TV Review: Dark Blue Pilot

Despite the title, and the somewhat familiar premise, TNT’s new cop show Dark Blue is not, in fact, a TV version of the Kurt Russell cop movie of the same name from 2002. The show is yet another product of uber producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the CSI franchise), and stars Dylan McDermott (“The Messengers”) as the head of a special Los Angeles police unit that works undercover. Deep, deep undercover. So undercover, in fact, that only one person in the Department knows of their existence; to everyone else, they mind as well be the criminals they regularly hunt down and associate with.

The one-hour Dark Blue pilot finds one of Carter’s cops, Dean (Logan Marshall-Green, Traveler) heavily embedded in the crew of the violent and elusive Franzine (James Russo). Franzine brings with him a host of problems for Carter – the cops have no idea what he’s back in L.A. to steal, and the feds are on his tail, their investigation threatening to jeopardize Carter’s undercover sting. But Carter has other worries to consider – he isn’t sure if Dean is still undercover, or if he’s flipped to the dark side. To make sure, Carter brings back Dean’s reluctant former partner, Ty (Omari Hardwick, Saved), and recruits the eager Jaimie (Nicki Aycox, Supernatural) for support. When you’re undercover, sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

I have to admit, Dark Blue isn’t nearly as dark and gritty as I had expected it to be. When I heard the premise, I immediately thought of the FX Channel’s critically acclaimed (but incredibly hard to watch) cop show The Shield. There is some of that in Dark Blue, in that the characters aren’t anywhere close to being squeaky clean. When Carter shows up in people’s houses, they announce his presence as “the prince of darkness”. The show’s most prominent female role comes with some heavy baggage, and the pilot closes off with one of those downbeat endings that promise just as many if not more interpersonal drama among the undercover cops as they will have with the criminals they hunt.

Star Dylan McDermott, who I have never associated with tough and gritty roles, actually works as Carter Shaw. As one of his people confesses, Carter will do anything to protect his people and get his man, but sometimes it’s hard to tell what is more important to him. We get just a glimpse of Carter’s past in the pilot, with hints of a tragedy in his background that should prove worthwhile to explore in future episodes. Omari Hardwick plays the show’s most stable character, but even he has a couple of skeletons from his undercover closet, and although his marriage looks good on the outside, we get the feeling it’s much more complicated when he steps outside the home, and the wife knows it. But the pilot’s stand-out character is, without a doubt, Marshall-Green’s Dean, who will continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be an undercover cop pretending to be a criminal.

It’s not that you haven’t seen a show like Dark Blue before. Los Angeles has played host to more than its share of movies about undercover c ops doing shady work in its mean streets and back alleys. In that respect, Dark Blue doesn’t quite have the novelty of other TNT cop shows like The Closer or Saving Grace. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s name will definitely lend the show some publicity and bring in the viewers who may not be predisposed to checking it out. The pilot, directed by Danny Cannon, moves well, easily balancing the introduction of the characters, their jobs, and the Franzine plot. It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes from here, and just exactly how dark they’re willing to push it. I can’t see it getting too dark. From the pilot, I get the sense that while Dark Blue may venture into dark territory every now and then, I can’t see it diving headfirst into the abyss completely. Of course, I could be wrong.

Dark Blue premieres on TNT July 15th, 10/9 central.

Danny Cannon (director) / Doug Jung (screenplay) / Jerry Bruckheimer, Ted Babcock (producer)
CAST: James Russo … Franzine
Dylan McDermott … Lt. Carter Shaw
Nicki Aycox … Jaimie
Logan Marshall-Green … Dean
Omari Hardwick … Ty
Suzie Pollard … Alex

Buy Dark Blue on DVD