Sky has splurged on a new American cop show only to have it cancelled by pesky executives in its homeland. Miserable luck for the network, but watch the premiere (tonight, 9pm on Sky1) and you’ll see that The Chicago Code was never going satisfy its target market: folks reared on The Shield and The Wire. It was actually The Shield’s Shawn Ryan who created the show but it’s Fox’s baby too, and they don’t like to let things get too blue. So where there should be sweary, sweaty bruiser cops, there’s only the clean-shaven Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) who, unfeasibly, “doesn’t appreciate profanity.”
On sidekick detail is Caleb Evers (Matt Lauria), while Chicago’s first female superintendant, Jennifer Beals (Teresa Colvin), is the looming but approachable big boss. It’s a solid cast and a sophisticated set up but the dialogue is a disaster, which is what happens when you ban proper cursing from a “gritty” police drama. Wysocki leaks cop clichés and quite possibly has the word “maverick” sewn into his boxers on little name tags.
Elsewhere, there’s badly drawn Beals, with her power-stare and monochrome pantsuits. You sense that The Chicago Code’s makers would have liked to give her a pair of testicles to whip out of her back pocket instead of a badge. Instead of this, everything that can be done has been done to make sure we know that the Superintendent is a dominant female in a world where corrupt fat-cats keep a pretty girl on staff so there’s always someone around to nibble their ears. Beals talks tough (even on her downtime), marches everywhere and prefers a scowl to a smile.
But Chicago Code has some good points, too. The camera work is engagingly choppy and there’s a thumping car chase near the beginning with an interesting conclusion. It’s got pace, but there’s a lot going on all at once. This could turn out to be a good thing once the characters are embedded, but such intense layering so soon is hard to keep up with.
Maybe this rookie show will find its feet – and an audience. But knowing that it’s been axed, ask yourself if you can bothered to stick with it. It’s not like there’s a cop show deficit. And if scanning the Chicago skyline’s your thing then watch The Good Wife. Or, better still, rent an ER boxset.