Does that sound like a wishy-washy headline? Well, good. Because I have wishy-washy feelings about Fox and super creator Shawn Ryan’s new show, The Chicago Code. Normally that would be that and I wouldn’t even care enough to write about it but my coworkers and Tweeps are all about it. Say what? I mean, it wasn’t BAD (not entirely) but it’s just not that good.
First of all, a network pilot is a tough gig. You have to introduce your main characters and central conceit. You also have to establish tone and general episode structure (how the show will unfold each week) while telling a somewhat complete story for that week. All of this in 44 minutes. It’s even worse if you’re on a major network. To put it simply, they make shows for stupid people. Everything spelled out. Every character fleshed out in the first episode. All plot pieces on the board. It’s infuriating. And I don’t grade on a curve. I won’t go easy on The Chicago Code because it’s on Fox. It has to compete against Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, etc. And it just doesn’t. It’s not on par with those guys.
That being said, what don’t I like about The Chicago Code?
Everything happens too fast and too easy. After an informant is killed, Detective Wysocki (the main guy) shows up at her murder scene and spends 1 minute on the scene before leaving. Goes to where she worked, spends 1 minute there before figuring out the guy he wants to talk to. Talks to this guy for 15 seconds and gets the information he needs. Looks for a suspect, finds him immediately. The guys in his apartment happen to be his accomplices. It goes on like this all episode. Thanks to this absurdly amazing police work, about 1 month of investigation is accomplished in a day. Why? I don’t know, it’s not 24. Take your time guys.
Does Jennifer Beals look amazing for 47(!!)? Yes. Does that work against her? Yes. The Superintendent of the Chicago Police is the highest rank on the force and she looks like she’s in her late 30s. Way too young. She also has a tendency to occasionally talk with a Chicago accent and often talks way too fast (although I was tripping on Nyquil when I watched). I think it’s her way of coming off intense but I just find it annoying. This role needs a more seasoned actress with bigger balls. If you become the head of Chicago PD despite being young and a woman then you are a badass chick. List the top 100 badass actresses in Hollywood and see if Jennifer Beals is one of your names.
I really hope they did this because it’s the first episode and they needed to kickstart the backstory. The only time I want to hear a voiceover is in a hard-boiled detective story. And it better be gravelly and it better sound like a Raymond Chandler impersonation. It doesn’t help that the show starts with Jennifer Beals’ horrible, airy voiceover (listen to her Chicago accent come and go). It’s painful to listen to. She sounds so chipper and bland, and it’s your introduction to the show! Jason Clarke (the aforementioned Detective Wysocki) is the only one that approximates what it should sound like, and even then it sounds like it’s the first time he’s seen the script. I think they only did them because one of them gets cut-off halfway through and they thought it was a clever trick. Instead it comes off like a gimmick and you’re just happy the voiceover ended early.
I wasn’t sure if I should list this as a negative since I think Delroy Lindo is possibly the best thing about the show, but talk about a clichéd character. The corrupt, untouchable politician? Who is almost cartoonishly evil? At one point he even has his assistant lick his ear. Here’s an idea: Have Delroy Lindo play the Superintendent of police and have the pretty, innocent, publicly nice Jennifer Beals play the corrupt, evil politician.
But there are good things about the show. The story is well-traveled, but with Shawn Ryan overseeing things it should be pretty entertaining. I think the guy that plays Wysocki’s young, eager partner (Matt Lauria from Friday Night Lights) is pretty good. Wysocki was growing on me by the end of the episode and kudos to a network for not hiring someone uninteresting but ridiculously good looking. Not pointing any fingers but coughHawaiifive-ocoughcough…
And like I said, Delroy is always pretty awesome. If they stick more to Wysocki and his partner and spend less time on Beals (or maybe just kind of kill her off…) then I could be down with this. But if they start next episode with a fucking Jennifer Beals voiceover I am going to lose my shit.