Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Monday, February 07, 2011


-- television -- da code: a quick take review

So I'm watching The Chicago Code. And the first episode is rather overloaded, to put it mildly. It's really fascinating to see the stuff it gets right and the stuff it gets wrong, and how it finesses the stuff it gets wrong when it can.

For example: there is no way on this earth that Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) would get the job of police superintendent of Chicago. She's far too young and probably far too female ... except that they explain that as her being initially a token, and winding up being the last candidate left standing after the preferred candidate died of a heart attack. She impressed the board and city council with her passion, and so they gave her the job. (Still wouldn't happen, but a good way to explain how it did.)

The victim that kicks off the major investigation in the first episode I have a real problem with. She goes to her alderman with a question about some corruption in bids for city business that she's uncovered in her company, because she doesn't know who in the police she can trust with that sort of thing. But ... here's the thing: the primary victim is a long-time Chicago resident (and she grew up here, her mother grew up here, etc.) and she would know that you never ever ever go to your alderman with something like that. Chances are pretty good that if you've got an alderman with any juice -- and her alderman is the longest serving and most powerful man in the city, and, as it turns out, the guy they're after -- that alderman is either involved, or knows about what's going on and has chosen to do nothing about it. If you've got information about that sort of corruption, and would like to survive exposing it, you go to the FBI. (Note that most Chicago alderman have access to other tools with which to destroy a person's life; they really wouldn't likely turn to murder as a first option.)

The show does have a few stylistic quirks. I could live without the flashbacks or the voiceovers. That said, they're actually pretty useful, for a wonder. It's used only as a quick thumbnail way of giving character information and background. They intrude but they're so brief that they mostly limit the annoyance. The story has a nicely intricate setup, watching Colvin and her former partner Wysocki playing an elaborate game of cat and mouse with Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo), at the same time that she's working with the rank and file to try to prevent a major gang war, while at the same time pissing off that very rank and file by reassigning and rooting out corrupt cops and also pulling together a task force she can trust from that same rank and file to go after all of that corruption. So, you know, she's kind of busy. I also have a hard time believing in ... not so much Colvin's idealism -- I think you have to be somewhat idealistic to be a cop in the first place, or at the least a very firm believer in order -- but that as quite the high flier, she wouldn't have better learned how to disguise what she's doing, and how to better approach it. She's picked a very blunt-force approach to the task, and it's already turning out to be an expensive way to operate.

As a show with a very explicit anti-corruption focus, it's going to be interesting to see if it keeps from getting preachy. Then again, it's Shaun Ryan of "The Shield" fame, a show about corruption that managed not to be at all preachy. (To put it mildly.)

It's going to be an interesting ride, I hope.

Questions? Comments? Cigars, cigarettes, cigarillos?

Posted by iain at 08:31 PM in category quick take reviews , television