Onto a TV landscape already filled with two well functioning cop shows and the shadows of a few great, recently-departed ones, comes the Chicago Code, a drama about cops working to take down a corrupt politician.
The Chicago Code is the Shield meets the Departed meets the Untouchables meets the Wire.
The Set Up
The Chicago Code begins with Superintendent Teresa Colvin, played by Jennifer Beals with a slightly wonky accent, getting denied her request to form some sort corruption-fighting task force. We're informed via a flashback-with-voiceover technique that recurs throughout the hour, that he father's hardware store was driven out of business because of the payoffs he had to make to local unsavory types and she decided then to change the way things work in Chicago. Now, she's the city's first female Superintendent and she doesn't mind pissing people off, whether it's cops on the take who she re-assigns to demeaning positions or the corrupt politician who knows he's being investigated.
First things first, she goes to her ex-partner, Jarek Wysocki. Played by Jason Clarke (who you might remember from Showtime's series Brotherhood), he's the kind of gritty, harsh plain clothes cop that always shows up in series like this - he hates his partners, he's exceedingly moral but also kind of brutal in that typically idiosyncratic way; he hates foul language but has no problem slapping suspects around. He's also looking after his niece Vonda, a rookie cop, the daughter of his killed-in-the-line-of-duty brother.
These issues are on full display when he vaguely references his brother's death while belittling an officer who is undercover in Lindo's organization. Because most experienced police officers have no respect for a guy working undercover.
The group is rounded out by Matt Lauria, recently Luke in Friday Night Lights, who's newish and pretty good at his job, but you just know he's gonna put them all in a compromising situation later on. Also, he attempts to bond with Clarke by talking about nude scenes in movies and lying about which Chicago baseball team he loves. Two things about this: 1) you know someone is gonna end up being a mole for the Delroy Lindo character and it may as well be him since it's not gonna be Clarke or Beals and 2) asking someone you just met about the pair of screen boobs they like the most is a little creepy.
Cringe Factor (Out of 10)
The Chicago Code has a lot of problems, starting with the part about Beals and Co. working toward getting Lindo, but he knows it, etc. It's pretty boring. He's fine as a villian, but it just feels a little two-dimensional that there's such a limited amount of moral grey area. The only time one ever feels like the show isn't completely living in a world of easily drawn lines is Lindo's bit of narration, where he talks about doing favors for various people. Maybe we're supposed to think that he thinks he's doing good work for people, that he's helping the city by over-charging it for construction projects done by a company he secretly owns. But that would make him pretty dumb for a crime boss.
But there's no real mystery here: Beals and Co are good, Lindo is bad and they're gonna get him. It's done in pretty straight-forward, over-wrought fashion and it's kind of annoying. There's lots of room for grey area in show that includes corrupt politicians and undercover cops - we've seen it a thousand times before - but Chicago Code ignores all of that and goes for something nearly substance free. Even solving the pilot's A plot murder is pretty easily: a canvas gets the shooter in one scene, the undercover guy hears a random name that turns out to be the liaison, the liaison rolls on the Lindo character. No misdirection, no red herrings.
Over/Under for Cancellation
FOX pushed this show pretty hard and I don't think they're gonna give up on it too easily, or at least with as they let Lone Star die. But the show seems really superfluous right now. There are two really good straight up cop shows currently airing - Detroit 187 and Southland - plus Justified which returns for season two tomorrow. The current TV landscape is, as usual, littered with various cop-ish procedurals, from Hawaii Five-O to CSI to the Mentalist, that's not really something new. But, neither is the Chicago Code. There isn't too much that's different from anything else that's on TV right now. Not that this necessarily means it will fail, just that I won't keep watching.