Thursday, March 10, 2011

Law And Order Fans, Eat This

Before you wonder if I intend to become your resident TV critic, I assure you that the combo of my article on Tuesday and this one is purely coincidental. I just felt that it wouldn't be a half-bad idea to present a review of a new cops-and-politicians drama that breaks all the rules of liberal pipe dreams. And it takes place in Chicago, of all things. I refer to Chicago Code on the Fox Network.

I saw the early previews a couple of months ago, and after the disaster of Detroit 1-8-7 my initial thought was "oh, please, not another one." But for some reason that I entirely forget, I watched the premier episode and was immediately hooked. I was considering doing a review of the show, but I wanted to wait awhile to see if I was imagining things. The fourth episode, entitled "Cabrini Green" clinched it, and I decided it was time to recommend the show to you.

For those unfamiliar with Chicago, Cabrini Green was the first public mega-housing project in America. It was named after the loving Catholic social activist (the good kind) Mother Cabrini. Despite its good intentions of helping the poor and largely black underclass in Chicago, the Green ended up being the poster for everything that is wrong with public housing and something-for-nothing projects.

Seemingly overnight, the residents turned a relatively decent looking but architecturally uninteresting high rise into the largest trash bin and vertical sewer in the nation. The picture here is of one of the frequent trash fires set by the model citizens living in the project, as it spread from floor to floor. Filth, urine and feces in the hallways, and gangsters moving from floor to floor menacing, robbing and raping as they preyed on the weaker residents. Poverty and hopelessness perpetuated. A community organizer's dream revealed as the nightmare it truly was.

The show's story arc centers around crooked, race-baiting, black City Alderman Ronin Gibbons, played like a symphony by Delroy Lindo. He claims to be the man to protect the interest of oppressed minorities. But in reality, he cares only for power, uses his fellow blacks as naive pawns in his crooked game, all the while making deals with the Northside Irish Mob to carve up the city's neighborhoods into profitable criminal enterprises. The episode that triggered this review focuses on Gibbons's lifelong campaign to purge his soul of the demeaning and tragic life he lived as a resident of Cabrini Green. The episode ends with his clear look of pleasure as he watches the demolition of the decayed and empty Cabrini Green project.

Now, for the good guys. Jennifer Beals (never one of my favorites until now) plays Chicago's first female Superintendent of Police, Teresa Colvin. She has plenty of personal ambition, but she is honest, and utterly determined to bring down Alderman Gibbons's organization which has caused the death of some of her former fellow police officers. To do so, she has tasked her former partner Detective Jake Wysocki with working sub rosa to ferret out Gibbons's activities and bring them to prosecution. Wysocki is played by the excellent Jason Clarke, formerly a member of the cast of Brotherhood. Early on, Wysocki gets a new partner, Caleb Evers, a young, smart and totally dedicated law and order (the real kind) cop. Evers is played by Matt Lauria, late of Friday Night Lights. Rounding out the secret unit is undercover cop Liam Hennessy who has infiltrated the Irish Mob and is making connections to Gibbons's enterprises.

The show is gritty, and it makes no pretense that the Chicago police are largely honest and tarred by the sins of a small minority of crooked cops. The show is very blunt about the endemic nature of crime and corruption in the department as well as the politicians in City Hall. And none of the cops, good or bad, are liberal do-gooders disguised as officers of the law the way they are in Law And Order.

But this episode had a hook that was impossible to walk away from (at least for me, a conservative and former 60s radical). Bring in Professor of Education and 70s radical David Argyle. Argyle has come into town to tout his great education ideas and radical leftist views. He is smarmy and vicious at the same time. The good professor escaped prosecution for his leadership in a radical group which bombed buildings and killed a night watchman working in one of those buildings. Ayers, oops, Argyle was known to have been a prime organizer of the bombings, but too clever and too cowardly to get his own hands dirty.

During the Cabrini Green episode, the show finally goes slightly off the reality path by having Argyle inadvertently admitting to his involvement in the death of the night watchman. But you can't blame the writers for wishing that something like that would actually happen to certain academic Friends of Obama. I won't spoil the denouement of the episode for those of you who haven't seen it. It can be watched on at Cabrini Green, or you can wait for the re-run. I will tell you that there is a surprising and shocking twist near the end. Even though I didn't see it coming, as soon as it happened I dishonestly jumped up and shouted "I knew it!"

The show isn't perfect, but what is? Sometimes it moves so fast that you lose track of the plotline or the characters, but only temporarily. Some "cop things" are cliche. Occasionally the relationship between the street team and the revelations of the undercover cop seems contrived. But the overarching theme of a few tough and honest cops taking on a rotten system in the most corrupt major city in America, being frustrated at almost every turn, yet going right back into battle is downright exhilarating. Its jabs at liberal orthodoxy are delicious. This is Beethoven's Fifth compared to Law and Order's "Merrily We Roll Along" and Detroit 1-8-7's "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing."


Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - thanks! I'll be all over this one; sounds really good. In all fairness, I actually liked L&O for about five seasons before it's spiraling descent into liberal hell

Joel Farnham said...


I found it. Chicago Code sounds like an interesting show.

The full pilot episode show goes away on March 14. I wonder what Obama's administration thinks of it. I also wonder what Rahm thinks of it. If they hate it passionately and say it isn't even close to reality, that would be high praise.

I never could get into Law and Order. I don't know why. I guess I was burned out on cop shows by the time it had showed up.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: As did I. It started to take a clear left turn about the time Michael Moriarty couldn't take the political-correctness anymore. And even then, it continued to be good drama most of the time, even occasionally taking up the cause against race-baiters and leftists. By season five, it had pretty much gone over to the dark side. It reached its nadir about the time that Rudy Giulani's reforms were making deep cuts in the rate of violent crime. So the writers started making Giuliani a trivial, mean-spirited mayor who picked on the homeless.

Unknown said...

Joel: I'm pretty sure you'll like it. I gave you enough of the basic theme that you could start watching now and still have a pretty good idea what's going on.

My usual worry is that like so many other good shows, they'll show six episodes, go on hiatus, "fix" it with new left-of-center writers, and come back with their initial following gone and the show headed for the trashcan.

Joel Farnham said...


I am right in the middle of the pilot. So far, so good. I like the characters. I like the feel. Some of it is improbable, the absolute first bust, but then was done with a panache that usually isn't associated with gritty crime dramas.

I do know one thing. It isn't designed to make liberals happy. It has an initial gang problem that hearkens back to Hill Street Blues. In Hill Street Blues, the Captain held a gang summit in headquarters to resolve certain things.

****** Spoiler Alert ********

The Captain of this show makes a deal with one gang leader to clamp down on a rival gang to dampen hostilities. It seems the corpse of a relative was dragged out into the streets and shot up. The gang leader in jail wants revenge. She is attempting to forestall the anticipated violence.

Like I said, similar in that they both deal with gangs as if they were legitimate. And honor deals with cops. Hmmm. I don't know about that. :-)

Unknown said...

Joel: Pretty good summation. When you get to last week's Ayers/Argyle episode of Cabrini Green, you'll love the surprise ending with the imprisoned terrorist, but I won't spoil it by telling you what happens.

rlaWTX said...

I saw the previews of the show, but figured that it was gonna be a bait & switch, so never bothered. And considering that cop shows make up the bulk of my TV viewing, that's saying something! Now I'll try and catch up on it... thanks, more wasted TV time! ;)

oh - and on the puppy strangling thread - no fair having funny conversations after I'm offline for the day!!! And 'tis true that no puppies (or kittens) were actually injured.

T_Rav said...

Darn it, LawHawk, now I'm going to have to watch this and use up some of my precious ti...(gasp)...BWAHAHAHAAA

Yeah, right. Like anything I'm doing is worthwhile anyway. Excuse my outburst of hilarity. In any case, I'll watch this episode once I get the chance.

Incidentally, I was never a fan of Law & Order or its spinoffs. Partly this is because I was too young for it when it was in its prime, but what really annoyed me wasn't the politics, it was the "ripped from the headlines" plots. These just strike me as laziness on the part of the writers, or an inability to come up with new material. I'd rather shoot kittens in the face than watch such transparent...oh crap. Oh, is that uncivil? Is Management (definitely not Bev) going to punish me?

Unknown said...

rlaWTX: I thought exactly the same thing. But when the pilot came on, and there was the usual trash on the other stations, and since I was two days ahead on my blogging, I decided to watch it. At least I'd have something to yell at and throw popcorn at. By the end of the first half-hour, I was in shock, but still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now I'm hooked.

Unknown said...

T_Rav: I really do think you'll enjoy it. I just hope they can maintain the current tone, and not cave into "advice" from the liberals.

The worst part of the "ripped from the headlines" crap in Law and Order is that they did indeed do that, and when on those regular occasions the real liberal in the real story was the villain, they changed the headline. For us legal insiders, they also frequently changed the result in favor of the left by following criminal procedures and made-up statutes that don't exist anywhere in the civilized universe.

StanH said...

I’ll have to set the DVR, and try the show. I didn’t even give it a try as it had Chicago in it’s name, I assumed liberal gobbledygook, thanks Lawhawk.

Unknown said...

Stan: When I saw the first few trailers, I did the same thing you did. "Chicago," well that's a loser. At first glance it looked like it was going to be a big smooch from the lefties for one of their favorite crime dens. I was sure that the Republicans were going to be portrayed as having snuck into the mayor's office on a reform ticket and the good upright Chicago police would bring the fakers down. Imagine my surprise when it didn't turn out that way at all. I have hopes that the story arc will continue on its present course, but I won't hold my breath.

Post a Comment