The Chicago Code with Jennifer Beals and Jason Clarke PREVIEW

Colvin (Jennifer Beals), Wysocki (Jason Clarke) and Evers (Matt Lauria). Pics:BSkyB

Rating ★★★

Sky1, from Thursday, 12 May, 9pm

The Chicago Code is Sky1’s slick new US cop show. The premise is interesting – tackling police/political corruption in Chicago, fabled gangster town of Al Capone and the old-style mob where graft still keeps the wheels turning.

However, the series is less gripping than the premise – two cops, detective Jarek Wysocki and superindentent Teresa Colvin, decide to take on all the crooked aldermen and cops throughout the city on their own.

The Chicago Code is shot on location

And we’re also asked to believe glamorous Jennifer Beals has risen to become the most powerful police officer in the city without powerful political friends, but on the basis of an inspiring, heartfelt pitch at her job interview. And all because 30 years before her dad’s business was bled dry by the protection money he had to pay out.

Jason Clarke as Wysocki
Jason Clarke, fresh from The Brotherhood, is Wysocki, the Polack cop and one-time patrol partner of Colvin, who she has to woo back to join her anti-corruption battle. The series has been created by Shawn Ryan, who gave us The Shield, and features the kind of wisecracking, rapid-fire dialogue that only exists on primetime TV.

Main man – Jason Clarke

In contrast to the neat story and black-and-white characters, the Windy City itself provides a gritty, striking backdrop to the action. In fact, the rough neighbourhoods are one of the strongest characters on show, and we get a far better view of the metropolis than we ever got on ER or the current The Good Wife.

Up against Colvin and Wysocki is Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo, charming and oily in his $2000 suits), who’s been in power for more than 20 years. As Colvin says, ‘He made me superintendent because he doesn’t think I can take him on.’

Too Much Plot Syndrome
The pilot suffers from Too Much Plot Syndrome. This occurs when, in a desperate effort to lodge characters into viewers’ minds, the pilot burps and groans with too much plot and background. The Wire and the Danish version of The Killing have spoiled us recently with the slow-burn drama, where characters are complex and sometimes contradictory.

Anyway – deep breath – Wysocki is a homicide cop, hates swearing, loves the White Sox, can’t find a partner to work with, talks down a criminal on the run while racing alongside him in a speeding car, has a niece who’s a rookie on the force, is divorced but still has sex with his ex, he has a fiancee, he’s hunting his the killer of his brother, also a cop, etc.

Well received in America
Still, Jason Clarke looks the part far more than Jennifer Beals, who we’re told is very tough, brave and ruthless, but whose flat performance doesn’t get these qualities across at all.

It’s never safe to pass judgment on a pilot episode, which on the major networks has a job to do in grabbing audiences in one hour. The Chicago Code was warmly received in the US, and certainly episode two, in which a cop killer is hunted, has a more even pace and far more impact.

But Jennifer Beals as the supercop in killer heels decking street thugs will take some getting used to.

• UPDATE: the day before the series arrives on Sky1, news come through that Chicago Code has been cancelled after just one series. Here’s the story in the Huffington Post.

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