The Shield Cannot Protect My Netflix Account

16 Nov
McNulty always wore sleeves.

McNulty always wore sleeves.

Sigh.  Once again, we have come to this – it’s fall, TV seasons are in full swing (and this time with nary a writers’ strike in sight!), and my Netflix DVDs sit unwatched by the TV.  After having torn through just about every show I ever wanted to watch, I was down to the last one – Shawn Ryan’s “The Shield,” and it just hasn’t been able to keep my interest.

Perhaps it’s the influx of great shows this season – so many fun options!  Chuck, True Blood, Terminator TSCC, Gossip Girl, the standard NBC thursday night “Rock/Office” one-two punch, even  more missable fare like the current season of Dexter and Dirty Sexy Money… where am I to find time to watch DVDs of The Shield?

But there’s more to it than that – even though everyone seems to luuuurve this show, I just can’t get into it.  I’m not sure whether it’s Michael Chiklis’s ill-fitting stonewashed jeans, or trying to get into a police show after seeing “The Wire,” but after watching a season and a half’s worth of episodes, I remain pretty much completely uninterested.

And I feel guilty!  So many trusted internet folks go on and on about how underrated the show is – it even won Heather Harvilesky’s Buffy Award this year, and the previous winners of that award certainly don’t suck. Even if they did have questionable second seasons.

And I know that Forrest Whitaker shows up later on and is awesome, and Glenn Close won or at least got nominated for a ton of awards, but I still just can’t do it.  The show seems so deliberately “edgy,” so In Yo Face about how it shows sex and violence, it turns me right off.  When someone drops a bunch of racial epithets, or we get a long, lingering shot of a hooker doing crack, it doesn’t seem as though the show is simply showing us how things really are, it seems to be streeeetttching things, saying “wow, look at this hooker doing crack!  And on BASIC CABLE, too!”

The characters are certainly more complex and interesting than your standard cop show cutouts, and the acting is pretty strong, but the season-long arcs don’t really seem to have much to say.  What made The Wire so great was how it rose above the particulars of any given case or storyline to paint a larger picture; each character, conflict, and even line of dialogue felt like part of a greater whole.  While The Shield is perhaps a bit more in a Sopranos mold – more of a psychodrama about Vic Mackey than a commentary on the LAPD, even there it stumbles.  Cathy Cahlin Ryan, the actor who plays Mackey’s wife, isn’t allowed the space or the material to come even close to providing the foil for Mackey that Edie Falco did for Gandolfini on The Sopranos, and when their son is diagnosed with Autism, rather than feeling like a representation of the struggle that many families face every day, it feels forced, like the show is trying too hard.

In fact, the Autism thing is indicative of the failings of the show, at least for me – rather patiently creating a complex, believable family as a  counterpoint to Mackey’s work on the force, the writers paint in broad strokes, forcing us to empathize with him by giving his son Autism.  Autism is, of course, a really thorny, heartbreaking issue, and it deserves to be addressed on TV more than it is, but the way it’s implemented on The Shield just feels like more network anvils being thrown our way.  We get it, The Shield.  He’s a Complicated Guy.  His home life is hard.  For him, the ends justify the means. He’s a Cop on the Edge.

Oy.  This post has gone on for many, many words too long, and I probably shouldn’t even be writing my thoughts on a show that, I’m almost absolutely certain, gets far better in its later seasons.  One day, I will probably even watch the whole thing.  But for the time being, there are too many other good shows on, and not enough hours in the day.  Netflix account, prepare once more for deactivation.

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