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TV Series Review

The streets of New York can be dangerous places, filled with all sorts of terrible people who're liable to sell you drugs or take your money or, who knows, maybe even kill you.

So it's a good thing that those same mean streets are home to New York's finest, the brave men and women with badges who protect ordinary folks like you and me. 'Course, sometimes they'll take your money, too—and that's if they like you. And if they don't … well, they know a good mortician who doesn't ask a lot of questions.

That's the world to which we're introduced in Shades of Blue, an NBC drama where the straight-and-narrow goes as crooked as a used paper clip and "protect and serve" actually means, "Let's protect this great racket and serve ourselves some awesome, illegal contraband!"

Love Don't Cost a Thing … But Police Protection Does

It's not like the cops serving under Lt. Matt Wozniak lack good intentions. They really do want to serve their community in their own dirty way. Crime is down in their precinct, and Wozniak makes sure that at least some of his streets—the ones closest to schools—are free of drugs. Hey, the fact that they've worked out under-the-table deals with some of the area's less savory elements is a win-win for everyone: Families get safer streets, drug dealers continue to ply their trade with minimal interference, and the cops get some extra spending money.

Why, when rookie officer Michael Loman accidentally shoots and kills a man playing video games, his partner, Harlee Santos, barely flinches. Instead, she promptly sets up the whole crime scene to look like a justified shooting. Because, well, the guy was a drug dealer, too. No need to threaten a promising career in law enforcement over a pesky little thing like manslaughter, right? "I don't want to be this kind of cop," Loman says to Santos, threatening to tell the truth.

"None of us is that kind of cop!" Santos tells him, and she seems to believe it. She believes that they're still the good guys—protecting their city while they protect their own. After all, Wozniak's team is a family. And a family looks out for itself.

But when Santos gets caught in a crooked act by the FBI, suddenly she doesn't feel so familial. After all, she has a real family, too—a daughter to raise and her pricey private school tuition to pay. So she reluctantly cuts a deal with the feds and agrees to help them bring her crooked cohorts to justice. Unless, of course, Wozniak discovers her double-dealing first.

"One slip at the wrong time and we all go tumbling down," he tells Santos in happier times. "And I don't tumble well."

Antiheroes in Blue

NBC's Shades of Blue seizes our culture's current antihero craze and shoves it one step further, eliminating the hero part entirely. Forget the notion that the police are the good guys: Wozniak might as well be a mob boss with a badge, someone who will kill if he feels his turf is threatened.

But the show seems to want viewers to like him more than FBI guy Robert Stahl, whose "narrow-minded" view of things like truth and justice turn him into a 1980s-era Bill Murray-style bad guy. And while NBC would like us to sympathize with Santos (played by Jennifer Lopez), it's hard for me to work up too many tears for a dirty cop who only feels dirty when she's forced to come clean.

I suppose Loman may wind up being the moral core of the show, given his unique desire—at least so far—to tell the truth. We can hope so, at any rate. But even if Shades of Blue's underlying message gets better, I have little hope for the content.

The mortality rate on the streets is pretty high, judging from show's early going, ranging from run-of-the-mill shooting deaths to grisly murders most foul. As for the morality rate … that's something else. The neighborhood's prime players are all willing to send messages in bruises and blood. Sex can be an issue, too, with characters stripping down to their skivvies to moosh bodies together. Meanwhile, sexual hookups are a frequent topic of cop banter. You won't hear HBO-levels of profanity on an NBC show, of course, but the language is pretty bad by network standards, too.

I think NBC was aiming for a gritty, morally compromised cop show along the lines of FX's much-lauded The Shield, a new series with enough quality to make viewers contemplate the nature of good and evil. But while they nailed the moral compromise part of the equation, the quality was left along the side of the road somewhere—like a gym bag full of drugs in a deal gone wrong. Shades of Blue is a shady show indeed.


Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Shades of Blue: Jan. 7, 2016 "Pilot"



Readability Age Range



Jennifer Lopez as Det. Harlee Santos; Ray Liotta as Lt. Matt Wozniak; Drea de Matteo as Det. Tess Nazario; Warren Kole as FBI Agent Robert Stahl; Dayo Okeniyi as Michael Loman; Hampton Fluker as Det. Marcus Tufo; Vincent Laresca as Det. Carlos Espada; Sarah Jeffery as Cristina Santos






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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