The Shield (****)

Posted on April 1st, 2004 in Television by mynagirl

The Shield

F/X, Tuesdays, 9 pm Central

Ok, this show rocks. I finally put it on TiVo Season Pass (amazingly, it didn’t conflict with any other shows we normally record) after reading probably the 50th review of how great it was. Boy, were the critics right. Boy, do I wish I’d found this show earlier. It goes right up at the top of my list.

I love the show’s many characters and the storylines that arc over multiple episodes. It takes you a while to get into the rhythm of the show but I like that. “Wait… is he the same guy who was accused of excessive force?” “Why was she getting her job back? Why did she lose it before?” They do the obligatory “previously on…” at the beginning of each episode but it really does pay to be a regular watcher. The writers don’t pander to you about understanding bad blood between characters; you either get the subtexts or you don’t.

I know people either like or dislike that the show’s main characters aren’t all 100% good guys; to wit they have stolen a bunch of money from the Armenian mob that they are sitting on until they can figure out how to successfully launder it. I personally have always loved moral ambiguity in my protagonists, so The Shield works out just fine for me. It makes for a more interesting storyline at all times because not all members of the strike team are in on the “money train” deal and our main guys juggle doing their regular cop duty with doing it within their ability to recover some of their money that’s been lost without tipping their hand to a guy not in on the deal.

I have to say, a couple years ago when Michael Chiklis won the Emmy for Best Actor, I (along with much of America, I’m sure) went, “Who? What show?” All I can say now, is “Effing yeah, buddy!” He is fabulous! In this recent episode Chiklis is watching via closed circuit as the Feds tell a local gang member that his money is actually from the aforementioned Armenians and they know this because some of the money (the same money our “heroes” have stashed in a warehouse) has been marked. The scene is amazing because Chiklis does such a great job — you can see the instant that the adrenaline and ice hits his gut as his character realizes not only that the money that they’ve stolen might be worthless but that the Feds might actually shortly have some of it with his fingerprints on it.

Overall, I didn’t realize being on F/X meant you could be quite so… gritty! Not being an HBO subscriber, I’m not used to too much swearing and nudity on cable, but the Shield manages to work it in there after they put more warning letters in the top left than you could shake a keyboard at. Not that I require nudity and swearing to enjoy a show, but it does give them some more latitude to make their storylines interesting and realistic, and I think they put it to good use. You can hardly have characters breaking into whorehouses and posing as street hookers without dropping a few choice words or showing a little skin. It makes the show kind of a guilty pleasure — so often when a show like this is on a network it has to compromise too much or it goes the NYPD Blue route of trying to do the “shock for shock’s sake” and the storylines just aren’t interesting enough to hold up the show without the T or A. Or the network doesn’t give enough latitude for 12+ main characters and storylines that go across 4 or 5 episodes like the one with the serial rapist / cuddler who targets women over 65 (one of the most interesting storylines, both from the police procedure perspective, and for the relationship that might be developing between Dutch and Colette).

This show is everything I love about good TV. It’s so interesting that I don’t even notice an hour has passed when the show is up. It’s uncomfortable enough to make me squirm sometimes. I don’t see plotlines coming (although Engineerboy did once). I care about the characters, and I believe that they could be real people, because they have good aspects and bad aspects. The police stuff (procedure, political b.s., language, environment) seems real enough, at least as far as I can tell. I’m interested enough to be awaiting the next episode, even to the point of (and this is the highest compliment I could possibly pay) being willing to use my VCR if there’s a conflict on TiVo. Now, that’s saying something.

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