by ALEX CARNEVALE
Shades of Blue
creator Adi Hasak
creators Chrissy Pietrosh & Jessica Goldstein
Jennifer Lopez looks like she has the sun shining out of her. Someone told Jennifer that she looks pretty bad with straight hair. It really flattens out her face, so on her new NBC series Shades of Blue, she went with her bestpossible hair: a curly bob that pleasantly softens her face and cheekbones. She also wears these magnificent high-waisted pants all the time on Shades of Blue. The last time a Latina tried to carry a major network series was ABC’s Cristela, which was created by its eponymous star and canceled after one season.
Fortunately the fate of proud Latino-Americans is back in the safe hands of white people. Cristela concerned an unassuming office-worker who was not exactly loved by her colleagues. It was a really unconventional look at how non-whites have to fit in. It was also more disturbing than funny at times. You don’t want to be depressed when you turn on your television, I mean, isn’t there enough sadness in the world?
Poor Cristela. Watching Ms. Lopez gallivant around New York taking hot bribes from people and staging murder scenes is the purest kind of joy. I have no idea how she looks this happy and healthy as she nears fifty — human growth hormone, perhaps? She is just having a blast until Robert (Warren Kole) shows up, an FBI agent who wants to bust Jennifer’s corrupt precinct.
Kole is about a decade younger than Shades of Blue‘s lead star, so a romance seems a bit unlikely. Anyway, the two have zero chemistry and Kole mumbles through every one of his scenes, meaning you will have no idea what he is saying without subtitles. As soon as Jennifer’s character is caught asking an FBI agent for a large sum of money, she immediately launches into a vibrant depiction of a panic attack.
Lopez is more frequently subtle and alluring, so it is a little strange to position her as such a helpless character. This casting against type gives the series a certain credibility. The real fun is given to the corrupt leader of her department, Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta), who works in concert with local gangs in a relationship more symbiotic than parasitic. Liotta spends a lot of time screaming and blowing his cheeks out, which is not really all that menacing, the only required characteristic for a role like this. The fact that Lopez is helpless to fend off these two white guys will probably change very soon.
Watching Shades of Blue is like suffering through an actual police interrogation, so deliberately paced is every scene. No information is summarized or given in montage, which gives the show a very different feel from others, and this more cinematic pacing does engage a certain desperation on the part of Lopez’ character. It is very difficult to keep this empathetic feeling going from week to week, especially because she is essentially a cop that belongs in prison.
Eva Longoria is no better role model for young women. Everyone on her comedy series about show business is obsessed with age, looks, and the pretense involved in maintaining both. It is fine for a character to be superficial, but it is difficult when she represents this quality in most every scene of the show.
One of the main jokes on Telenovela is that Longoria’s character does not actually speak Spanish. The separation she feels from her “authentic” co-stars is a unique television dilemma, one that the show glosses over for quick jokes. The writers of this show watched way too much 30 Rock, which became basically unwatchable since it had no real drama or problems for its characters at all. Every plotline was basically the equivalent of a one-off sketch; there was no perpetual engagement in who these people were.
Sure, Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore were wacky, but there was real feeling for these women, who conquered challenges and obstacles familiar to their audience. Longoria’s Ana Sofia does have challenges, but they mostly concern a storyline where she is unable to be honest with her assistant, or regaining the lead role in her show, Las Leyes de Pasión, by staging a fake kiss in front of photographers.
In real life Longoria is preparing for her third wedding after two unsuccessful marriages. How captivating to know what that experience, of learning to trust your partner again and make yourself vulnerable, would be like! Instead we have a plotline about the show’s ratings profile with different demographics. I know a lot of plays are about the world of the theater, but it is a lot more compelling than the dull world of television – and like 30 Rock, this is a pale simulacra even of that.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
“Felt Mountain” – Goldfrapp (mp3)