January 7, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Shades of Blue”


SHADES OF BLUE:  Thursday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

SHADES OF BLUE is the weak tea brewed by broadcast network executives who dream of airing something like The Shield.  Both shows center on corrupt urban cops, but where The Shield smacked viewers in the face, forcing them to decide where they drew their own lines of morality, Shades of Blue coddles its lead character, Harlee Santos (Jennifer Lopez), giving her plenty of excuses for her actions.  (It probably isn’t coincidental that Lopez is also an executive producer of the series and the main reason for its on-air existence.)

The difference between the two shows is readily crystallized by their opening sequences.  In the famous start to The Shield, Vic Mackey murdered a fellow cop in cold blood who was informing on his squad.  Shades begins with a wrongful police shooting, too, but this time it’s Harlee’s partner who mistakenly thinks the video game sounds he hears from a suspect’s apartment are real guns, and Harlee’s crime is limited to covering up her partner’s deadly blunder.  Not good policing, certainly, but not at all the same thing, either (and just to make things neater, the partner is black, so as to avoid any messy race-based police issues).

It gets worse:  we’re led to believe that the only reason Harlee went on the take was because she’s a single mom who’s desperate to keep her sweet, unsuspecting cello-prodigy daughter (yes, really) in private school.  Very soon into the pilot, she’s caught offering a bribe to an undercover FBI agent, and from that point on, however ambivalently, she’s working for the good guys anyway.  This is all too bad, not only because it makes for a simplistic story, but because Lopez is a far snappier screen presence when she’s being decisive and daring than when she’s weepy and troubled, a fact that’s been true since Out of Sight and is occasionally visible once again in the early scenes here.

Series creator Adi Hasak hails from the Eurotrash school of action movies like From Paris With Love and 3 Days To Kill, and neither subtlety nor complex emotions are his forte.  His attempts at grittiness just seem like imitations of better films and TV shows, and although pilot director Barry Levinson was behind one of those, the seminal Homicide: Life On The Street, here his work is banal.

Lopez works hard, and she’s the only reason to tune in, but she’s never been a self-starting actress, and the material here has no heft.  Ray Liotta, as the paternal yet menacing head of her NYPD squad, does his Ray Liotta thing, reproduced faithfully from a dozen movies.  As the FBI agent who recruits Harlee and who unfortunately is likely to become her romantic interest, Warren Kole has no chemistry with Lopez at all.  Drea de Matteo is one of Harlee’s fellow cops, but she’s in the background throughout the pilot.

Shades of Blue is moderately engrossing, and it may do for viewers who don’t want to concentrate too hard on what they’re watching, and certainly not to have to think about it afterward.  As such, it’s another reminder that the center of the TV universe these days (occasional exceptions like American Crime aside) is far from the traditional broadcast dial.

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."