May 30, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Gang-Related”


GANG-RELATED:  Thursday 9PM on FOX

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on GANG-RELATED:  Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez) is an LAPD detective on the city’s inter-agency anti-gang task force, working for Sam Chapel (Terry O’Quinn) .  He’s also, secretly, a spy for the Acosta gang, having been raised by its leader Javier (Cliff Curtis) and his family after Ryan’s parents died.  Javier Acosta has two sons, businessman Daniel (Jay Hernandez) and hothead Carlos (Rey Gallegos), and during the pilot, Carlos killed Ryan’s partner–Ryan already has a new one, Cassius Green (RZA)–and when arrested, Carlos threatened to make a deal by revealing Ryan’s secret identity.  Ryan arranged for a rival black gang to gun down Carlos…

Episode 2:  …but Carlos didn’t die.  That was the big revelation of Gang-Related‘s second hour, written by series creator Chris Morgan and his co-showrunner and Executive Producer Scott Rosenbaum, and directed by Nelson McCormick.  In fact, by the end of the episode, Carlos was out of his coma and, while possibly paralyzed, very much in his own mind, although he hadn’t yet made the connection between Ryan and his shooting.  That continued danger to Ryan is meant to fuel the show’s suspense.

Most of the episode dealt with the aftereffects of Carlos’s shooting, as Ryan tried to calm Javier down from attacking the children of the rival gang’s leaders, and the task force tracked down the actual triggermen, so that at least any retaliation on them wouldn’t take place where innocent bystanders might also be hurt.  In this, the task force was successful, at least insofar as Javier had the gunmen killed when they were already in jail.  Meanwhile, Internal Affairs investigator Carter (Jay Karnes, more or less still playing Dutch from The Shield) doggedly pursued his hunch that Ryan was up to no good, along with his more sympathetic partner, Assistant DA Jess Chapel (Shantel VanSanten), who’s Ryan’s boss’s estranged daughter and probably headed for an affair with Ryan.  For his part, Ryan managed to stay one step ahead of them in covering up his involvement, despite some suggestive audio evidence.  There was also the hint that Sam Chapel is far from a good guy, as he may have thrown one of the triggerman out of a window while the man was in the process of giving up.

Gang-Related has ambitions of being comparable to darker cable-TV police series, a small-screen version of The Departed, along with some echoes of The Godfather as the Acosta gang attempts to go legit.  However, it’s a bland piece of work, without a single memorable character thus far.  Morgan has written some of the Fast & the Furious movies, and the pilot had a strong action sequence or two, but with a shrunken regular-episode budget, that wasn’t the case in episode 2, which felt like a standard hour of network cop drama.  Even such strong actors as Curtis and O’Quinn haven’t been able to do anything with their stock parts, and Rodriguez isn’t the magnetic center the series needs.

With a weak start in last week’s ratings, Gang-Related will likely survive to run out its string only because it’s summer and FOX, like the other networks, needs original programming for its line-up.  It won’t do anything to change the perception that while cable is filled with vital, ambitious dramas during the off-season, the broadcast networks are for the most part content merely to keep the lights on.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  Flavorless Cop Show Cliches


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."