Sunday, December 30, 2012

Detroit 1-8-7

A few years ago, when I first heard about a cop drama being shot in Detroit, I was skeptical. There's certainly enough crime to go around in that city, but the police force is a lot more strapped for cash than departments in, say, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, or really anywhere I can think of outside of my home state. If the show succeeded, it would bring in a lot of much needed cash. The odds, though, seemed a bit against it. Especially after the reaction of a former Detroit police officer himself was revealed the day after the premiere. He wasn't negative, but he was certainly amused. The cars were too new, too nice, and I think he mentioned Detroit losing its forensics lab, considerably delaying many cases. (I wish I could find this and link it, but it has long since been buried by the internet.)

Detroit 1-8-7, whose title doesn't even make sense considering 1-8-7 is California penal code, not Michigan, which, contrary to LA's self-absorbed beliefs, is not familiar to the majority of Americans, was predictably canceled in its first season. I forgot about it - I'm sure a lot of people did - then I noticed it while browsing the DVD shelves at the Ann Arbor library and thought, "Why not?" 

As has been popularly noted, the first episode is pretty awful. The original concept was as a mocumentary, and it shows. They do pack in a lot of Detroityness. For example, a pair of cops eat lunch and reminisce at American Coney Island, which I have visited myself (and it was delicious). No mention of Lafayette Coney Island next door, however. What an oversight! (Tongue in cheek.) One of the 

Another oversight is the use of the word "soda." It's true that I do know some local Michiganders who naturally use the word soda. Hearing it in the show did make me giggle just a little, though. "Pop" is most definitely the king out here, and if they were really trying to be so firm about local color, they would have said pop. This actually became a bit of a running gag with a few future mentions of pop versus soda, including this zinger "they don't say soda here, they say pop... everyone knows that."

The dialogue in the show is actually pretty good and the characters sound natural, not melodramatic as in other cop shows, the main reason I don't really watch them. (My favorite police drama is Castle.) The most serious character is Detective Louis Fitch played by Michael Imperioli, whose beautiful brown eyes are very much sigh-worthy. His relationship with his new partner Detective Damon Washington is... cute. At first, in classic fashion, he starts off gruff and antagonistic. "Why must I be saddled with this green, overenthusiastic newb? I am a loner, man! You don't understand captain!" (My paraphrasing.) Thankfully, it quickly changes after Washington gets shot at the end of the first episode, a rather predictable outcome considering throughout the episode Washington has been expecting the birth of his baby, receiving numerous calls from his anxious wife. 
Which brings up another recurring gag: Washington's wife constantly calling him on his cellphone while he is in the midst of working a case. Fitch rides him constantly about it, even taking to calling him on his cell phone  to discuss their case when they are standing right next to each other. 

Other pairings include Det. Ariana Sanchez and Det. John Stone, newly transferred from narcotics, Sgt. Jesse Longford, who often spouts off Italian despite not being Italian (his wife was), and Det. Vikram Mahajan. The banter of the latter two is pretty enjoyable and generally light-hearted. Actually, they remind me a bit of detectives Esposito and Ryan from Castle. Aisha Hinds makes a great head of homicide in the form of Lt. Maureen Mason. 

Another main character, perhaps overlooked, is the city of Detroit itself. It's admittedly a thrill to see all of these places that I've been to and driven by flash across my television screen. And the characters talk about Woodward and Ferndale, and all kinds of places and things that I talk about, too. It makes them believable and shows that the creators of the show really did try, which I appreciate. 

It's the characters that make a show for me, and these characters are solid and definitely do not paint Detroit police officers in a bad light. They are portrayed as noble in a lot of ways. It may only be one season of a short-lived show, but it's enjoyable and might have deserved more than it got. Also, the musical soundtrack is pretty gold.

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