The concept of a showrunner makes it a little easier to find new television series to check out. David Simon is a former journalist who wrote a couple of books that became TV shows (Homicide and the mini-series The Corner), then gave us The Wire, and followed that up with another great mini-series, Generation Kill. So when Simon has a new series (Treme), you know to watch it, because you know his track record.
Shawn Ryan worked on Nash Bridges and Angel, then created The Shield. The latter established his reputation, and now, when you see his name, you watch the series. I gave up on The Unit, but his work on Lie to Me was solid, and then came the late, lamented Terriers. So you know I’m in for The Chicago Code.
What do I think after one episode? Some imposing acting from Delroy Lindo, a large cast that is up to the job of playing characters that have enough depth to warrant our continued attention, and a production that makes great use of Chicago locations. Critics are mostly in agreement: Ryan does a good job of making a network show work, and if The Chicago Code isn’t groundbreaking like The Shield, well, not many shows are. What’s nice is that The Chicago Code is a relatively straightforward cop show, but it doesn’t feel like Ryan is just settling for slightly better than average. He wants to give us an excellent straightforward cop show, and he has earned our trust.
Based on the pilot, I think The Chicago Code might be the easiest of Ryan’s shows to recommend to a large audience. The Shield can’t be topped, but the way it made you feel dirty while watching it meant I was always wary of telling everyone to check it out. Terriers was a delight, but it was beyond quirky, so again, I didn’t tell everyone I knew to watch it. The Chicago Code might not be as good as those shows, but again, that’s setting the bar pretty high, and this one is successful in a way that should appeal to a broad audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes Ryan’s biggest hit.