[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Gang Related" (FOX)
Airs:Midseason TBD
The Pitch: "It's 'Fast & Furious' meets 'The Departed.'" [I'd have gone with "Infernal Affairs," but it's not that literate.]
Quick Response: I feel like I have a very good sense of what "Gang Related" is and how well it's achieving its aspirations. With Chris Morgan, writer of all of the "Fast/Furious" films from "Tokyo Drift" on as creator, there's a welcome bluntness to "Gang Related." It's straight-up testosterone-laden, smashmouth exploitation TV and there's nothing like it on a major network these days. There are badass cops, badass Latino gangsters and, thanks to pilot director Allen Hughes, just a tremendous, digitally shot depiction of the underbelly of Downtown Los Angeles and East LA. Nobody's going for nuance, but I like the unapologetic B-movie sense of stripped-down fun that it has. An amazingly diverse cast is fronted by Ramon Rodriguez, capably escaping the shadow of his brief run as Bosley on ABC's "Charlie's Angels." You've also got strong supporting performances from the likes of RZA, Jay Hernandez, Sung Kang, Terry O'Quinn and at least one end-of-episode cameo from an actor who I hope will become a regular, because he adds nice continuity with another locally set cop show. Cliff Curtis, The Maori George Clooney, doesn't fit with the show's casting verisimilitude, but as the Godfather of Latino Gangsters, he's chowing down on scenery like the Kogi truck just rolled into his neighborhood. There's a lot of thematically high-minded talk about family and loyalty and the American Dream, but it's really more about abrupt reversals and moles and narcs and LA's unique immigrant stratification. I heard a couple colleagues say negative things about "Gang Related," but I think they were watching it thinking that it's aspiring to be an HBO or AMC-style drama with aspirations of being taken seriously. I didn't get that at all. What I got was a show that probably would be perfectly happy just to be a popcorn-y, somewhat glib version of "The Shield." OK. Make that "a lot glib." But this is a great cast and it really doesn't look like any other cast out there and at least 65 percent of the actors are playing characters with shading, not just stereotypes. And really, I can't speak highly enough about the cinematography, which has a "Collateral"-lite look to it. Even when "Gang Related" gets silly -- a "Gangnam Style" punchline desperately needs to be excised, since it'll already be 18+ months out of date by the time this show premieres -- this is a show I'd look at every week if it can maintain these production values. "Gang Related" may not have quality, but it has attitude and swagger.
Desire To Watch Again: Kinda strong. I reserve the right to decide by the second episode that "Gang Related" has shifted from guilty-pleasure urban crime fantasia to straight-up trash. I can imagine it going in that direction. But for now, it's on the right side of things. If you want "Southland," you'll be disappointed, but if you like the blustery machismo of "Fast & Furious" on the small screen? This could work out well.

 

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