‘Shades of Blue’ leaves viewers disappointed

Posted April 26, 2016


Television broadcasting network NBC is known for its crime dramas, with shows like “The Blacklist,” “Chicago PD,” “Law and Order SVU” and “Blindspot” generating millions of prime-time viewers across the country.

This year, another drama was added to the roster, “Shades of Blue.” It is unconventional compared to most of the network’s series as it highlights a group of dirty cops mingling with criminals and gangsters that its other shows proudly save people from.

The show revolves around singer and performer Jennifer Lopez, who is a frequent sight during prime-time television. Instead of critiquing up-and-coming musicians on “American Idol,” she plays Harlee Santos, a corrupt detective who works under Lt. Matt Wozniak, played by Ray Liotta.

The drama focuses on Lopez and Liotta’s devoted yet twisted relationship after Lopez gets caught by the FBI. Liotta, who is best known for starring in “Goodfellas” and “Field of Dreams” appears to be a father figure to Lopez, though he has no idea that she has been transformed into a confidential informant.

Created and written by Adi Hasak, who wrote the screenplay for 2014’s “3 Days to Kill,” the first 10 episodes follow Lopez as she struggles with staying loyal to her Brooklyn-based crew, while also trying to protect her daughter and avoid jail time. By turning against her fellow detectives, she has been promised immunity. However, she continues to fight an inner battle within herself for letting her other crew members go down for acts she committed too.

In terms of crime, Lopez, Liotta and three other detectives engage in illegal trades and bribes with criminals in and out of New York City. Liotta is the ring leader, though every crew member agrees to and is aware of the corruption. It’s important to note that though the crew is dirty, they believe what they’re doing is for the greater good. For example, Lopez puts “dirty” money she received through illegal activities toward her adolescent daughter’s private school tuition.

Each episode further amplifies Lopez’s conflict with giving the FBI the information it needs to convict Liotta and other corrupt city cops. Lopez considers her crew as family, making the debate between loyalty and safety extremely difficult for her.

While the story line is engaging, acting in “Shades of Blue” is subpar compared to many of NBC’s other prime-time dramas. Besides Lopez and Liotta, the other cast members easily fall beneath the show’s storyline. There’s shootings, steamy hook ups and frequent high-speed chases that, in the moment, grab a viewer’s attention. But, in the long run, fail to leave a long-lasting impression. The story gets old fast doesn’t appear to be able to be sustained for more than a season.

Though Lopez’s acting is exceedingly better than most of the drama’s cast, it is still difficult to take the “I Luh Ya Papi” singer seriously. At times, it really does feel like Lopez is Harlee Santos, a single mother trying to give her daughter the world, no matter the cost. But at other points, Lopez’s “Harlee Santos” façade fades and viewers are left wondering “When will she break out in song and dance?”

What makes NBC’s prime-time dramas so successful is the everlasting connection viewers make with an actor and its part, something that “Shades of Blue” lacks. When a viewer sees Mariksa Hargitay, who plays Victoria Benson in “Law and Order SVU,” an immediate association between Hargitay and her role as an inner city detective is established.

But, when one sees Jennifer Lopez, it’s difficult to say whether Harlee Santos comes to mind or another one of her engagements does, like “American Idol,” one of her many pop songs or a recent movie like “The Boy Next Door.”

The setback with “Shades of Blue” is its central character, which is Lopez, isn’t branded to the show, making it difficult in terms of believability. Is Lopez really a struggling corrupt NYC detective? Or is she an “American Idol” host who happens to be starring in a new drama?

What makes a crime drama strong and last for countless years like many of its NBC counterparts is the connection viewers make with its characters. The problem with “Shades of Blue” is its nearly impossible to forge an organic connection with Lopez because she is connected to too many things. It’s challenging to connect to Lopez’s Harlee Santos character, while maintaining a connection to her role on “American Idol” or her countless radio hits.

It doesn’t seem as if “Shades of Blue” will go down in NBC prime-time history like some of its other dramas, but if viewers simply want a mildly-entertaining show to binge watch, “Shades of Blue” fits the bill. But, for those looking to connect to a central character on its journey through a controversial storyline, “Shades of Blue” sadly falls short.

  • “Shades of Blue” on NBC
  • 10 p.m. Thursday nights
  • Run time 60 minutes
  • Creator and writer — Adi Hasak
  • Major actors/actresses—Jennifer Lopez as Harlee Santos, Roy Liotta as Matt Wozniak
  • Crime drama
  • Season 1 – 12 episodes so far
  • Available online at NBC.com
  • NBC renewed series for a second season, no word on start date yet
  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Rated PG-13