Full disclosure: I was hesitant to watch the new Jennifer Lopez drama “SHADES OF BLUE” because the title sounds like a cancelled series. But, I decided to watch the first three episodes and when I finished I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. Strong performances from Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta peaked my interest in an otherwise just “ok” show.
The framework of “SHADES OF BLUE” is strong. Detective Harlee Santos (Lopez) is a dirty cop who works for her mentor Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta) who is also dirty. When Harlee is busted by the FBI the single mom (of course) is forced to choose between going to jail or turning on Matt. She of course agrees to help gather evidence against Matt. Of course Matt finds out that there’s an FBI informant on his team and is hell bent on rooting out the “rat” as he calls them. This begins a cat and mouse chase between Matt and Harlee setting up the central conflict of the series.
My biggest issue with “SHADES OF BLUE” is the dialogue. Throughout the three episodes I kept rolling my eyes when I’d hear a line of dialogue like when Harlee tells and perp “you have the right to shut the hell up.” It seems the writers found of box of scripts of 80’s cop movies and felt inspired to pepper “SHADES OF BLUE” with lines like “you can’t take back a bullet.” Yikes! I’m guessing that NBC thinks of the show as its version of a gritty cable cop. It’s not. It’s a broadcast drama promising high stakes but rarely delivering on that promise. What makes the show watchable are the performances by Lopez and Liotta.
Lopez fails to make Harlee Santos a breakout tv character like Cookie Lyons on “EMPIRE”, Annalise Keating on “HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER” or Carrie Mathieson on “HOMELAND.” I liked Harlee because I like Jennifer Lopez. Well, I don’t hate Jennifer Lopez and she plays sexy and tough effortlessly. Ray Liotta is no stranger to playing a bad cop. The 1992 film “UNLAWFUL ENTRY” came to mind as I was watching the show. He gives the strongest performance among the ensemble. Former “THE SOPRANOS” and “SONS OF ANARCHY” star Drea de Matteo co-stars as another not-so-clean detective and her talent is mostly wasted in the role. Hopefully the writers will further develop her character and drop some of the dead weight of the other supporting detective characters on their team. The series does get points for diversity, but again, instead of characterization they write the Black drug dealer like any black drug dealer you’ve seen in a myriad of movies and tv shows.
Anyone looking for a high stakes, intelligent and thoughtful drama, this isn’t it. “SHADES OF BLUE” is definitely watchable as long as you have reasonable expectations and remember you’re watching an NBC drama.
UPDATE: NBC HAS RENEWED SHADES OF BLUE FOR A SECOND SEASON
What do you think? Are you team “BLUE?” Leave your comments below.
Check out some of the riveting dialogue from “SHADES OF BLUE” below: