TV Eye: Crazy for Cop Shows

Cracking The Chicago Code

<i>The Chicago Code</i>
The Chicago Code

I should stop declaring that I don't like police dramas. As soon as I do, another one shows up and strikes my fancy: Blue Bloods, Detroit 1-8-7, Southland. I also watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. But now, I've finally found a police drama that I do not simply like, but that I love. It's The Chicago Code, one of a slew of new series premiering after the Super Bowl.

The series features a compelling cast of characters led by Jennifer Beals (The L Word) as Teresa Colvin, the city's first female superintendent. Her quick rise to the highest level in the police force is seen as a fluke, but her intense desire to see justice served is very real and deeply personal. She still remembers how her father died penniless after years of greasing palms to keep trouble from his hardware store. Now that she's all grown up (and packing), Colvin has made it her life's work to expose corrupt city politicians. Bring down the top guns, and the street thugs will fall, too.

The bull's-eye of Colvin's target is Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). A master politician, he has built his personal wealth and professional reputation on years of well-groomed public performances, backroom deals, and other, less gentile activities. While he manages to keep his hands seemingly clean, Teresa knows he's dirty and is determined to bring him to justice. When she seeks funding for a special task force to investigate city corruption, Alderman Gibbons is the one who slaps her idea down. But that does not stop her from forming her own task force, off the books. The first person she taps for her unofficial justice league is her reluctant ex-partner, Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke, Brotherhood). Brash, unconventional, and cocky, he nonetheless shares Teresa's thirst for justice. He eventually joins Teresa on her quest, bringing along his newest and longest-surviving partner, Caleb Evers (Matt Lauria, Friday Night Lights).

It all sounds like a conventional police drama, but The Chicago Code differs in many ways. First, it's a treat to see Chicago as more than a few stock backdrop shots. Shot in and off the beaten paths of Chicago, the show has a verisimilitude you can't fake (same with CBS' Blue Bloods, which is shot in New York). Viewers get a very real feel not only of Chicago, but also of the Midwest. Narratively, the series uses an interesting convention, wherein a character will speak in voiceover, in first-person, either about themselves or the character onscreen, offering some detail the viewer would not otherwise know. It shouldn't work, and the description makes it sound labored, but it's very well-used and concisely cinches a character's backstory. In fact, the convention is so cleverly used in one portion of the pilot episode that when it abruptly ends, it makes the turn of events that stops the delivery that much more shocking.

The Chicago Code premieres Monday, Feb. 7, at 8pm on Fox.

What Else Is On?

Feb. 8: When I Rise, 9pm on PBS. The life and career of international opera star Barbara Smith Conrad is revealed in this new film in the Independent Lens series. The East Texas native was among the first African-American women to enter the newly integrated University of Texas in 1957. As if that weren't demanding enough, her life would take another dramatic turn when she was cast as the romantic lead opposite a white male student in a university-produced opera, launching a heated controversy and prompting the Texas state Legislature to react. When I Rise, which premiered at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival, is a production of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, executive produced by Don Carleton, and directed by Austin-based filmmaker Mat Hames (Fighting Goliath). Additional airtimes are Feb. 10 at 9pm and Feb. 13 at 3pm.


Follow TV Eye on Twitter: @ChronicleTVEye. E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Chicago Code, Blue Bloods, Detroit 1-8-7, Jennifer Beals, Delroy Lindo, cop drama, Southland, When I Rise, Barbara Smith Conrad, Mat Hames, Don Carleton

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