Shades of Blue Premiere: Is J.Lo's New Drama Arresting — or a Cop-Out?

“I always wanted to be a good cop — but there’s no straight line to that,” a banged-up, shaken Det. Harlee Santos confesses into her laptop in the opening scene of Shades of Blue.

There does, however, seem to be a decidedly direct line between the beats of NBC’s new Jennifer Lopez vehicle (which premiered Thursday night) and pretty much every movie and TV show ever written about morally murky police officers.

Shades of Blue - Season 1Lopez’s Harlee is the kind of law enforcer who stops short of knocking on a drug suspect’s door so she can tenderly usher a stray toddler back to her apartment, then seconds later covers up her rookie partner’s shooting of said dealer — despite the fact that the perp was armed with only a video-game console. She’ll use police-protection hush money collected from criminals to fund her teenage daughter’s private school dreams, but flinch at the idea of borrowing $10,000 from the father-figure boss (Ray Liotta) who supervises both her legit work and extracurricular activities.

Shades of Blue may not be exceedingly original, but it’s zippily paced. After Harlee’s “the ends haven’t justified the means” confessional, the timeline jumps a mere two weeks back — to the unjustified shooting, to a quick and iffy Internal Affairs investigation and then — to Harlee’s shock — an undercover FBI bust that leaves her with a choice of jail time (and abandoning her daughter) or a new gig as a wiretap-wearing informant who’ll deal with a solitary (and kinda stalker-y) handler in abandoned warehouses and concrete underpasses.

Harlee’s priorities are utterly askew — “You have no idea what it takes to be a good cop!” she hisses when she’s finally caught red-handed (oh, lady, neither do you!) — but it turns out Liotta’s Wozniak might be more bent than she suspects. In a subplot of the pilot, Wozniak tracks down the partner of the fallen dealer and instead of putting him behind bars, turns him over to his spurned rivals for a sure-to-be hideous death — muttering that it’s “for the greater good.” (Dude was selling a botched kind of heroin.) But the big cheese is also plotting some unspoken, possibly dangerous side deal with an Internal Affairs cop — and hoping to bring in his protégé Harlee for the big score.

Shades of Blue - Season 1Lopez and Liotta are rock solid in their respective roles — finally, a glimmer of the actress so exceptional in Out of Sight! — but the suspense they build is intermittently blunted by moments both ludicrous (Harlee’s handler jeopardizes the entire operation by plunking down behind her and Wozniak at her daughter’s cello recital) and clichéd (Wozniak’s ferocious “there’s a rat in my crew!” speech ends exactly as you expect — by telling Harlee she’s the only one he trusts). It doesn’t help that Shades of Blue‘s supporting characters are (at least in Hour One) as generic as dollar-store plastic bags (poor Drea de Matteo!).

That said, when the series plays with the casualness of Harlee’s lies and their often excruciating consequences — Lopez is especially sympathetic crashing her daughter’s car into a median to shore up one of her fibs to Wozniak — there’s a glimmer of hope that a potentially interesting character study lies beneath the husk of crooked-cop tropes that are all too familiar.

But enough from me! What did you think of Shades of Blue? Grade the pilot in our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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72 Comments
  1. Al says:

    That was bad

  2. John Jacob says:

    This was as awful as you’d picture Jennifer Lopez playing a cop.

  3. Lynn says:

    I was bored, tuned out about half way through.

  4. Angel1977 says:

    Surprised people didn’t like it. I thought the cast and script were really good. I’ll check it out next week

  5. herman1959 says:

    I gave it a B; it turned out to be much better than I was expecting. I can’t wait to see what happens when it comes back to the present time (in 2 weeks). I do have one minor issue though – breaking the $100 bill from the pay off money in the bar was sort of dumb.

  6. Mr. Tran K says:

    Last season, State of Affairs was a disaster involving Katherine Heigl’s return to prime time TV and the same thing is about to happen with Jennifer Lopez in Shades of Blue.

  7. J Rodriguez says:

    Started off like it was not going to be good- but after 20 mins, It got so much more interesting. It was actually really good. I can’t wait to see the next episode.

  8. GuessWhat says:

    not breaking any new ground
    we’ve seen bad cop themes before
    Drea De Matteo was vastly underused in 1st ep!
    hope that changes
    I was torn between B & C — but gave it a C
    will give it another shot next week

    • peterwdawson says:

      I went D. It’s one of those, “If you’ve never seen anything like this before you might like it,” situations, but I mean, at that point it would be like having toast for the first time and not knowing jam, peanut butter, honey or even plain old butter also exist.

  9. Sandra says:

    Waited for this and can not wait for next week

  10. Jon says:

    Was it the most original cop drama ever? No. Was it watchable and thoroughly entertaining? Hell yeah! And both JLo and Liotta were so good that I shut off the nitpicking and just enjoyed the show. Why was Lopez doing dopey rom-coms for the past decade instead of grittier stuff like this? I’m definitely tuning in next week…

  11. Sly says:

    I love love this show- can not wait until next week. Lopez and Liotta nailed it and the chemistry is great between them! Please I’m begging the God’s of Television show Killers- do not cancel this drama-It can only get better!!!

  12. Pierre says:

    Loved it!! Jennifer and Ray kill it!! Looking forward to the next episode……

  13. James D says:

    it was Okay. The only thing that kept me watching honestly was Ray Liotta. He’s one of my all time favs so no matter how absurdly dumb the movie or in this case show he is in I will watch it. I will say I’ve always preferred J.Lo the actress so I’m glad she is back to doing that.

  14. Ilka says:

    Excellent work. HOPE you keep it on. Not the same police story you always see.love the theme.

  15. Rican Rose says:

    I was sceptical, but I gave it a chance and I’m glad I did. I liked it and will watch again

  16. shirley says:

    Ray & Jennifer did click. I will definitely watch it next week.

  17. peterwdawson says:

    Terrible choice in lead, supporting cast are good actors in wasted roles. Plot isn’t anything new. It’s like they banked it all on Lopez and didn’t think what a bad idea that would be.

    • Temperance says:

      That’s because it wasn’t a bag idea. I have doubts about the premise, however. Where will they go after this 2 week time frame is over. It’s a very limited premise.

  18. Patti says:

    JLo is a very good actress (I love her in “Out of Sight” and “Selena”), but I wish she would stop playing “down in the dumps” roles. Can’t she just be anything and really be good at it without carrying so much baggage??? I’ve seen her in these roles before. Same old thing. Always the victim. Tired of it. So I won’t watch the next episode.

  19. Rick Katze says:

    Interesting show but I still don’t forgive the Nothing But Contempt network for cancelling The Player without any closure.

  20. itlgrl says:

    As you said similar to other crooked cop shows but some pairing of stars and characters just don’t jive and I like these two together. The daughter doesn’t fit for me as jlo daughter, no chemistry. It seems like it will get more intense as Liotta seems scary in this, and Love JL acting in this. Best she’s done so far. now what did u think of Angel from Hell MA?

  21. elaine1014 says:

    B because Liotta is Liotta.

  22. Temperance says:

    JLo was good in this, but I can’t see that the premise has any legs at all. Ten episodes and out.

  23. Sally McLinn says:

    First off, I liked JLO back as an actress. I think she’s underrated and in the past did some doggone good acting work and good movies. This show is a keeper for me, but boy oh boy – RAY LIOTTA! Give him the Emmy right now. That man had me so scared and transfixed I couldn’t keep my eyes off him.

  24. donholley77 says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by both how good the 1st episode was & with JLo’s performance! Sheactually pulled off playing a street smart Cop! Levinson’s direction & Liotta’s acting was great as usual! Hopefully, Drematto will be given more to do, but I will be watching ‘Shades Of Blue!!

  25. Imzadi says:

    I remember the actress who played her daughter from Wayward Pines. I wish we would have heard a little of the cello music. I also thought that Teddy Sears was playing the FBI agent, but it was someone else. I could feel for her needing the money for her extremely talented daughter’s education (did she not qualify for at least a partial scholarship?), but I just wasn’t that interested in the show itself.

  26. Maria Medina says:

    I think Jennifer and Ray killed it….awesome show …..way to go Jenny from the block!

  27. Heather says:

    Loved it! Jennifer and Ray have great chemistry.

  28. spdavid says:

    Watchable enough,but not a television masterpiece.Some damned clunky lines and some tired tropes along the way but again not terrible.What WAS terrible is that hair….JLo should never have agreed to that cut or wig,you can’t tell which is just one reason it’s so bad.

    I’ll watch as long as there’s not something better around.It was smart to have it led into with The Blacklist.

  29. danin says:

    First time I saw Out Of Sight, I thought JLo is a better actor than singer. So there’s that. And Ray Liotta. I have some questions why wouldn’t Liotta’s character talk to the daughter about the car at the barbecue.He’s on top of everything else? And will we see him address that or for that matter the daughter say something to Jlo’s character? And I too agree w/other people on here…where are they going to go w/this plot wise and for how long sustain our interest in such dubious characters? I appreciate the intention of finally giving a female character a morally complex character to work with in the vein of the pool of recent male characters,Tony Soprano, Walter White etc. But we need some heart& humanity with it. I was thinking of Hill St. Blues,NYPD Blue, and Homicide. And hell, Oz&Deadwood. I hope they find a way find the poetry.

  30. there were some scenes where the background was so noisy with music that I couldn’t hear the conversations of the actors, so I’m not sure I’ll continue to watch.

  31. Joey Padron says:

    First episode was pretty good. Will watch a few more episodes if the show gets good.

  32. Sushi says:

    Kept waiting for some old “Charlie’s Angels” dialog: FREEZE TURKEY!

    Why would she do this?

  33. kirads09 says:

    I really really liked the pilot. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  34. racingphan says:

    Whew that stunk. But at least Jen’s makeup was always perfect.

  35. katcruzin says:

    JLo pulls it off!! Engaging character to an old story, kept me watching!!

  36. sue ruppel says:

    I thought it was a refreshing hour of primetime tv. Jennifer Lopez was quite good in her role as a cop . I will definitely watch future episodes. Hope this is a beginning of something to watch instead of the redundant reality shows.

  37. amukanov says:

    The Player is my favorite new series. It wii take some convincing to get me to check out Shades of Blue.

  38. Agent86 says:

    After NYPD Blue, The Shield, and TRUE Detectives, hardly cutting edge.

  39. FrisbieJ says:

    drea de Matteo would shine in the Lead.. no offense to J

  40. Like some real life cops, and I’m saying some, they r shady. The title of the show fits right in. I feel like it was to predictable otherwise.

  41. Amanda Powers says:

    Not as good as I was hoping it would be……will give it another look next week. I hope the sound quality is better….background sound was too loud had to turn up volume to hear dialog.

  42. M says:

    I miss the cop shows of the 70s and 80s when cops in these shows were much closer to what a real police force is. Like Hill Street Blues. This is unrealistic garbage.

  43. Hans says:

    How can 58% of ppl call this show awsom or very good? Terrible stuff

  44. Darlene says:

    I love anything that J-Lo is in!! Love, love, love her! To me, she is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen! I love her on American Idol and hope to be able to see her new act at Planet Hollywood in Vegas!!

  45. Juan says:

    I found that the whole Ray Liotta scene in the hotel was ridiculous. The bad part is that he read the script. I just cant see a gangster/tough-ass Lieutenant as a homosexual…… sorry I just cant! Nothing against homosexuals but it just did not go well with the plot…….

  46. Sheila says:

    What is name of band in the pilot?

  47. Sheitan says:

    Bad all round. Switched off after 20 minutes. Liotta has seen his day. Lopez, was she ever a good as a singer or as an actress? I don’t think so.

  48. Bert says:

    Why does nbc shove homosexuality down our throats…stopped WATCHING

  49. Ja says:

    Haha wozniak had his car on park and he was driving so funny.

  50. peopleautoknow says:

    This is J.Lo all the way ! This role fits her in my Opinion ….. J. Lo is not a princess all the time. Shades of blue beings out more in her, remember the movie Boarder Town? J.LO IS KILLING IT ANYTIME SHE IS STARRING WITH MY MAN, RAY LIOTTA ….. Enough said.