotherhood) is brilliantly cast as the down-to-earth, old-school detective who is used to thinking unconventionally and using unorthodox methods in order to effectively do his job.  Beals, is his former partner and newly appointed Police Superintendant who has recruited him to help her to clean up the corruption in Chicago.  If you think you’ve seen this before, you have.  This is almost the exact same scenario as in Brian De Palma’s 1987 classic The Untouchables when Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) recruits Jim Malone (Sean Connery) to help him take down the corrupt politicians, corrupt police department and Al Capone.

Watch this scene to understand The Chicago Code:

… and THAT’S The Chicago Code.  There is no sugar-coating it.  This is a modern-day telling of a classic story of crime and corruption and Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit) is not even being subtle with his homage to The Untouchables.  Good for him because he’s a brilliant writer and he’s smart enough to know that if you are going to use someone else’s source material for inspiration, use only the good stuff.  What made HBO’s Deadwood so good was the fact that it was Shakespeare set in the Old West.  It’s no different with any good drama and The Chicago Code excels in exploiting its predecessor.

Ryan’s no slouch, either, when it comes to stories about corruption having been the creator of F/X’s hit The Shield which lasted for six seasons which revolved around a group of corrupt detectives in the L.A.P.D.  And like The Shield, The Chicago Code does something that we absolutely love and we praised it before in our review of A & E’s The Glades; it uses the city itself as not just a backdrop, but as a living, breathing character.  One gets the feeling that they know Chicago as well as the residents do by watching The Chicago Code and that is a key factor that makes the show compelling and worth investing in for audiences.  It’s also beautifully shot and is a visual pleasure to enjoy in high-definition. Unfortunately, though, as previously noted, we don’t think the show has much of a chance at survival.

To be fair to FOX, and as much as we rip on them, there is a big problem with The Chicago Code that has nothing to do with bad management at FOX: it’s a serial.  Serialized television has no place in major network schedules any more.  It just doesn’t play with this generation of viewers who are inundated with 300 plus channels of cable television, the Internet, and reality television.  This generation of television viewers expects everything to be immediate with their entertainment and they simply have no patience for a story that doesn’t effectively conclude itself at the end of the hour.  This isn’t a criticism, this is just a fact and if you’re wondering when the end of serialized drama on network television officially occurred, it was May 24, 2010, which is the day of the series finale of 24 and the day after the series finale of Lost.  It’s getting more and more difficult to put any effort in writing reviews for serialized drama on network television because we are kind of at the “what’s the point?” stage as we expect every serialized drama on network television to be canceled no later than the end of its first season.

Now, that being said, we believe that FOX has made the same mistake with this show that they did with Lone Star and that is airing it on FOX instead of F/X.  F/X has been consistently able to support to serialized dramas and The Chicago Code would be a perfect fit there.

Of course, we certainly hope that we are dead-wrong about the lifespan of The Chicago Code on FOX but the numbers were only OK for the premiere (2.4 rating for 18-49) and the tendency for serialized shows is to lose audience after the premiere, not pick them up.  So we’ll keep our fingers crossed but we aren’t very optimistic about any long-term success for this show.

Watch full episodes of The Chicago Code, here.

‘Law & Order: Los Angeles’ (NBC – Wednesday, 10:00 p.m.)

The newest addition to the Law & Order brand, “Law & Order: Los Angeles” fuses classic ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling with the distinctive backdrop of LA – delving into the unique attitudes, cultures and crimes of the West Coast.

The drama follows Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich, “Jericho”) and Tomas “TJ” Jarusalski (Corey Stoll, “Midnight in Paris”) as they pursue cases through the diverse City of Angels. As members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Robbery Homicide Division, Winters is a straight-shooting ex-Marine with a clear-cut worldview as stubborn as he is, while TJ, who grew up the son of an Oscar-winning Polish cinematographer, knows too well the dark underside that is behind-the-scenes Hollywood.

Deputy District Attorney Morales (Alfred Molina, “En Education,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Spiderman 2″) is a sarcastic realist who believes moral righteousness is great in theory, but ineffective in a street fight. Though he knows how to manipulate both his public image and the behind-the-scenes politics, he’s still a killer in the courtroom who lives to see justice served. – NBC

The Preview (originally posted on 9/17/2010)

Shawn: Hi, my name’s Shawn and I’m a recovering Law & Order fan. You see, one day about four years ago, I decided that the entire franchise, which I had been watching faithfully since 1990, had turned to utter crap (and that includes SVU which people still think is good for some reason). The formula was stale and the “ripped from the headlines” garbage became a convenient crutch that was about as exciting as your local theater group practicing their ad-libbing skills by randomly choosing topics from a hat (which of course, is a common theme in television production lately. see: Running Wilde in the Tuesday Preview.). Unfortunately, it took about a decade too long for this show to be cancelled. What I can’t seem to figure out is why the arrogant Dick Wolf thinks that simply taking the brand of crap that is Law & Order and moving it from one side to the country to another is actually going to produce a better product.

And before you say to yourself, “Well, this could be different,” I’m going to have to stop you right there because, no, it’s not going to be different. Do you know how I know? There are two obvious reasons. First, take a look at the first sentence of the show description by NBC:

“Law & Order: Los Angeles” fuses classic ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling with the distinctive backdrop of LA – delving into the unique attitudes, cultures and crimes of the West Coast.”

The first thing that they mention as a selling point is what made the show suck to begin with (the “ripped from the headlines” crap). It’s the reason that people stopped watching… period, you unoriginal nit-wits at Dick Wolf Productions.

The second reason that stands out is the simple fact that NBC doesn’t have a single trailer of this new series out that shows a single scene from the show. What are they hiding? After all, this cast is amazing. Skeet Ulrich, Alfred Molina and Academy Award nominated Terrence Howard star in this and NBC isn’t highlighting any of them in the promotions for this new “hit” series? It makes absolutely no sense, unless of course, they know the moment that they show five seconds of this show in a trailer, audiences are going to sing in unison, “I thought they cancelled this stupid show.”

Here’s my theory: NBC owes Dick Wolf a lot for twenty seasons of L & O, twelve seasons of SVU and amazingly, nine seasons of CI (whatever network it’s on now). That’s 41 seasons of television. To put that in perspective, that’s 50% more than all five series of the entire Star Trek franchise. So, Dick Wolf says, “You’re doing another ‘Law and Order’ series whether you like it or not and you’re going to do it in L.A., because that’s where I live now.” NBC’s response was, “How high did you say you want us to jump, Mr. Wolf?” and voila, L & O: L.A. is born. NBC knows it’s going to be crap but in order to keep it semi-profitable, they sunk a lot of money into casting and even I have to say that was a brilliant move on their part because as much as I have no interest in anything L & O, even I’m considering watching the pilot just for the cast. So, in principle, no, I would not recommend this but for curiosity’s sake I probably will watch the pilot and only make it halfway through because I’ll be so disgusted.

The Review (See above):

3 out of 10

This will be the shortest review of the season. Do you know why? It’s simple: everything I predicted in the preview was exactly spot-on. This show is nothing more than the original Law & Order that just got cancelled after 20 seasons except for the fact that it’s set in L.A.

What’s really disappointing is how poor the performances are from this all-star cast. It’s to the point where it’s embarrassing. I really want to chalk this up to poor writing, but I don’t know if I can. This whole show is just awful and no one is getting a free pass.

The only reason it’s getting three stars is because it’s not as bad as Outlaw.  I expect it to be canceled by the end of the season.

Watch full epsiodes of Law & Order: Los Angeles, here.