TV Review: Shades of Blue (1×01) “Pilot”

Shades of Blue

Cop procedurals are a dime a dozen. Actually, at this point they are probably much cheaper than that. More like buy one, get three free. The problem with this logic is that networks assume that we are still willing to buy the same trash, but in different packaging. We’re not.

NBC’s Shades of Blue tries to convince us that it’s fresh and new. It fails miserably as it presents to us a similar formula, but replaces our male antihero with a female one, but still makes her as repugnant as the male counterparts from the legions of corrupt detective procedurals that came before it. If the show’s intention was to try and subvert the genre by replacing the typical male cop with the wonderful Jennifer Lopez, it fails completely. They may have changed the sex, but they kept all the terrible, cliched vices that make us dislike the antihero originally, including the misguided sense of what is right and turning her into the straight female equivalent of a womanizer. I want to say her character is sexually liberated, but this show is clearly written from the male perspective though it tries hard to mislead you otherwise.

Throughout the show, Harlee (Jennifer Lopez) rarely makes any decisions for herself. Her actions are all either the result of being ordered to or are just a reactionary decision –with really only one actual choice– stemming from being pressured by another male in her life. Whether its father figure Matt (Ray Liotta) or enemy/inevitable love interest Robert (Warren Kole), Harlee’s life leaves little room for actual freedom. Even within the mold that has been set for this series, Harlee has the potential to break out and essentially say “fuck you” to all the men and the roles they expect Harlee to play into. There is still a chance for this to happen, but don’t expect it anywhere in this episode.

This is writer and show creator Adi Hasak’s first effort in about 20 years that doesn’t involve Paris or being an action film with highlights of comedy. Neither of his previous films (From Paris With Love or 3 Days to Kill) had particularly well-developed characters, let alone storylines. Shades of Blue is no different as Hasak treats this show like it was made with a checklist of mandatory elements from every other cop/detective precedural that has ever been made. With the possible future exception of Harlee, the characters are all two-dimensional and bordering more on offensive than innocuous. A great example would be one of the only other adult females  in this detective sausage fest:Tess (Drea de Matteo) is depicted as an insecure person that is constantly worrying about her husband. That is all you know about her and her character in the entire episode, and that is just a symptom of the biggest problem with this show. While it touts its appeal as a detective show centering around a woman trying to survive in a male-dominated world/professional, it is still invariably plagued by the male gaze it was actually written through.

It is near impossible to stand out when a great majority of the parts in the show seemed borrowed by every similar show type before it, yet some how Jennifer Lopez manages. Lopez has the superb acting capabilities, as well as the sexual charisma when the situation calls for it, to keep us entertained enough while the story takes on its many familiar turns. Her great range of emotions never feel overdone or forced, and she has a great command of the screen. The character of Harlee is predictable, but multifaceted in how many “roles” she needs to play around specific people. Lopez is about to effortlessly access them and seamlessly transition from one to the other like a Rolodex of personalities.

If it weren’t for veteran talents like Lopez and Liotta, Shades of Blue would be much worse off. As it stands, this show is on a familiar path that, if unaltered by some refreshing turns or segues, will end at the same premature dead-end/cancellation like its many forefathers before it. Even the spark brought in by actress Jennifer Lopez may not be enough to save this possible D.O.A. show, which is a shame because its nice to see Lopez return to the small screen. The best compliment I can give Shades of Blue is by saying that it could be worse. That being said, the show could still use a name change to reflect its current state: Shades of Bland.

RATING: ★★★★ (4/10 stars)

Jon would say that as a writer, he is a self-proclaimed film snob and a pop culture junkie. Always gives his honest, critical, and maybe a little bit snarky opinion on everything. He's very detail oriented and loves anything involving creativity and innovation. You're better off asking him who his favorite director is rather than his favorite film. So beware and get ready to be entertained. You can contact him at or follow him on twitter @DystopianHero. (Also, he doesn't always refer to himself in the third person, but sometimes he just has to).