Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicago Code: Great Opening Theme, Good Show

Chicago Code is a new crime drama on Fox which has some promise. The first thing that grabbed me is the opening theme song by Billy Corgan (a founding member of the Smashing Pumpkins). It’s one of those theme songs that one wishes would go on for a lot longer; sadly there doesn’t appear to be a longer version. Let’s hope that gets rectified soon. (The theme and opening sequence is below in case you haven’t heard it.)

The series is a more “Southland” (TNT) than Law & Order. Southland is still far grittier and tense, and Southland already has three seasons under its belt with fully developed, intriguing characters. But while Chicago Code is just good right now, it has the potential to be great. Jason Clarke (as Det. Jarek Wysocki) and Matt Lauria (as Caleb Evers) are the key crime fighters. Wysocki has a reputation of being impossible to work with, but Evers seems willing to give it a try. Delroy Lindo plays the resident bad guy, as the corrupt politician Alderman Ronin Gibbons. These three characters have great possibilities but somehow I think the show needs more than just these two cops and one politician who tries to play both sides.

The weak link is Jennifer Beals as the department’s first female superintendent, Teresa Colvin. It’s not that Beals is pretty that's the issue, it’s that her acting is flat, stiff, lifeless. Colvin has not be welcomed into the job with open arms, and Gibbons has managed to get one of his own people to infiltrate her office in a key position so he can always be one up on her. She knows that Gibbons is dirty and wants Wysocki to help her prove it. I am sure the Colvin/Gibbons cat-and-mouse game will carry on through the season.

Wysocki is clearly an impulsive hot head, but he’s also a smart detective. Diplomacy is not his strong suit. In the episode “O’Leary’s Cow”, when Colvin tries to use diplomacy with a key figure in Chicago’s Chinatown, Wysocki gets a little too aggressive. That scene, though, made it obvious to me that Colvin may not be the right person for the job. She’s too worried about making nice, and not about making a statement that she is in charge. Both characters are behaviorally at opposite ends – Colvin playing safe, Wysocki a loose cannon. It could make for great drama, but sadly Beals just doesn’t come off as credible in her role.

The one thing that comes across loud and clear: the series portrays Chicago as a corrupt, scary, and crime filled place. Is that a stereotypical view of the city? I don’t know. Like all the crime shows set in New York and Los Angeles that make it seem like crime is happening 24/7 and on every street corner and in every home, it’s just the nature of the crime show genre. Still, the reputation of Chicago being corrupt for years should give “Chicago Code” plenty of material to work with.

Chicago Code airs Monday at 9 PM ET on Fox.

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