May 22, 2014

PREMIERING TONIGHT: THE SKED Pilot Review: “Gang-Related”


GANG-RELATED:  Thursday 9PM on FOX – Change the Channel

I think my favorite cliche in the pilot for FOX’s burn-off drama GANG-RELATED–out of, believe me, plenty of choices–comes at the end of an argument between a fiery Assistant District Attorney (Shantal VanSanten) and the head of the show’s inter-agency Gang Task Force (Terry O’Quinn).  They’re going at each other in a hospital hallway, because she’s insisting on questioning Detective Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez), whose partner was just gunned down, and his boss is blasting her as being unnecessarily heartless.  After some back and forth, she snaps “You’re really a prick… dad.”  Because yes, the big reveal is that they’re really father and daughter.  You have to respect the shamelessness of a moment like that, even if Gang-Related is too inept to do much with it.

The show’s writer Chris Morgan did the scripts for the more recent Fast & Furious movies, and it’s easy enough to see what FOX was looking for him to provide here–think of it as “The Slower and Less Angry,” along with generous second-hand dollops of The Departed.  But without the attitude (or the budget) of the big-screen franchise, Gang-Related is very routine cop filler.  Ryan is our hero, a native Los Angeleno who’s the star of the task force–and, like Matt Damon’s character in The Departed, he’s also actually a mole for gang boss Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis), who raised him after his father’s death.  Now he does his best to cover up the gang’s crimes and clean up its messes.  This conflict peaks when Acosta’s uncontrollable son Carlos (Reynaldo Gallegos) is the one who shoots Ryan’s partner, and Javier asks Ryan to keep his son out of jail, even as the cops and the gang both try to stop a coke deal between a black gang and a Colombian cartel.  (Just for a touch of politically correct balance, Javier also has a more respectable banker son, Dante, played by Jay Hernandez.)  Where do Ryan’s loyalties lie? is the question we’re supposed to ponder, but Gang-Related doesn’t make us care much.  Additional familiar elements like a snooping Internal Affairs detective and the broad hint that there’s another mole on the task force besides Ryan are similarly unexciting.

It’s all rather unfortunately close to last year’s FOX flop The Mob Doctor, even if Ryan is voluntarily working for the gang rather than being extorted into it.  Like that show, it flirts with the kind of darkness associated now with cable drama, but has to ultimately adhere to a network moral code (Ryan does the right thing, even if it’s by criminal means).  More damaging, though, is the lack of nuance and the flat, on-the-nose dialogue.  When that kind of nonsense is being delivered by outsized, charismatic presences like Vin Diesel and The Rock, interspersed with genuinely spectacular action sequences, it can be a lot of fun, but on the small screen it’s just a sub-B movie.  Rodriguez isn’t an especially gripping lead, and while Cliff Curtis and Terry O’Quinn are undoubtedly fine actors, neither exerts himself too much here, while the only time any task force member makes an impression is when ICE agent Hicks (Inbar Lavi) tasers a suspect’s crotch, prompting some on-screen urination that may be new for network TV.  Allen Hughes’s direction is slick, but a single blown-up armored truck in the pre-credits sequence won’t make anyone think they’re watching a Fast & Furious sequel.

Gang-Related can serve to keep the lights on during the low-rated summer months, but viewers are unlikely to care enough to seek it out.



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."