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Blue Blows

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 4, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 4, 2009 |

I waited until I got three episodes into “Dark Blue,” to offer a review because I didn’t want to be too quick to dismiss another show after only seeing the pilot episode. I can safely dismiss it now.

“Dark Blue,” yet another in a long line of Jerry Bruckheimer produced cop shows (see also the nearly indistinguishable “CSI,” “Cold Case,” and “Without a Trace”), and like it’s network cousins, “Dark Blue” suffocates you with its supposed grittiness and dark hues, meant — I assume — to obscure the fact that, if you could actually see the screen, there’s not much going on. It’s a show that’s supposed to exist in a moral gray area, but the grayness is as clear and well-groomed as the stubble on McDermott’s cheeks, so even the grayness is well worn.

“Dark Blue” stars Dermott Mulroney Dylan McDermott as a brooding, unhappy, sourpuss widower who has eschewed his personal life in favor of his job. That job is leading a team of undercover cops, who infiltrate various criminal organizations and bust them when they hand over the money. It’s basically a grim, humorless, bland adult-version of “21 Jump Street.”

Only “Dark Blue” differs from all the other undercover cop shows in one respect: These cops are really under cover. They’re off the grid. They’re deep in the bowels of Hell undercover. They’re so undercover they don’t even know their own identities. They’re so undercover that the the IRS couldn’t even find them. They are that undercover, or so McDermott’s Lt. Carter Shaw would have us believe: “You start spending more time as an addict or a thief or even a killer than you do as yourself. Sooner or later, you’re gonna forget which parts are the cover and which parts are you. How long can you pretend to be something before you become it?”

Shaw doesn’t like to answer to his bosses at the LAPD, either — he’s above that petty law enforcement bureaucracy with their goddamn warrants and their ridiculous Fourth Amendment. He doesn’t do it by the book. He doesn’t like standard procedures. He’s so outside the box, when he takes a shit he does it on the toilet on his ceiling.

It’s a lot of tough-guy talk delivered by an actor who can’t carry the part (though, he excelled at a similarly morally questionable role on “The Practice.”). His team doesn’t fare much better: They’re all leading double lives and, at times, even amongst themselves, they don’t know when a good cop has gotten so deep that he’s crossed over. The team consist of Omari Hardwick’s Ty Curtis, who goes so undercover that his wife doesn’t know who she’s fucking anymore; Logan Marshall-Green’s Dean Bendis, who allows an undercover FBI Agent to be shot rather than blow his cover; and Nicki Aycox’s Jaimie Allen, who is pretty and blonde, and “Dark Blue,” needed a pretty and blonde presence to balance out all that dark blueness.

It’s pretty generic stuff; undercover cops work, in some cases, in movies because it’s a long con — one case stretched out over two hours. It doesn’t work well as an episodic series, where the cops are asked to infiltrate an organization once a week. Or, at least, it doesn’t work when your show is aiming so desperately for authenticity. Dark, gritty, bleak authenticity, which is exactly what you’d expect from a show set in L.A. With all that sunlight. And palm trees. It doesn’t help, either, that the cases are pat — you’re usual suspects: Drug dealers and gun runners and that dude who looks like a young, generic James Caan who shows up in all these shows, all of whom force the cops to prove they’re not cops before they’re revealed as cops and everybody struts off into the gloomy night to squint into their whiskey and brood.

And I think that’s exactly what I’ll go do now.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.