'The Shield' creator Shawn Ryan moves well into the Windy City
After Shawn Ryan created one of the definitive cop shows of all time with FX's "The Shield," it was hard to blame the guy for wanting to work in other territory for a while. Vic Mackey is a very hard act to follow, so it wasn't surprising that Ryan's next few jobs were the military drama "The Unit," a season running "Lie to Me" and the brilliant-but-canceled private eye series "Terriers."
With his new FOX drama "The Chicago Code," which debuts tonight at 9 p.m., Ryan is firmly back in the world of badges and handcuffs and investigations into corruption. But the new show doesn't feel like a pale imitation of its predecessor. The two series have some aspects in common, but the most important one is just a very high level of quality.
On reinventing Boyd Crowder and saying goodbye to Shane & 'The Shield'
There's a rich TV drama tradition of characters who are supposed to die in pilot episodes who prove so popular that they're resurrected between the time the pilot is shot and when it airs. On "Hill Street Blues," beat cops Hill & Renko were supposed to die a stunning death in a shooting, but the characters proved so likable that they were just badly wounded. In the "ER" pilot, Carol Hathaway's suicide attempt was supposed to succeed, but the producers realized Julianna Margulies added a valuable ingredient and let the ER docs save her.
And on FX's "Justified," Raylan Givens was supposed to kill his old friend Boyd Crowder, just as he did in "Fire in the Hole," the Elmore Leonard short story on which it was based. But producer Graham Yost saw that "The Shield" alum Walton Goggins was so magnetic as Boyd that it would be a waste to kill him - and Leonard, often irked when adaptations deviate too much from his work, approved.
As Boyd, a demolitions expert, onetime white supremacist and religious leader, and a born liar - even he's not sure sometimes whether he believes the ridiculous things he says - Goggins is every bit the charismatic equal of Timothy Olyphant as Raylan, and he's again memorable as the series returns for its new season Wednesday night at 10.
Goggins is also a very smart, articulate guy (he produced the Oscar-winning short film "The Accountant" back in 2001), so I was eager to talk to him at press tour a few weeks ago. We spoke about the evolution of Boyd, his contributions to that, and also quite a bit about what happened to his character at the end of "The Shield," so read at your own peril if you haven't seen that finale but intend to one day.
Who can possibly fill Helen Mirren's shoes?
For a long time, the remake that wouldn't die in NBC development was "The Rockford Files," but for the moment that really seems dead. Instead, the classic that NBC currently insists on trying to remake is "Prime Suspect," the memorable '90s British cop drama starring Helen Mirren as steely, cynical investigator Jane Tennison.
Attempts have been made in the past to transplant it to the US, but the closest we ever got was CBS' short-lived "Under Suspicion," in which Karen Sillas played a very Tennison-esque cop. But after starting and stopping development on this latest version, NBC has finally greenlit a pilot to be produced by Peter Berg.
I remain skeptical on the necessity of it, as what was so startling about the series in the early '90s will feel routine right now. (Someone on Twitter pointed out the danger of getting the "I liked this the first time... when it was called 'The Closer'" reaction.) But it really depends on the casting. A female-centric cop show in and of itself isn't that exciting, but a female-centric cop show with a great actress at the center of it could be.
Because of Berg's involvement, many people have suggested Connie Britton would be ideal. We certainly know how talented she is, and an American Tennison would be quite a departure from Mrs. Coach. My own personal choice would be Maura Tierney, who's both healthy and available thanks to the failure of "The Whole Truth." Fienberg, meanwhile, suggested either Angela Bassett or Jennifer Connelly (whose career might be at the point where she'd consider a series).
So if you're a fan of the original (or if you've watched one of the many clips on YouTube) and want to see justice at least vaguely done to it here in the states, whom would you cast as Tennison? Has to be at least 40-ish, a strong presence, convincing as a loner cop, magnetic, potentially self-destructive, etc. And also has to be someone who would plausibly do a network TV show at this phase in their career. (i.e., no Sandra Bullock - not that she'd be right for the part, anyway.)
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A Chicago native gets to play Chicago's top cop
On FOX's excellent new cop drama "The Chicago Code" (which premieres Monday at 9 p.m.), Jennifer Beals plays the newly-installed superintendent of the Chicago PD, Teresa Colvin. Colvin is relatively young for the job, and a woman - a woman who looks like Jennifer Beals, no less - and so she gets very little respect from certain corners of the rank-and-file, and from some of the crooked politicians she's trying to get rid of. But they underestimate this tough, smart, reform-minded woman at their own peril.
Similarly, if you're still thinking of Beals as the 19-year-old in the off-the-shoulder sweatshirt from "Flashdance" (still by far her highest-profile role), you may be surprised by just how good she is at the center of this ambitious drama, which comes from "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan.
At press tour, I talked with Beals about her research for the role, and about her own view of the Chicago PD as a girl growing up in that city.
A pair of 'Goodfellas'/'Sopranos' alums help judge an Italian challenge
The comedy heads into hiatus on a high note
Last night's "Cougar Town" was the last new episode of the series to air for the next nine weeks (and while it'll return later than originally planned, it will at least get a "Dancing with the Stars" lead-in once), and I have a review coming up just as soon as I get a rose on the gay hillbilly version of "The Bachelor"...