powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


J Lo cops a dramatic feel in NBC's Shades of Blue


J Lo and “The Crew” in the cop drama Shades of Blue. NBC photo

Premiering: Thursday, Jan. 7th at 9 p.m. (central) on NBC
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ray Liotta, Drea de Matteo, Warren Kole, Dayo Okeniyi, Vincent Laresca, Hampton, Fluker, Sarah Jeffery
Produced by: Adi Hasak, Jack Orman, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Seacrest, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Benny Medina, Nina Wass

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Via the miracle of a remote control button push, viewers can segue Thursday night from a glam Jennifer Lopez as an American Idol judge to a battered, weepy one in the opening scene of NBC’s Shades of Blue.

“I always wanted to be a good cop,” she directly tells the camera. “It happened so slowly I didn’t realize it. And so quickly I never saw it coming.” It’s then an instant segue to “Two Weeks Earlier.” That’s become standard operating procedure these days -- the effect followed by a flashback to the causes.

Lopez plays New York City detective Harlee Santos, who’s been in on a payoff racket for a while as part of a “Crew” headed by super-intense Lt. Matt “Woz” Wozniak (Ray Liotta). It’s J Lo’s first regular role in a TV drama series since CBS’ quickly axed Hotel Malibu, a 1994 spinoff of Second Chances in which she also co-starred as Melinda Lopez.

That was a generation ago, though. And Lopez very much sees Shades of Blue as a showcase of her talents as a mature, “serious” actress. NBC made the first eight episodes available for review. I made it through half of them. Which is another way of saying that a not-all-that-bad cop drama isn’t worth an eight-hour price.

Resemblances to FX’s The Shield are obvious, with Liotta doing Vic Mackey duty while Lopez frets about ratting him out after she’s caught in the act of shaking down a guy who turns out to be an undercover cop. Her new puppeteer is FBI special agent Robert Stahl (Warren Kole), a fixated, threat-spewing taskmaster who doesn’t really click from a dramatic standpoint.

Stahl gives single mom Santos two choices. Go directly to jail and let her teen daughter, Cristina (Sarah Jeffery), fend for herself. Or play ball with the feds and get the goods on Wozniak and company in return for immunity. The Crew also includes Drea de Matteo (The Sopranos) as terminally angry Tess Nazario and newcomer Dayo Okeniyi as rookie cop Michael Loman, who’s guilt-ridden after inadvertently shooting and killing a drug dealer. Santos’ efforts to cover for him occupy a good part of the premiere episode.

Meanwhile, Liotta is emoting like crazy during the times that Lopez isn’t anxiety-ridden or flashing her cleavage. Take it from the former drug-addled Goodfellas hardass: “Never risk a hole in my boat unless you’re positive you can plug it. One slip and we all go tumbling down. And I don’t tumble well.”

Shades of Blue puts Santos in constant jeopardy of being exposed in ways other than stripping down to her black bra for a dalliance with a fellow cop or in an effort to show Woz that she’s not wired. Lopez’s acting otherwise is decent enough. And in a best-of-the-bunch Episode 4, she delivers a pair of pretty snappy lines. Here’s one of ‘em: “He’s a paycheck with a fist. I suggest she find one without the other.”

The featured batch of corrupt cops rationalize their activities as a justified means of keeping the peace while also taking a cut of the action. “For the greater good, Earl. I protect and serve it,” Wozniak declares before dropping a betrayer into the hands of thugs who literally will reduce him to ashes.

Liotta’s character also is a heavy drinker with a closely kept secret that comes to the fore in Episode 3. But the shots he tosses down are not the 1800 brand Tequila he sells in those oft-played ads. Instead it’s straight whiskey, baby. Straight whiskey.

By the end of Episode 4, Lopez’s Santos is asking rather rhetorically, “Why do we do any of the messed-up things we do and tell ourselves it’s OK?”

That’s what Shades of Blue is, too. Just OK, even with the first two episodes directed by the still esteemed Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Diner). This is a series that too often tends to drag rather than pull viewers along. But for the near future at least, Lopez has a disparate Thursday night double bill in which she tells contestants she loves them one minute and dodges bullets the next.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net