March 23, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Shots Fired”


SHOTS FIRED:  Wednesday 8PM on FOX – Potential DVR Alert

As issue-oriented network dramas go, FOX’s new SHOTS FIRED is considerably less ascetic than ABC’s American Crime.  That show is a worthy saga that wears its seriousness like a hairshirt, while Shots, created by Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood (she wrote and directed the opening episode from a story by both), is presented as a mystery, with the starting point of a shooting of an unarmed white man in North Carolina by an African-American cop that quickly widens to include the death of a black man who may have been the victim of white police.  It moves confidently, with the pull of a summer read.

The price is a certain amount of conventionality.  The narrative is framed through the eyes of a pair of black Department of Justice officials, prosecutor Preston Terry (Stephan James) and investigator Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan), and they’re both heavily dosed with coolness  He’s a portrait of sleek ambition with an NFL star brother, and she’s an ex-cop with anger-management and child custody issues; by the end of the first hour, she’s slept with his brother, and he’s bedded the hot assistant of the Governor, and all the while they trade will-they-or-won’t-they antagonistic banter with each other.  As well played as they are, the two feel like TV characters, and that’s true of the superficially cooperative sheriff (Will Patton) as well.  The atmosphere of the town where the story takes place pales next to the genuineness of a show like Atlanta.

Still, the formula works.  Preston and Ashe are quickly established as determined figures who won’t let cover-ups stand in their way, and the narrative plays out deliberately but with enough action to hold one’s interest.  The ultimate seriousness of Shots Fired isn’t clear at this point.  Potentially nuanced plot points like evidence of drunkenly bigoted statements made by the black cop may be a serious part of the story, or just part of a build to more of a potboiler.  There’s certainly enough in the early going, however, to justify sticking around to find out how much the series has on its mind


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."