Thursday, September 23, 2010

Michigan and Movies (Part 3): Detroit 1-8-7 Premiere Review

Michigan Expats - Culture - See All Culture

By Doctor

I apologize for the delay of the review. I had a meeting go late Tuesday night, so I had to wait til Wednesday to watch the premiere of ABC's newest cop drama, Detroit 1-8-7 shot and set in Detroit.

Fortunately, we live in the DVR age. Honestly, DVR is incredible. How much better is life in the DVR age than the tapes of programming the VCR and rewinding the tape to watch an often grainy copy.

Back to the show. I think the show does have some potential, but Detroit 1-8-7 needs to make a decision on what type of cop drama it wants to be. Does it want to go the stylized CSI-type route or the gritty street level format of Homicide: Life on the Street? The premiere tried to tight rope between both styles, and I don't see the show succeeding by walking that line and I also hope that it settles on the latter.

 It is impossible not to draw parallels to Homicide while watching Detroit 1-8-7. Both shows are shot on location (Homicide was set and shot in Baltimore) and focus on the detectives in the homicide department. Both shows begin with a veteran detective with a successful track record (Michael Imperioli) assigned an unwanted rookie partner (Jon Michael Hill).

The main difference between the two shows is that Detroit has a distinct lead top-billed character in Imperioli's, Det. Louis Fitch where as Homicide was a much more ensemble cast. Granted Imperioli's Det. Fitch is a great character with glimpses of the experience, wit, and depth to succeed carry a show, but he is also portrayed as a sort of super-cop in the first episode: interogating suspects and even single-handedly intervening and ending a hostage situation that Detroit cops called unrealistic.

The show could succeed if can find the right balance between featuring Imperioli and developing the rest of the cast which was briefly touched on in the episode, but took a back seat to a beat the clock plot set-up for Imperioli to save the day.

Now much was made about how Detroit 1-8-7 would portray and represent Detroit. The show did fairly well, two characters are introduced sitting down having a Coney Dog, lots of MoTown music is used, and there are some great visuals of the Detroit skyline. Still there were a couple lines that were cheap shots of Detroit and were not authentic to the characters.
  1. Two characters looking for a bullet casing on an overpass find two other bullet cases before finding the one they are looking for and make a "only in Detroit" remark and leave the other bullet casings.
  2. At the end of the episode, when the detectives go to re-write the erase the victims names in red and replace it in black, Imperioli says that the homicide unit may be the "last assembly line left in Detroit."
Both these lines were cheap, CSI-type lines that the show needs to avoid to succeed. The show needs to be a gritty cop drama to succeed and  won't manage any authenticity if it continues to rely on witty jabs against Detroit by characters who are supposedly veteran Detroit homicide detectives.

Hopefully, the show continues to search and find it's based and can develop into a character driven gritty cop drama showcasing Detroit and consequently be a source of jobs and general positive attention to Detroit. If it embraces style and cliches over substance, then the show may not manage a full first season let alone a second.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review - I'm glad they are actually doing it in Detroit.