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SHADES OF BLUE Premiere Review: Harlee Santos is Trying to be a Good Cop, But the FBI Won’t Let Her

By on January 8, 2016
SHADES OF BLUE -- Pictured: Jennifer Lopez as Det. Harlee Santos -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)

SHADES OF BLUE -- Pictured: Jennifer Lopez as Det. Harlee Santos -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)

Did you tune into last night’s Shades of Blue, the new cop drama starring Jennifer Lopez, Ray Liotta and The Sopranos Drea De Matteo?

If, on the off chance you missed it, here’s our quick recap. Meet Harlee Santos (Lopez) single mother and no nonsense Brooklyn cop. We’ve seen Lopez excel in these gritty New York roles before her music career took off. Anyone remember Out of sight? Think Karen Sisco and you’re on the right track.

Harlee’s close-knit unit, led by Lt. Matt Wozniak, or Woz as the team affectionately calls him (Ray Liotta’s turn in the role is two parts cuddly Daddy figure and one part scary psycho), functions like a family — a family that isn’t above taking and redistributing (sometimes to themselves) payments in laundered money. Protections scams, illegal street justice and even placing false evidence at crime scenes – it’s all part of the job. But those parts have the ability to land a good cop slowly sinking into the habits of a bad cop in a whole heap of trouble.

As Harlee says in a flash forward video recording during the first episode “I always wanted to be a good cop. But there’s no straight line to that. I always told myself that the end would justify the means. But now that I’m at the end, I can’t justify anything. It happened so slowly I didn’t realize, and so quickly I never saw it coming.”

Oh dear. Life can be bad when you’re on the take and you get caught by the FBI who force you to turn informant on your work-family. Which is, by the way, exactly what happens next, hence the tearful flash forward with all the tears and recriminations.

Hardee’s secret FBI handler is Special Agent Stahl (Warren Kole) who NBC teases begins to develop an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with her. This is evidenced by the way Stahl sneaks into her apartment and lingers over her expensive collection of lingerie (he’s probably thinking ‘all this on a cop’s salary?’) before finally snurching a locket given to Harlee by her daughter. The theft is justified by Stahl as his intention to plant a camera and listening device in the locket, but Harlee feels, justifiably, that her privacy has been violated – along with her whole world being turned upside down, and the threat of prison, and not seeing her daughter again for 10 years hanging over her. Let’s just say it’s been a bad day all round.

To makes things worse – read raise the story-telling stakes – Woz figures out that someone in his unit has betrayed him and tasks Harlee with the job of helping him find that person and kill him. Or, y’know, her.

And cue credits.

The Shades of Blue premiere was, overall, an enjoyable and expertly-handled romp. Lopez demonstrated that, post American Idol, singing career and the dreadful Monster-in-law we dismiss her acting chops at our peril. Both Lopez and her cast mates, including go-to mob boss, unhinged gangster and all round Goodfella Ray Liotta, and The Sopranos Drea Mattea, are effortlessly comfortable in their gritty, Brooklyn, shady-cop roles which in turn leaves the audience free to revel in the terror of Harlee’s escalating predicament and wonder with anticipation where the next episodes will take us.

How unhinged will Stahl get? How long can Harlee keep her double dealings from her teenage daughter? How deep down the rabbit hole will Woz insist that Harlee should travel in order to catch the ‘rat’ in their unit? And for that matter, how did Woz find out there was an informant among their ranks in the first place?

If you like this type of ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ TV that places its characters in deep peril and allows us to watch as they scramble to escape then this one’s definitely for you.

Shades of Blue continues Thursdays on NBC.

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