About 10 minutes into Tuesday’s series premiere of TNT’s Public Morals, NYPD Lt. King tells a newly hired officer, “It’s our job to curb all kinds of vice. That includes prostitution, pornography, degeneracy and the blue laws. You got that, my man?”
And although the rookie cop assures the lieutenant that he does get it, he quickly learns — as do those of us at home — that the police department’s Public Morals Division doesn’t “curb” vice as much as it sweeps vice under the rug.
The PMD is led by Terry Muldoon — played by Mob City‘s Ed Burns, who also created and wrote the series — and he’s a protagonist you’ll have no trouble rooting for. Even though he and his fellow cops walk a fine line between morality and corruption in the workplace, Terry is a hard-working family man whose side you assume you want to be on.
The rest of the department, though, is a colorful group of characters who find themselves working with the criminals more often than they’re locking them up. Take Charlie Bullman (Michael Rapaport, Justified), who — instead of arresting call girl Stacy Potter (Katrina Bowden, 30 Rock) for solicitation — decides to merely give her a ticket for loitering.
And then there’s Sean O’Bannon (Austin Stowell, The Secret Life of the American Teenager), another rookie cop who has a fractured relationship with his domestic abuser of a father (American Crime‘s Timothy Hutton). Throughout the series’ debut hour, you start to get the sense that there will never be any black-and-white matters on this show. When Hutton’s Mr. O is shot dead by an anonymous killer at the end of the episode, it becomes clear that Public Morals is one big gray area.
That said, the series isn’t like most other cop shows currently on the air. It’s gritty at times, sure, but it’s also very funny, and it never comes off as formulaic. Considering the deluge of fall shows that is about to hit the networks in a few weeks, here’s hoping Public Morals — a breath of fresh air in the cop-show genre — doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
OK, your turn. What did you think of the Public Morals series premiere? Grade the episode in our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!