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TV Review: ABC’s ‘Detroit 1-8-7’ Goes For Grit, Finds Cliche

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CHICAGOABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7” attempts to do for Motown what “NYPD Blue” did for the Big Apple by detailing the personal and professional lives of a group of tough cops in a very tough city. Shot entirely in the Motor City, “Detroit 1-8-7” has potential and shows improvement in its second episode but is ultimately too weighed down by the cliches of its genre to be effective.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 3.0/5.0
Television Rating: 3.0/5.0

Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”) stars as Detective Louis Fitch, an unusual and troubled man who has difficulty getting along with other people but usually gets his man. Imperioli is well-cast and could turn this character into an interesting one if given the time to do so. Fitch isn’t your typical TV eccentric cop and it’s easy to see what drew Imperioli to the show.

D.J. Cotrona, Jon Michael Hill, Aisha Hinds, Michael Imperioli, James Mcdaniel, Shaun Majumder, Natalie Martinez
D.J. Cotrona, Jon Michael Hill, Aisha Hinds, Michael Imperioli, James McDaniel, Shaun Majumder, Natalie Martinez
Photo credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

Sadly, the rest of the cast is much-more-thinly drawn. There’s the new guy (Jon Michael Hill), the funny guy (Shaun Majumder), the old guy (James McDaniel), the hot girl (Natalie Martinez), the smooth talker (D.J. Cotrona), and the hardened Lieutenant (Aisha Hinds). Most precincts in major cities don’t feature such a neatly-diverse demographic much less such a beautiful one. The generic, unrealistic casting is self-defeating in terms of the show’s attempts at realism.

Michael Imperioli
Michael Imperioli
Photo credit: Guy D’Alema/ABC

Told mostly in mockumentary style with handheld cameras that the characters often speak to directly, “Detroit 1-8-7” follows a standard cop procedural format with a slightly grittier style than we’ve recently seen in the genre. In 2010, Detroit is a dangerous, deadly place and the location shooting and specific references should be of special interest to those familiar with the area. Lines like “We fight them here so we don’t have to fight them in Ferndale” and commentaries on the differences between downtown Detroit and the more-affluent suburbs add a level of realism to the show that shouldn’t be undervalued.

Sadly, most of the actual crime-solving on the show punctures a hole in said realism. After thousands of hours of TV cops, it can be difficult to stay fresh but the show’s desire to be, as the commercials proclaim, “gutsy” and “gritty” is a little too blatant and on-the-nose. There’s a difference between a show that feels genuinely edgy and one that feels likes it’s constantly reminding you just how edgy it’s trying to be. “Detroit 1-8-7” is too often the latter, missing that often-intangible quality that makes a TV cop show feel real.

One of the things that holds “Detroit 1-8-7” back from realism and keeps it in the realm of cliche is the weak case-writing, including an overcooked first episode plot that ends with a hostage crisis that would garner national news. If they’re really going for realism, the writers of “Detroit 1-8-7” should dial down the hysteria and focus on the day-to-day crimes that are probably happening in Detroit while you read this review. A daring show would present fully-developed police officers with interesting personalities instead of placing so much weight on making headlines with the individual cases. Wouldn’t it be remarkable to see a cop show that’s driven by the lives and personalities of the actual detectives instead of so focused on the crimes they solve?

Tonight’s premiere of “Detroit 1-8-7” is cliched and forced but the show develops a better rhythm in episode two and there is enough talent in this cast to believe that it could slowly build into a reliable performer — a show that never reaches the heights of its obvious “NYPD Blue” inspiration but fills the cop show void for viewers on a consistent basis. Detroit is a resilient city with determined, proud people who stay loyal to what they love. They deserve better than a mediocre ugly duckling of a cop show and we can only hope that “Detroit 1-8-7” will eventually offer something less cliched to a city with problems that are all too real.

‘Detroit 1-8-7,’ which airs on ABC, stars Michael Imperioli, Jon Michael Hill, Shaun Majumder, James McDaniel, Natalie Martinez, D.J. Cotrona, and Aisha Hinds. It premieres on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 9PM CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Keisha age:23 's picture

funny things that happen on Detroit 1-8-7 premier

rotfl when i saw poochie run off handcuffed to that kiddy slide

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