Three generations of New York cops: grandpa was the Commissioner, Dad is the current Commissioner and the kids are an old-school detective, a brand new beat cop, detective and a district attorney.
The concept is pretty simple, but actually very strong, one of the best I’ve seen in quite a while actually, like a combination of Brothers and Sister with Law and Order. The family and work elements don’t switch back and forth, they’re completely inter-twined, dad phones to check up on whether his eldest is bringing the roast over on Sunday, while also being the Commissioner checking up on a case’s progress. Sunday lunch is a time to discuss relationships, but also to debate different approaches to the law. These peoples’ lives are complicated with professional and personal relationships so caught up in each other there’s subtext all over the place.
The family is headed by Tom Selleck and his moustache. He immediately conveys that he is a strong leader to both his family and his force, but he’s not invulnerable – he misses his deceased wife and son, and the press and the politicians keep getting between him and his job. He really is the centre of everything, between the members of his family, the branches of the police force and the internal and public faces of the job; he’s got a difficult road to navigate and Selleck brings all that complexity with very few words.
The three children don’t come across quite so well in the pilot. The eldest son (Donnie Wahlberg) is a living breathing cliché – former soldier who brought anger management issues home from Iraq, becoming a gritty detective who does what needs to be done. Blah blah blah. His younger brother (Will Estes) meanwhile is the opposite cliché, amazingly smart law student who gave it up to put on the uniform when their other brother died in service.
This is a house full of men. Grandma and Mom have passed away, and the only daughter (Bridget Moynahan) is slightly isolated in that she’s a lawyer rather than a police officer. She seems to spend most of the first episode spoiling for fights -with her older brother for screwing up a case, with her grandfather for having old fashioned views, with her little brother for his career choice, with her daughter over something or other and her husband over divorce papers. I found her quite self-righteous and irritating to be honest,
The pilot did generally have a problem with poor writing. The case of the week was utterly unremarkable except for the abundance of fortunate coincidences that guided the police through it. But the bigger crime by far was the clumsy way that we were bludgeoned around the head with exposition. Back story is tricky to deliver, but this was laughably bad, with all the characters at one point standing in a circle explaining their own job titles and reminding each other which relatives were dead. It also seems to be a rule these days that you must have some sort of political conspiracy or deep family secret and they managed to wrestle both into one rather bluntly introduced scene at the end, that made me roll my eyes rather than sit forward and pay attention.
The show has a lot of potential I think. All the conflicts that traditionally appear on shows between beat police, detectives, lawyers and police so senior they are practically politicians are condensed around one dinner table; while at the same time all the strength and frustrations of a family unit are glued together by a common reference point of the law. While the writing of the pilot left a lot to be desired I had the impression it was more a case of first-night nerves than a lack of talent. The cast is excellent and often managed to pull off even the terrible dialogue they were lumbered with here. It’s a relatively poor pilot, but there was enough potential there that I may well tune in for a few more episodes and wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes something special if given some care and attention.
TV Squad – This is a show I want to like, if just for Selleck and Wahlberg, but so far the writing leaves a lot to be desired.
CliqueClack – it’s Tom Selleck heading up a family of cops and it’s quality drama with deep and complex characters, not just your average procedural.