Hiding Behind A Shield
Tripwire kicks off its list of its Top 30 Crime and Police shows, selected by its editor-in-chief and senior editor. Here’s its 30th entry, FX’s The Shield…
30. The Shield
Creator: Shawn Ryan
Stars: Michael Chiklis , Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins
Welcome to Tripwire’s Top 30 crime and police TV shows. Kicking off proceedings is FX’s The Shield, which ran for seven seasons. Michael Chiklis is superb here as twisted LA cop Vic Mackey, in charge of his own task force. He went on to appear in films like the two disastrous Fantastic Four movies and on TV in shows like Vegas and American Horror Story.
Creator Shawn Ryan and director Clark Johnson, who appeared in Homicide: Life On The Street, hit the ground running here, bringing quality to the fore. Thanks to a verité, hand-held feel, The Shield is no slick LA set cop drama but a genuinely hard-hitting show, shining a light on police corruption. Also, they managed to portray LA with a frenetic energy that hadn’t been seen in the same way before.
Chiklis is the centrepiece here but supporting turns from the likes of Catherine Dent as uniformed cop Danni Sofer, campaigning Captain David Aceveda, played by Benito Martinez, Jay Karnes, adversary and fellow police officer Holland Wagenbach, and Walton Goggins as Mackey’s lackey Shane Vendrell add real depth and drama here.
As the show progresses, Mackey does grow as a character and the writers and directors flesh out the scenarios with class and subtlety. It showed that you could create a police show which had something new to offer and it was testament to Chiklis’ talent as an actor that despite playing an anti-hero, he was able to lend Mackey different facets to his persona. As with James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, sometimes Chiklis makes us cheer for Mackey, despite his huge flaws. It is interesting to compare it with something like Hill Street Blues, which was the progenitor for every US police show that came after, but it was a far less controversial affair, portraying the police as mostly on the side of right. Mackey is a psychopath with no moral compass who is prepared to kill to protect his position and unlike the producers of The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, the programme makers have no problem portraying him as an evil figure with few redeeming features.
The Shield never pulled its punches and was prepared to show us a Los Angeles police force, warts and all. It’s still a powerful series.
The Shield is on now on Amazon Prime in the UK and on Hulu in the US