Television. Free stuff cheap. I watched the premiere of the Fox Network’s “Gang Related” police vs. LA gangs. I tuned in because I’d read several favorable pre-television reviews in major publications. Note to self: Beware the reviewers.
The Car Chase
The cold opening, obligatory in TV cop dramas, is the car chase montage of which you’ve seen them all. The cinematography is usually successful while the dialogue is typical “go,go,go” and other police bravado shot in quick closeups of apoplectic faces as the cars tangle and crash. The impossible difference about this one is that the cops have heavy bangers, semi-automatic shotguns and rifles with which the cops shoot out the tires of the vehicles they are chasing. In the first three minutes of the show, the producers try to outdo the Tet Offensive in terms of firepower.
These Are Not Your Average Cops
The next predictable scene is when the cops are back at the ranch applauding themselves and giving each other high fives with barely concealed narcissism. The wild shootout on several miles of populated streets has been wonderfully successful, you see, even though the lead Hispanic cop (Ryan Lopez is the character’s name) has one foot in the police department and the other in the gangsta’ barrio of his youth. Was that conceit a ripoff of the mysterious quasi-corruption of tough-guy Sergeant Hank Voight, a leading character in Chicago PD?
We’re Giving You This Special Gun Because You’re a Hero Cop
There’s a mawkish, corny, and ridiculous scene where the chief, as a tribute to Lopez’ greatness, gives him a Kimber .45 knockoff of the legendary Springfield 1911. The scene is typically gun clueless, aimed at liberal Hollywood gun control types who actually believe this will be the pistol that tames the barrio. Okay, I have a bias-I’m a Sig-Sauer and HK kind of guy. And I see Kimber as a target competition .45, not the best tactical weapon.
If you didn’t get the “Gang Related” clues from the title, this is about LA Hispanic, Asian, and African-American gangs. That much is real, at least, and the extent of gangsta’ life in California cannot be exaggerated. What’s not real is the name of the Latin gang called the “Los Angelicos,” a crew that figures prominently in the ongoing series. Now any LA street gang calling itself the “Angelicos” would be laughed right out of their jock straps.
Let’s Convene a Commission to Write the Story
Okay, let’s hear it for the actors, having to work from a script that shows obvious fragmentation. It’s the result of authorship by commission, a fight amongst competing writer bureaucracies in a struggle to develop character and a dazzling array of subplots. The dazzling array of subplots is what replaces a good story line these days. Someone should remind the writers that “Rookie Blue” and “Blue Bloods” have been successful with one-fourth the gratuitous violence and triple servings of police humanity mixed in with the inevitable crises of criminal life.
Violent Fantasies of the Masses
Producers of this type of drama know that we are already drugged on fantasy violence and struggle to outdo each other. It gets a bit strange for me when torture and police brutality becomes commonplace in police procedurals like the more coherent Chicago PD and the character based political-criminal thriller Blacklist. So far as that goes, don’t forgot that the very same people who numb us to this steady diet of violent fantasy mindset are the same people who are most pacifistic anti capital punishment, anti-police, anti-war, anti-2nd Amendment people on the planet.
I’m Not Squeamish
Lest you think I’m a Prius driver in Birkenstock sandals, let me tell you about a stunning scene in “Gang Related. Actor Inbar Lavi stole the show with her hard-core takedown of a running perp from whom she wants to extract jiffy information. Adding to the natural electricity of her sinewy body, Veronica “Vee” Dotsen pulls a magna-volt stun gun and holds it first in the face of the guy she’s sitting on. Since the thug’s not talking, she applies the juice not to his face but to his genitals. The guy wants to talk now, but Veronica’s no chump and not falling for it. She gives him another jolt for good measure, same place. Okay, it’s torture, and I’m a hypocrite, but it’s perfect in its way. Sometimes a well-placed shot is just the right thing to juice a seriously boring script. And don’t forget that old Hollywood saying: Middle Eastern babes are the best.
The Bottom Line
The pilot didn’t get me, and the gangstas are a confusing mix of sanitized schlock. I’ve seen bad pilot episodes turn into good TV so I’m not yet giving this the kiss of death. At some point, writers will see the merit of penciling in Inbar Lavi for a more prominent role, and this will attract men and women for a combination of both different and similar reasons.