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Hey! Look, Kids! Another Procedural!

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 22, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 22, 2010 |

Originally conceived as an actual documentary following the Detroit police (an idea quickly scrapped after that documentary became privy to an actual shooting), "Detroit 1-8-7" maintains the Cinéma vérité style, complete with title cards, and applies it to a fictional Detroit police department. The documentary style of film-making has fallen out of fashion in recent years (thanks to its overuse), but, along with Michael Imperioli -- doing his best Gregory House as a cop impression -- and the harsh Detroit cityscape, serves "Detroit 1-8-7" well, elevating slightly it above your run-of-the-mill television procedural.

But it's still a procedural.

Two years ago, right after the writer's strike, "Detroit 1-8-7" might have been a show I stuck with, but now that our televisions are brimming with decent options, it's hard to commit to yet another procedural, particularly one in a time slot already crowded with solid options ("Sons of Anarchy," "Parenthood," and "The Good Wife," to name three). What I liked about "Detroit 1-8-7," however, was that it didn't attempt to euphemize Detroit -- that is one ugly fucking city, no offense to its citizens -- and that the cast isn't replete with attractive actors posing as cops. They looked the part, and meshed well with the seedy surroundings.

But it's still a procedural.

The pilot episode stars off rocky, as the characters are introduced, and it takes some time to find its bearings and steer itself into the main storyline -- there are dead bodies that lead to other dead bodies, which leads to a hostage situation -- but the show has a couple of tricks in it, including a stellar interrogation scene involving Imperioli's veteran homicide detective, Louis Fitch, who stares a man into confessing. There are also a few moments of levity to prevent the show from becoming too self-serious. The action sequences, too, are intense and, at times, riveting.

But it's still a procedural.

*Spoilers Below*

By the 40th minute of "Detroit 1-8-7," I was all but willing to write the show off as another procedural, slightly better than the others, but not really worth the investment. It's episodic in nature, so there's no possibility that I could morph into another "The Wire," even an inferior one. I have room for only one cop show in my life, and right now, that's "Castle," if only because of the presence of Nathan Fillion. But, the final minute is a brave one for network television, in that it dares to seemingly kill off the cookie-cutter rookie type, which the show spent so much time developing (complete with rookie-type cliches) over the course of the episode. That was bold, and enough to pique my interest enough to return for a second episode. Unfortunately, iMDB lists the character as having subsequent episodes, and if he survived the shooting, then it's a cheap, chickenshit move for the show to make. I'll tune in for a few minutes next week just to see if he survived (or if his continued presence is in flashbacks). If he has, there's not much point in continuing. If he hasn't, well, it's still a procedural.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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