'Detroit 1-8-7' Season 1, Episode 1 (Series Premiere) Recap (VIDEO)
['Detroit 1-8-7' - 'Pilot']
Regardless of the fact that 'Detroit 1-8-7' is filmed in Detroit, it's hard to imagine the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitor's Bureau being all too happy about the show's content. In the first episode of ABC's freshman cop drama, it took literally one second for the show, via narrator, to refer to the troubled city as the "birthplace of Motown and once the heart of the automobile industry. Now it has one of the highest murder rates in the country." Not exactly the kind of message you want on any postcards.
But if it's any consolation, there's a good chance any PR concerns may be a non-issue. If the show doesn't vastly improve from the ho-hum pilot, its days may be numbered.
We don't take any pride in that prediction, nor is 'Detroit 1-8-7,' based solely on its first hour, a terrible show. It's just not a particularly interesting or original one. Here's a show that has the fortune of having a fascinating city at a time of transformation as its setting, that has the privilege of actually being filmed in Detroit, and yet it comes across as any other cop drama that can take place in any other urban city, complete with your stereotypical cop characters (mysterious hard-nosed detective, amateurish rookie, crusty vet, tough lieutenant) and cookie-cutter cases. What a missed opportunity.
After the narrator's introduction, we were soon dropped into the middle of a double homicide at a pharmacy, which was being investigated by that mysterious detective, Louis Fitch (Michael Imperioli), and his new rookie partner Damon Washington (Jon Michael Hill), who, naturally, blew chunks after seeing the bodies. And naturally, Fitch doesn't like Washington, even though the affable rookie means well and is all smiles with his wife expecting to give birth any hour now.
Meanwhile, that crusty-vet-on-the-edge-of-retirement, Sgt. Jesse Longford (James McDaniel), and his partner, Det. Vikram Mahajan (Shaun Majumder) looked into the death of a man found on the bed of a freight train with bullet wounds. We were also introduced to Det. Ariana Sanchez (Natalie Martinez), who assisted with the pharmacy investigation, Det. John Stone (D.J. Cotrona), a pretty boy undercover narcotics cop who was promoted to homicide, and that tough lieutenant, Maureen Mason (Aisha Hinds).
It didn't take too long for the pharmacy case and train case to come together. Longford and Mahajan confirmed that a fingerprint on a shell casing found during their investigation belonged to one James Burke, the ex-husband of one of the pharmacy victims. Turned out the train victim was Burke's ex-wife's divorce attorney. Burke went on to kill his parole officer and to take his own kids hostage, who -- Fitch explained -- he planned to kill so the whole family could be together.
The negotiations weren't working of course, prompting Fitch to negotiate with Burke unarmed and face-to-face. Naturally, the lieutenant wasn't pleased that they abandoned protocol, but wouldn't you know that Fitch -- by sharing a sad story about ruining his own relationships with his wife and kids -- saved the day by convincing Burke to turn himself in.
So there weren't many surprises until the very end of the episode, when Burke, in police custody, had a sudden change of heart, grabbed a gun and shot Washington before Fitch took Burke out. Give us more surprises like that one, and grittier story lines that truly evoke Detroit as a character, and 'Detroit 1-8-7' could actually become a cop show worth watching.
A few other thoughts:
Originally, this standard cop show had a unique conceit going for it in that it was supposed to be filmed documentary-style. That stylistic approach was ditched in favor of a more straightforward angle, partially to avoid controversy and criticism after a girl was killed during the filming of an A&E reality show about homicide cops in Detroit . This pilot episode, partially refilmed and re-edited to mirror the new creative direction, still featured lots of herky jerky cinematography and 'Cops'-like title cues that were more distracting than intriguing. Hopefully, they'll go too.
The best thing this show has going for it right now is Michael Imperioli. His Louis Fitch is far more boring and simplistic than the great Christopher Moltisanti he portrayed on 'The Sopranos,' but Imperioli still gives Fitch some gravitas, like when he delivered that pat sad sack monologue at the episode's climax. Not the best lines, but definitely well-delivered.
This is heavy drama, but the show did have some amusing, lighter moments, thanks to Imperioli and Hill. Just when a scene involving Fitch consoling a grieving woman was about to get too saccharine, Washington's cell phone (blaring Motown staple 'Baby Love,' nice touch) went off. Another winning comic scene: When Washington, distracted by his phone (again), allows a drug dealer he handcuffed to playground equipment to run off, a plastic slide attached to his cuffs. But probably the best bit, even though it didn't add much to the show, involved Washington quickly losing control over an interview, to be replaced by Fitch, who just sits there and stares at the suspect until he confesses to stealing drugs. Implausible stuff of course, but still amusing.
What did you think of 'Detroit 1-8-7?' Do you plan to keep watching? And for any Detroit natives out there, how do you feel about a TV show exploring the city's troubles with homicide?
'Detroit 1-8-7' airs Tues, 9PM ET on ABC.