Detroit 1-8-7

Documentary style procedural set in the homicide department of a Detroit Police Department. I’m not sure what 187 is.

You can probably tell by the slow pacing of my pilot reviews this year that a lot of them haven’t really grabbed my attention. 2 months after the start of the season and I’ve still got about half a dozen pilots waiting for me, and often by the time I get to them the shows have already been either cancelled or picked up, which kind of give away the endings. From my point of view then, the fact that Detroit 187 has been almost completely ignored by the press meant that I could watch the pilot without any preconceptions. My lack of awareness isn’t a particularly good sign for the show given it indicates a complete lack of buzz or publicity.

Based on the pilot at least, that’s a real shame, because despite my utter apathy about the show I found myself solidly entertained for 45 minutes. Solid is a good keyword for the show – it’s neither ‘stunning’ nor ‘awful’; not too epic, not too trivial; not too cheesy, not too gritty. It’s the goldilocks of police procedurals.

The pilot plays to its necessities, introducing each detective as a familiar stereotype (the over-enthusiastic rookie with the reclusive experience partner, the retiring veteran, the hard nosed lieutenant, the pin-up undercover cop) but each is carefully given brief opportunities to hint there’s more to each of them than just the cliché. It’s not a lot to go on, but combined with an interesting case, and an introduction to Detroit itself, that’s a lot of pack in to a 45minute pilot.

According to Wikipedia the pilot was originally filmed as a mock documentary, but then re-filmed to turn it into a straight drama. That would explain the slightly weird tone occasionally, as if the actors were looking at the camera out of the corner of their eye. Hopefully that awkwardness will be gone from the later episodes that didn’t have to be re-edited. I like the hand-held feel – it adds grittiness and intensity, but it was overused in the pilot and felt intrusive.

I always write these reviews before going to look at other people’s, but I’m entertained to see the TV Squad review agrees with almost everything I’ve said, but has a general negative tone rather than positive. They found the un-remarkableness a disappointment, while for me it was a positive thing because it’s just nice to see a new procedural this year that made it that far. In a sea of new shows that are poor through to awful, I found the overwhelming average-ness of this a really nice change.

TV Squad – We don’t take any pride in that prediction, nor is ‘Detroit 1-8-7,’ based solely on its first hour, a terrible show. It’s just not a particularly interesting or original one. Here’s a show that has the fortune of having a fascinating city at a time of transformation as its setting, that has the privilege of actually being filmed in Detroit, and yet it comes across as any other cop drama that can take place in any other urban city, complete with your stereotypical cop characters (mysterious hard-nosed detective, amateurish rookie, crusty vet, tough lieutenant) and cookie-cutter cases. What a missed opportunity.

CliqueClack – The show’s not bad, as cop dramas go. It moves quickly, and contains multiple story lines. The murders aren’t all that difficult to figure out, but hey — it zips right along. I can stand it.

Links: Official Site,,, wikipedia.


One thought on “Detroit 1-8-7

  1. Pingback: Narrative Devices

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