Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Shield


I have had this sort of standoffish relationship with this show TILL NOW.
Here are a few facts for you:
We don't get cable. We barely get FOX, and that only happens when there is ome sort of world emergency.
We don't MISS cable. We don't really miss TV for that matter. The TV is for one thing and one thing only: THE PS2. The PS2...man, everyone should have one. You got your DVD player and your games. I rarely have to change a channel. I just need to make sure that we are on VIDEO 2 and it is ON, I say.

So, with all of the DVD rentals through Netflix, I am pushing up on TV that people have talked to me about in the past. Diane and I took Sex in the City DOWN last year. Finished that trash. Then we were looking for something new. So I pushed in the direction of Jack Bauer/Keifer Sutherland and the first season of 24. Back when that first season was going down, my sophomores would come into class wide-eyed and ask me if I had seen the stuff. I blew them off then. Now, as I go through the mental rolodex, I am paying attention to such conversations of old. For a quick mini-review, I will tell you that the first season of 24 is DOPE until the last 2 episodes. Then there is an improbable plot twist that pisses you off (or not, if you tend to accept the television standards of how a plot can be twisted). With that plot twist, 24 got parked with the sickness. I loved the realtime aspect of it all, but NVM.

Another television show that I sucked the life out of was THE OFFICE. THE OFFICE was good. Brits rule the wasteland when it comes to that kind of stuff. I laughed myself sick. I had to get out and download the Christmas Special because I just had to see how they were going to end Ricky Gervais' character. THE OFFICE had class. I still need to watch the stateside episodes. Perhaps they will be on DVD soon?

The thrust of this blog is THE SHIELD though. I have been hearing good stuff about it for years, and I finally knuckled under and pulled the first season across. Let me tell you, I am hooked on this TRASH. I say that it is trash, because it is. It is complete trash in all of its exploitative glory. There is nudity and profanity and blood and guts and compromised morals. Did I say compromised morals? The season opener has Mike Chiklis' Vic Mackey blow another cop away in order to preserve his best interests. This show is a continual drive in the direction of TRAINING DAY. Chiklis is a man with morals, but you have to watch MANY episodes to see where he stands. He puts drugs into the hands of his informants, to keep them informing. He beats on people to get his information. He bends the rules. He breaks the law. He lives by this code that my loud friend Alex has mentioned before, and this code is "GET IT DONE, GODAMMIT."

But there is something deeper in the Shield itself that is warring with my dome. The other night, I watched this episode that I thought was well done. I was also impressed with how tame it was, yet I felt that it had held my attention. So I mentioned to Diane afterward (who has maintained that its over the top violence is a strong deterrant)that I felt that the episode had been tame. She countered with the fact that there were three graphically dead bodies and that there was more innuendo and violence in there than she was used to. And then I realized something. I am totally desensitized.

I mean completely.

I mean, I watched Natural Born Killers for the 10+ time a few weeks back and I got nothing out of it. I don't wince anymore. Watching fat George Clooney get his fingernails yanked in Syrianna didn't do it for me. I chuckled my way through SAW2 (specifically when OBI got cooked and when homeboy carved the number off of his OWN neck). Munich hit me hard, but the violence didn't really taint me. I just don't know. When I step to something like the Shield, I am not going to be phased by sub-HBO violence. That being said, I have to put it out there that this might very well be a masculine endeavor. If you like your violence served up with a little splatter, this might be it. Though in refelction, I don't think it is any worse than Law and Order SVU conceptually. (I miss that show BTW. I miss waiting for friday nights to watch Mariska get down).

So the bottom line is that the Shield is DOPE. There is a plotline running underneath that is ripe for development. Vic has his wife and a kid with autism. Vic has his "hooker with the heart of gold" informant whom he lovingly takes care of. Well, he had to punch her out a few episodes ago in order to establish her alibi. Vic also hooked her up with some crack that she smoked in the police office, for a little humor. Vic also has Danny, an on-again off-again flame in his life who is the attractive uniformed cop who has her own set of subplots. Then there is the captain who wants to see Mackey's strike team taken down in order to secure his own spot on the city council. Then there is the Lieutenant who covers the strike team's ass when stuff goes south. All of this fits together in this pastiche of attempting to do the right thing and looking for the lesser of two evils at all times. It is never "good". Every situation is "bad" and the choices are made to determine how much worse it will get. No happy endings. It is rather bleak, when you get into it...but let me tell you, Chiklis' badass detective resonates. You see him throwing people, abusing people and beating the hell out of everyone in his life right down to his own partners on the strike team. But underneath all of this bluster is a tarnished heart. It is there, the heart, and Chiklis carries it to the front when the time is right. It is downright amazing. Homeboy has the scowl, and he turns and faces the camera with violence in his eye regularly. But at times, there is the wince. At times you see the humanity of it all get to him, and he reacts accordingly. Vic Mackey is a brute. There is no question about it. But he has his limitations. I would say that a limitation that he has established so far is his absolute offense with violence against children. He can't take it. He also struggles with violence against women, but he tolerates a little more on this level. His solutions to his problems are brutal. They are fleshy. They aren't normal. But they are understandable. Like what Chris Rock said about OJ killing his wife. The whole line of "I thnk it is wrong, but I understand." Chiklis sure is NOT Russell Crowe in LA CONFIDENTIAL. But I don't think it is Chiklis' fault. This is a writer error. Chiklis is on a road to some sort of redemption, but he has to throw a lot of people out of his way to get there. He seems to be onto something though. The show is perpetuated, because every time Vic gets near to the redemtion he is looking for, a new complication arises.

As far as a bird's eye view into the human condition? This show locks it down. It needs polishing, but then again, I am still in the first season, and I have a lot to look forward to. Glenn Close will show up. Forrest Whitaker is showing up. This is the way to watch tv, trust me.