Two remarkable female performers roll out new shows this week: Jennifer Lopez in the gritty drama Shades of Blue and Jane Lynch in the celestially oddball sitcom Angel from Hell.
Be bad to be good
Dishevelled, covered in sweat, a nasty bruise on her right cheek.
So appears Lopez in the first shot of NBC's new police procedural, Shades of Blue. It premieres at 10 p.m. Thursday.
Shades of Blue is a smart, well-written star vehicle worthy of the actor-singer's talents as they have matured and been seasoned with experience.
The pilot opens with a taped confession. Lopez, who plays New York City Detective Harlee Santos, peers directly into a webcam. She looks exhausted.
"I always wanted to be a good cop," she says. "There's no straight line to that. I always told myself the ends would justify the means. Now that I'm at the end, I can't justify anything."
We're suddenly torn away from this strange, compelling confession to the past, to a series of ugly events that occurred two weeks earlier. Events that unmask Harlee and her closest colleagues as bent cops involved in extortion, money-laundering, and murder.
Harlee, a single mother putting her 16-year-old daughter, Christine (Sarah Jeffery), through private school, is part of an NYPD precinct led by the remarkably charismatic Lt. Bill Wozniak (Ray Liotta).
Part of the unit's success is due to its pay-to-play policy: Officers allow drug dealers and bookies to ply their trade in designated zones in exchange for a percentage of the profit.
Shades of Blue is the brainchild of screenwriter Adi Hasak (3 Days to Kill, From Paris With Love), who wastes no time informing the viewer of the extent of his protagonists' corruption. His drama isn't a mystery, but a deeper, more complex character study about people with good intentions who struggle with moral issues and make bad judgments.
This is equally true of the drama's closest thing to a white knight, FBI Agent Robert Stahl (Warren Kole), who pressures Harlee to inform on her friends. He's a stickler for the rules, but his judgment is compromised by his outsize ambition and his growing obsession with Harlee's love life.
Shades of Blue marks a refreshing departure from the usual, formulaic crime offerings. It is hardly as revolutionary as ABC's extraordinary American Crime, which upends the crime-show genre entirely. But the terrific writing and wonderful performances in Shades make it one of the year's most promising new dramas.
Angel at my table
Celebrated Glee star Jane Lynch gives one of her most colorful performances as a heavy-drinking, obsessively cheerful, stalker-slash-guardian angel in CBS's enjoyable, fast-paced, off-the-wall sitcom Angel from Hell. It premieres at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
Droll, if not exactly brilliant, the comedy stars Maggie Lawson as Allison Fuller, a dermatologist who runs a successful Beverly Hills practice with her widowed dad, Marv (the wonderful Kevin Pollak). She leads a perfectly good life - that is, until the day she's accosted by a loopy street magician named Amy (Lynch).
Dressed like a homeless person, perpetually tipsy, and disturbingly positive like a demented New Age therapist, Amy seems to know Maggie's every secret. Outing herself as a celestial being (a strict no-no, according to heaven's rules), Amy crops up everywhere, every day, at all hours and offers to help the young doctor achieve true happiness - first by wrecking Maggie's relationship with her live-in beau (David Denman) and her BFF (Jinhee Joung).
Angel from Hell succeeds principally because of the great energy between Lynch and Lawson. Their banter is smart, funny, and well-timed. It's not essential viewing, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.