Into TNT, land of oversized characters and throwaway episodic drama, strolls Dark Blue, the newest addition to their roster. There is clear intent with this show to move away from safe family fare such as The Closer and Saving Grace, but if the pilot episode is any indication that shift is going to be a heaving struggle. At the center of this particular circus is Carter Shaw (Dylan McDermontt), a workaholic cop with a duel taste and distaste for the dark side. He is more than happy to play rough or flirt with the underbelly of society (he has the nickname "Prince of Darkness" after all), but he also has an insatiable thirst to save people from that same nastiness.
The people he speaks specifically about saving (drug addicts, prostitutes, etc.) are people who dabble in victimless crimes and are arguably no problem to society at all. He spends the first episode putting together a team – because there is always a team on these shows. There's Ty (Omari Hardwick), an undercover expert with a history of losing himself in his roles; Jaimie (Nicki Aycox), a good cop who is trying to leave a troubled past behind her; and Dean (Logan Marshall-Green), a hot shot young blood with an easy breezy attitude towards danger. One can expect them to ably sleepwalk through one predictable episode after another this season.
The storyline does showcase some intriguing potential. The FBI has come to Carter because one of his men (Dean) was caught on camera dumping the body of an FBI agent. Sure, he's undercover but what is the true explanation? Has he flipped sides or just flipped out? Or is he so deep undercover that to do otherwise would blow his cover? To get to the bottom of the situation Carter has to draft Ty back into service (much to the chagrin of his new wife) and force him to use a character he had already "closed out."
The best part of this episode is watching him try to get back in the game even though his character had recently dropped off the face of the Earth. All three of our principal characters work hard to contact Dean and figure out what the hell is going on. It's fun in a "let's waste an hour in front of the TV" kind of way, but unfortunately they take this gem of a plotline which could have been spread out over an entire season and whip through it in one episode. Do people really want another conventional cop show where a different crime is solved every week? Maybe, but ultimately the ratings will provide the definitive answer.
All that said this show gets off to a decent start. It is just overly familiar and not nearly as gritty as it would purport itself to be. For example, the pilot features the murder of two individuals conducted in rather nauseating fashion. Only the producers of this show, led by Jerry Bruckheimer, don't have the nerve to stand by their shock value so they pull the rug out from under the audience and essentially undo the act. It is to be assumed that the image of an innocent female cop being gunned down in cold blood is simply too much for your average TNT viewer.
The soundtrack is also filled with heart wrenching piano solos, the behavior of a show that is high gloss and soft not gritty and not at all real. That is not to say that this show has to be as dark or as intellectual as The Wire, or live up to the gold standard of pilot cop shows set by The Shield. But in a universe in which those shows do exist something like Dark Blue is simply becoming less and less acceptable.
Starring: Dylan McDermott, Omari Hardwick, Nicki Aycox, Logan Marshall-Green
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Danny Cannon, Doug Jung
Airing: Wednesday, 10:00pm EST