Every year there’s a host of new cop shows that either fail completely or enjoy the devoted fandom of those who lack a streaming device or premium cable (old people). Rare is the show of this kind that’s engaging from the jump and gets better as it goes on, but — dare we say it — the Jennifer Lopez vehicle “Shades of Blue” is such a gem.
Lopez stars as Harlee Santos, a single mom and New York City detective who’s forced to act as an FBI informant on her tight-knit, morally-compromised crew, lead by Lieutenant Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta). The cops take kickbacks in exchange for “keeping the peace,” working with drug dealers to arrange that they stay on certain corners, and swiping the odd designer top when a boutique is short on its security payment. Santos does it for the sake of her 16-year-old in private school, whom “Woz,” as she calls him, supports emotionally and financially.
The moral justification for corruption is admittedly a bit half-baked. Exhibit A: how Harlee explains to a fellow cop why she’s helping him cover up his accidental shooting of an innocent civilian.
“I have a daughter, okay? Which means you have a daughter because of that badge in your pocket. That makes us family. And we love that daughter. That daughter is beautiful and smart and she needs us.”
It’s rickety logic. But once the excuses are dispensed, the show moves on to richer dramatic territory. Santos and Woz are playing at a cat and mouse game. He knows there’s a mole and Santos, as his closest ally, is immediately under suspicion.
The entertainment value lies in watching Santos shimmy her way out of situations where her double cross is about to be revealed. Shirking the case-of-the-week format, the show plays the long game. Every time she outsmarts either the FBI or her team, you get the kind of glee that’s reminiscent of meth-making Walter White’s first four seasons of evading his DEA brother-in-law on “Breaking Bad.” The mounting pressure Harlee and the rest of the cops under investigation are feeling creates a high-stakes atmosphere in each episode, many of which dish out some “Oh, hell no!” shockers.
As the gruff lieutenant, Liotta is in familiar territory. He’s played roles like this so many times, you’d be forgiven for finding the casting unimaginative, but here he’s just as likeable-slash-terrifying as when he first bellowed “Karen!” in “Goodfellas.” Press was provided with 8 episodes to review before the series premiere. The deeper we get into the season, the less Liotta seems to be playing a caricature of his previous roles.
Drea de Matteo rounds out the cast, with her role in “The Sopranos” as Adriana the FBI informant girlfriend to mobster Christopher Moltisanti casting a long shadow over her role here as another detective on the corrupt crew. Always suspecting her husband of cheating, in the first few episodes she’s mostly around for the comic relief.
Jennifer Lopez isn’t going to win any Emmys for her acting, but her charisma is enough to carry it through. With plot pacing that would make Shonda Rhimes proud, the tantalizing tension between the two strong leads of Lopez and Liotta could be a pleasure to watch for the extent series, however long that might be.
55 First Looks at New and Returning 2016 TV Shows (Exclusive Photos)
"Galavant" (ABC): ABC's quirky musical comedy is back for even more absurdity, with a meta first episode titled "A New Season aka Suck It Cancellation Bear."
“The Bachelor” (ABC): The 20th season of the popular dating reality show sees Ben Higgins, who was rejected by the latest “Bachelorette” Kaitlyn, as the newest single catch fending off and deciding between twenty-one new contestants.
"Teen Wolf" (MTV): Scott and Stiles will have to put aside their differences when MTV's hit series returns for the second half of Season 5. Stiles' dad, the Sheriff, is still in grave danger, and there's tons of new mysteries to solve. BFF drama can wait.
"The Shannara Chronicles" (MTV): The home of "Teen Wolf" dives deep into high fantasy with this adaptation of Terry Brooks' bestselling series of YA novels. Young heroes are tested as the dying Ellcrys tree inflects deadly demons upon the earth.
"Mike and Molly" (CBS): Melissa McCarthy returns for one final season of CBS' hit sitcom. The shortened 13-episode final season was announced by co-star Rondi Reeds, prompting McCarthy to share via Twitter that she too was "shocked and heartbroken" upon learning of the cancellation.
“Shades of Blue” (NBC): Jennifer Lopez makes a rare return to scripted television in this event series, also starring Ray Liotta, about a group of tough Brooklyn cops who are not afraid to sometimes step outside the confines of the law in order to protect their city.
“Angel From Hell” (CBS): The network's newest sitcom follows Jane Lynch as Amy, a colorful, brassy woman who insinuates herself into Allison's (Maggie Lawson) organized and seemingly perfect life, claiming to be her "guardian angel."
"Shameless" (Showtime): Frank discovers religion on Season 6 of Showtime's popular dark family dramedy following the Gallaghers. The new season finds the scrappy family struggling with change and the possibility of growing apart.
"Shadowhunters" (ABC Family): Cassandra Clare's bestselling YA novels get a makeover adaptation in this series about Clary Fray, who discovers she's destined to be a protector of the human race from demons that lurk around every corner.
"Second Chance" (Fox): Formerly known as "The Frankenstein Code," then "Lookinglass," Fox's newest science fiction drama is about a morally corrupt cop who's brought back to life decades later in a newer, younger, stronger body - and the consequences of that.
"DC's Legends of Tomorrow" (The CW): Heroes and villains of "Arrow" and "The Flash" team up to travel through time and take down an immortal villain, Vandal Savage, who just may conquer the planet should they fail in their mission.
"The 100" (The CW): The third season of the post-apocalyptic drama picks up three months after the catastrophic events of the Season 2 finale. Clarke is on the run and in danger, and Bellamy is trying to hold things together back at Camp Jaha. And a certain AI is still out there somewhere with a warhead that could destroy what's left of humanity.
“Baskets” (FX): Zach Galifianakis stars in this new comedy as Chip Baskets, who sets out to conquer his dream of becoming a professional clown. Flunking out of a prestigious Paris clown school, Chip finds himself working at a local rodeo in Bakersfield, CA instead.
"The X-Files" (Fox): Mulder and Scully are back to give it one last shot at solving the mystery of aliens and government cover-ups. But they'll have time for a side case or two, as most episodes of the revival event series will feature standalone stories.
"Lucifer" (Fox): The latest DC comic book adaptation sees the devil himself doing some good. Lucifer, bored with hell, moves to Los Angeles (where else) and teams up with an LAPD detective to solve crimes. "Gotham" crossover anyone?
"The Fosters" (ABC Family): The third season of the acclaimed blended family series sees everyone settling into a new dynamic now that Callie is permanently adopted, while medical problems, secrets and relationship drama threaten everyone's happiness.
“Suits” (USA): The second half of Season 5 returns to see the repurcussions of Mike behind bars, five seasons of lies and deception finally caught up to him. But don’t expect the mystery of who turned him in to be solved right away. The Patrick J. Adams-led drama has already been renewed for a sixth season.
“The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX): Ryan Murphy takes his anthology series prowess to dramatically retell the Trial of the Century, following the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and subsequent trial of former NFL star O.J. Simpson. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Simpson, with Sarah Paulson, John Travolta, David Schwimmer and more starring.
"11/22/63" (Hulu): A schoolteacher, Jake Epping, discovers he can travel back in time - and decides to try to stop the JFK assassination. The 10-hour adaptation of Stephen King novel stars James Franco.
(Premieres at midnight on President's Day, Feb. 15)
"Vikings" (History): The cable network bolstered its hit action series, adding four episodes to the fourth season of the Travis Fimmel-led show. The first 10 episodes air in February, with another 10 set for later in 2016.
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” (CBS): The latest “Criminal Minds” series follows the International Repsonse Unit, the FBI division which is tasked with solving crimes and coming to the rescue of Americans who find themselves in danger while abroad.
“Of Kings and Prophets” (ABC): The Ray Winstone drama is described as an epic biblical saga of faith, ambition and betrayal as told through the eyes of the battle-weary King Saul, the resentful prophet Samuel and the resourceful young shepherd David — all on a collision course with destiny that will change the world.
"Underground" (WGN America): The 10-part miniseries is described as a pulse-pounding journey with revolutionaries of the Underground Railroad and tells the unflinching story of a group of courageous men and women who band together for the fight of their lives – for their families, their future and their freedom.
(Premieres Wednesday, Mar. 9)
"The Catch" (ABC): ABC’s latest Shondaland drama stars Mireille Enos as a fraud expert who finds herself being conned, by her own fiance, who’s been working with his real lover in stealing all her money. This one underwent a bit of a makeover with the recasting of two of its leads. Peter Krause and Sonya Walger replaced Damon Dayoub and Bethany Joy Lenz, respectively.
"Hap and Leonard" (Sundance TV): Based on the series of stories by Joe Lansdale, this anthology series follows the adventures of best friends Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. The two are chronically single, perpetually broke and guided by an old fashioned sense of honor and morality – but the similarities end there.
(Premieres in March on Sundance TV)
"Jackie Robinson" (PBS): The two-part Ken Burns documentary explores the life of the Brooklyn Dodgers legend who broke baseball's color barrier.
"Hunters" (Syfy): Based on Whitley Strieber’s best-selling novel "Alien Hunter," Syfy's latest comes from "Walking Dead's" Gale Ann Hurd and follows an FBI agent on the trail of a shadowy terrorist organization, who may or may not be from this world.
"12 Monkeys" (Syfy): Cole and Cassie do more time traveling and end up in the 1940s for at least some amount of time in Season 2 of Syfy's adaptation of the film of the same name - though the series is decidedly its own thing at this point.
"Containment" (The CW): "The Vampire Diaries" and "The Originals" showrunner Julie Plec adds another project to her plate with this drama set in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic viral outbreak.