That first word, shades, is really the big problem with Shades of Blue. The show is so awash in self-indulgent moral ambiguity that you can’t make it through a scene without someone throwing out a line of dialogue about one of the following topics: A) a brutal past, B) their self-internalized knowledge of NYC’s crime-ridden streets, or C) an undying loyalty to precinct lieutenant Woz. Unsurprisingly it’s usually D) all of the above. Top that with a cherry of we are being very serious line deliveries and most of the show’s danger feel entirely unearned, mobster-run funeral parlors and all.
If Lopez makes the show watchable, I’d say it’s by a shade of her pitch-black, take-me-serious aviators. There’s some unusual menace to her, and a welcome physicality that doesn’t exactly help sell the show’s attempt at life-and-death stakes, but at least gives Harlee some occasional hutzpah when dealing with douchey FBI agent Robert Staal (Warren Kole), or resorting to somewhat ridiculous means in protecting her partner’s secret (if the winter TV season has a better accidental-on-purpose car crash ugly cry, I’ll be shocked). She makes it out of that silly opening scene with earned tangibility, but – and honestly if I had a penny every time I said it – Lopez deserves better material.
A cool new haircut and decent lead does not a cop procedural make, and there’s no other reason to stick with Shades of Blue. It’s too repetitive and lackadaisical in dealing with the premise’s been-there-done-that feel (if it ever does), and dips into dark drama are misfires nearly across the board, in particular an off-the-bat bad impression where Lopez divulges some flash-forward, noir-like exposition in maybe the pilot’s only so-bad-it’s-good moment. Shades of Blue grasps desperately, enthusiastically for top-tier capital-I importance, but really it’s like an intern got mixed up in the halls of NBC and delivered SNL‘s new cop skit to someone in the drama department, who just ran with it.
With a lone, transient saving grace in Jennifer Lopez's icy cool NYPD detective, Shades of Blue has one reason to watch and about a dozen to skip, not limited to: self-seriousness, predictable plots, and a distasteful contentment with being ordinary.