‘Detroit 187′ Just Might Be Good to Watch

September 22, 2010  |  

ABC’s new cop drama “Detroit 187” is a little like the city it features—rough around the edges, but shows promise.

As a native Detroiter, I sat watching the premiere wanting to identify with characters, be able to recognize Detroit streets and perhaps laugh at an “inside joke” or two that non native Detroiters would miss.  Two out of three ain’t bad.

The show opens strong with Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” as images of easily recognizable Detroit landmarks like the Ren Cen and the Joe Louis fist flash across the screen.  (By the way, the music supervisor does a pretty good job. The Temptations and J Dilla are also featured in the first episode.)  It’s not really a joke per se, but the audience is introduced to the Coney dog early on and that is a very Detroit thing.

The identifying with characters part is where the show falls a little flat.  I’m not really seeing anyone I know on that screen right now. I did catch that “What up doe” though. Nice. Granted it’s the first episode, so I’m assuming we’ll see more depth later and that some of my cousins will in fact get their time to shine.

I know every Detroiter yelled at the screen when the suspect in the interrogation room says “soda” instead of “pop.” It seems like a small thing (and really it is), but the TV viewing audience has become spoiled by shows that make you feel like you’re really seeing the inner-workings of a particular city. On “NYPD Blue” and “Law and Order,” New York has an unmistakable presence.  New Orleans is a main character on “Treme” and “The Wire” made the country look at Baltimore’s corner boys in a whole new light.  Those shows use some combination of compelling storylines, great writing and strong actors to show the audience a perhaps previously unseen part of their respective cities. Detroit is ripe for such treatment.

The first episode of Detroit 187 has an engaging storyline and moments of levity (The casings!), which are necessary for any drama, especially a show about homicide cops. Ornery Det. Louis Fitch (Michael Imperioli) is partnered with super green Det. Damon Washington (Jon Michael Hill) who vomits at the scene of a double homicide.  Fitch is presented as a hard-working, mysterious man with strange quirks who is willing to do unconventional things to get the job done. He has some sexual chemistry with Det. Ariana Sanchez (Natalie Martinez), but she becomes partnered with cutie pie John “February” Stone (D.J. Cotrona), so Fitch might get some competition later on in the series. Lt. Mason (Aisha Hinds) runs the homicide unit with professionalism and grace.

I want “Detroit 187” to be great. I know it’s a cop drama not a documentary, but I want to really see my city in it. I know it’s not quite fair to compare it to a cable show like “The Wire” (aka one of the greatest TV shows of all time), but I want its storylines to be that layered and nuanced.  Am I expecting too much? Probably, but I’ll be tuning in every week to see how close it gets.

What did you think of “Detroit 187?” Will you be watching next week? Do you think Det. Washington will survive his gunshot wound?

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