FX decided to jump on the cable bandwagon last year and come up with their very own original series, The Shield. The show stars Michael Chiklis, formerly of The Commish, as Vic Mackey, a hard-nosed Los Angeles detective that gives bad cops a good name – but in a bad way.
Mackey is head of a tactical Strike Team that is comprised of plainclothes officers working in one of the most crime-ridden areas of Los Angeles – the Farmingdale District. Mackey’s group shows impressive results however – s…fer streets, high conviction rates, and tons of arrests – and he has the trust and respect of the men who work for him to boot. He’s ten feet tall and bulletproof within the department and because of that, he roundly ignores those who disagree with his somewhat questionable methods. One of those not in Mackey’s fan club just so happens to be the new captain at his precinct, David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) – a politician at heart and one who has higher aspirations than that of police captain. Being a political animal however, he manages to look the other way when it’s politically expedient for his desires and he knows that Mackey, regardless of his methods, produces and in turn, makes him look good.
Besides Mackey and Aceveda, The Shield introduces us to plenty of other interesting and engaging characters to follow week to week. We meet Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder), a veteran cop on the force who disapproves somewhat of Mackey and his routine, but understands the necessity of someone like that on the force; Dutch (Jay Karnes), a by-the-book and somewhat geekish cop who finds himself on the receiving end of Mackey’s practical jokes, as well as his ridicule; and there’s also Officer Danielle Sofer (Catherine Dent) – someone who adds a bit of turmoil to the mix as she once had a relationship with the married Mackey and finds herself torn between still having feelings for him and knowing that he’s essentially no good for her. While all of the Strike Team members are interesting in their own right, there are enough of them – some frequently seen, others infrequent – that I’ll leave it up to you to learn as much as you can about them as the series progresses. Obviously, some stick around a lot longer than others and they all make for a motley crew if there ever was one.
There are a few who would say that if you took away the cursing, the violence, the brief interludes of nudity, the blood, and acts of amoral and unscrupulous police activity, that you’d just have a “regular” cop show – well, don’t listen to those people, they’re stupid. Mackey and his band of merry men, the Strike Team, are relentless bulldogs who willingly use unnecessary force as a means to an end to get the job done and rid the streets of human debris. However, the show masterfully manages to show another side of Mackey as well. We know that while his methods are questionable, his motives are ultimately good. He cares for his family – he cares for the people he’s sworn to protect – but yet, he just seems so damn dirty … and cool as hell. His humanity is at times overshadowed by his brutality and other than Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey is one of the most interesting and complex characters on television today.
The Shield contains an intensity that has been a long time coming from the “cop genre” and the network, as well as the producers, directors, and writers deserve huge kudos for bringing it to the public – unfiltered and unedited as it is.
The show was the recipient of a lot of harsh criticism and protests and had a lot of advertisers dropping their support from the show during the early goings due to its mature content. However, the network stuck to its guns and ended up with one of the few – actually one of the very few – bright spots of the 2002 television season. The Shield is one of the best shows to hit TV in years and much like Fox’s other groundbreaking show, 24, deserves all of the hype and special attention paid to it. Unlike 24 however, The Shield runs on FX thusly, contains quite a bit more graphic language and violence than would ever be allowed on network television. It’s every bit of an ‘R’ rating and if you could pop The Sopranos into the middle of a police drama, you’d come up with The Shield. However, if you can get past the somewhat graphic content, you’ll find yourself immersed in one of the best television dramas on today.
To finish out my review, I’m gonna hit you with some episode breakdowns, so read at your own risk, as there are some definite spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t seen the series.
– Disc One –
Pilot (Original Air Date: March 12, 2002)
Episode Commentary with Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer), Scott Brazil (Co-Executive Producer), Clark Johnson (Director), and Michael Chiklis
Media darling, Captain Aceveda (Benito Martinez) enlists the help of the Feds in order to investigate Mackey (Michael Chiklis), as he’s not enamored with his unorthodox methods. Detectives “Dutch” Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) and Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) enlist Mackey’s help to find a missing 8-year-old girl of a woman who was murdered by a crack addict.
Our Gang (Original Air Date: March 19, 2002)
Episode Commentary with Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer), Walton Goggins, and Benito Martinez
Internal Affairs investigates the shooting death of one of Mackey’s Strike Team members, Detective Crowley (Reed Diamond), while raiding a drug dealers home. Aceveda speaks at the officer’s funeral and later vows to have Mackey behind bars. Dutch and Claudette work the case of a murdered churro vendor, while a new officer gets initiated.
The Spread (Original Air Date: March 26, 2002)
Commentary with Clark Johnson (Director), CCH Pounder, Glen Mazzara (Writer), and Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer)
In an effort to serve all outstanding bench warrants, the detectives divide them up among themselves and get to work. In doing so, Danny (Catherine Dent) and Julien (Michael Jace) uncover a gun-smuggling operation, while the Strike Team encounters Derek Tripp (Elimu Nelson), an NBA star who’s busted while hanging out with some local drug dealers. Seems that Tripp’s team is in town and are scheduled to play the Lakers later in the day. The Strike Team uses this unusual bust in order to give the Lakers a bit of home court advantage later in the evening. One of Mackey’s informants, Connie (Jamie Brown), is brutally attacked.
Dawg Days (Original Air Date: April 2, 2002)
Commentary with Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Kevin Arkadie (Writer), and Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer)
Mackey attempts to make peace between two rival rappers, T-Bonz (Dex Elliott Saners) and Kern Little (Stinky Fingaz), as their feud is spilling out in to the streets. Aceveda helps out powerful politician, “Kingmaker” Jorge Machado (Efrain Figueroa), and finds himself a new ally when he enlists Dutch and Claudette to help find his nanny’s missing husband.
– Disc Two –
Blowback (Original Air Date: April 9, 2002)
Commentary with Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, Kenneth Johnson, and Kurt Sutter (Writer)
Mackey and the Strike Team bust up an Armenian drug gang and decide to take a little off the top to pay some of their better informants. However, Detective Vendrell (Walt Goggins), screws up and the drugs, as well as their vehicle, are stolen from them. To add fuel to the fire, Officer Julien was a witness to the act and Aceveda uses the information to begin building a case against Mackey. In a couple of side stories, Julien must deal with his homosexuality, while Mackey learns his son his autistic.
Cherrypoppers (Original Air Date: April 16, 2002)
Commentary with Jay Karnes, Scott Rosenbaum (Writer), Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer), and DJ Caruso (Director)
The Strike Force is called in to action when another body of an underage prostitute is found. Fearing a serial killer, Dutch works with an FBI profiler and the Strike Team splits up in order to find the killer before he can strike again. Meanwhile, Aceveda continues his investigation of Mackey, as Officer Julien takes a stand on Mackey’s drug theft from the previous episode.
Pay In Pain (Original Air Date: April 23, 2002)
Commentary with Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer), Rohn Schmidt (Director of Photography), Dean White (Co-Producer), and Bill Gierhart (Camera Operator)
Mackey and Vendrell are paired with a Latino detective, Carlos Zamora (Carlos Sanz), in order to investigate the killing of multiple gang members and when Vendrell makes an off-color racial slur, it causes an explosive rift between the trio. Meanwhile, Dutch and Claudette are working with a psychic, Frida (Davenia McFadden), who seems to be a fraud until she offers them some interesting information given to her from the latest victim.
Cupid and Psycho (Original Air Date: April 30, 2002)
Commentary with Glen Mazzara (Writer), Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, Jay Karnes, and CCH Pounder
Allegations against the Strike Team’s drug theft become front-page news, thanks to a leak from Aceveda, and they are split up and assigned to different partners pending an investigation. Vendrell and Dutch are paired up to work on an unresolved case, while Mackey and Claudette investigate a batch of bad drugs that have hit the streets – “cupid meth”. Mackey threatens to reveal that Officer Julien is gay if he won’t withdraw his statements about the Strike Team.
– Disc Three –
Throwaway (Original Air Date: May 7, 2002)
Commentary with Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer), Kevin Arkadie (Writer), Evyen Klean (Music Director), and Kenneth Johnson
The Strike Team is involved in a truckjacking case that is complicated even more when a planted gun is brought in to the mix. Aceveda steps in, as the problems between Julien and Danny heat up. Claudette receives some disturbing news about her daughter.
Dragonchasers (Original Air Date: May 14, 2002)
Commentary with Catherine Dent, Michael Jace, Scott Rosenbaum (Writer), and Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer)
Mackey helps his hooker friend Connie kick her crack habit in an attempt to keep her son in her custody, while Vendrell and Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) investigate a string of strip-club muggings. Dutch closes in on a serial killer from an unresolved case and Danny is bitten by a HIV-infected transvestite. A reporter starts snooping around and makes things a bit uncomfortable for Aceveda.
Carnivores (Original Air Date: May 21, 2002)
Commentary with Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer), James Manos Jr. (Consulting Producer), Glen Mazzara (Executive Story Editor), Scott Rosenbaum (Staff Writer), and Kurt Sutter (Staff Writer)
The Strike Team attempts to mediate a dispute between drug dealer Rondell Robinson (Walter Emmanuel Jones) and The Nation of Islam while Dutch and Claudette investigate an attack on an elderly Korean couple. Aceveda is forced to deal with past problems.
Two Days of Blood (Original Air Date: May 28, 2002)
Commentary with Michael Jace, Cathy Cahlin Ryan (Corrine Mackey), Keith Sutter (Writer), Guy Ferland (Director), and Shawn Ryan (Executive Producer)
In the first of a two-part season finale, Assistant Chief Gilroy (John Diehl) asks for Mackey’s help in covering up a hit-and-run that Dutch is currently investigating. Vendrell and Leman find themselves working a case that involves gunrunners and cockfighting … yep, cockfighting. Aceveda’s political career hits a bump in the road with a double homicide.
– Disc Four –
Circles (Original Air Date: June 4, 2002)
Commentary with Michael Chiklis, Benito Martinez, Shawn Ryan (Writer), and Scott Brazil (Director)
In the aftermath of a riot, fabricated 911 calls are coming in all over the city and are luring officers in to deadly ambushes and in an unusual alliance, Mackey and Aceveda put aside their differences and work together in order to bring the killings to a halt. However, Gilroy plays both ends against the middle in order to save himself.
Shows like this come around once in a blue moon – if you missed the series back when it aired on FX last year, make sure you pick this set up at your earliest convenience and see what all the well-deserved hype is all about.
Fox gives The Shield a Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 mix that sounds quite nice, as The Shield makes brilliant use of a soundtrack that covers all the bases of current popular music. We get a mixture of rap, rock, reggae, and latino tracks that fit in great with the story at hand and sound really ostentatious in Fox’s audio transfer for the series. The dialogue was always front, center, and easily understood and there was never any time during any of the entire 13 episodes that I had trouble understanding what was being said.
Effects were plentiful and sound quite nice, but were somewhat limited by the Dolby Surround encoding. Gunshots, squealing tires, faces and stomachs being punched, suspects being beaten by phonebooks, and general background noise can be found all throughout the track and Fox has encoded them to get as much from the 2.0 track as can be expected. The LFE is unfortunately limited to the soundtrack and general reinforcement of certain effects. While noticeable, it’s completely practical and not as impressive as you might expect.
While a 5.1 mix may have been warranted, we didn’t get it and most won’t even notice. The Shield sounds better than ever and Fox has done a great job maxing out the 2.0 transfer that’s included. Excellent job.
The Shield comes from Fox in its broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 in a full frame presentation that captures the gritty look-and-feel of the show perfectly. Interestingly enough, the deleted scenes on the DVD are shown in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it strikes me as odd that if that is the aspect ratio that the show is being shot in, why would the studio decide to release the DVDs in full frame? While the showed aired on FX in fullscreen and I don’t really expect an answer to my question to begin with, I just mention it because Fox is such a huge supporter of the DVD format and always seems to take the side of DVD geeks rather than the uneducated masses. Regardless, at this stage of the game, it’s a moot point. Just something I thought worthy of mention.
The show uses a cinema verite style of shooting that relies heavily on steadicams that can zoom in and out at a moment’s notice – and they often do. That being said, the image is pretty tight and detailed all things considered, but at the same time, the transfer accurately maintains the show’s intentionally harsh image. The Shield has a varied and bold palette, as the outdoor scenes shot in Los Angeles are especially strong and detailed. Indoor scenes suffered slightly, as they tended to exhibit a bit more grain and softness than their outdoor counterparts. Saturation was dead-on, with stylistic choices of oversaturation/desaturation being easily spotted over “regular” scenes in the series. While there were some episodes that looked better than others – as is usually the case in a set like this – the show as a whole looked great. Fleshtones were completely accurate and natural, while black levels were deep and bold and allowed for excellent shadow detail and delineation.
The first season of The Shield looks great on DVD and fans of the series won’t find anything to complain about. Fox has done another incredible job of releasing one of their television series to DVD and as usual, the results are top notch.
Wow! FX/Fox have really jam-packed this set with some incredible extras! While season box sets usually suffer from having a rather thin amount of supplemental material, Fox evidently decided to buck that trend with their upcoming release of The Shield: Season 1. Save for the massive commentaries Fox has included for the series, the other extras can be found on disc four.
Starting things off are Audio Commentaries for each and every episode of the first season – 13 in total! Each and every one of the commentaries is engaging in their own way and it’s obvious from listening, that the family that puts on The Shield is a tight-knit one indeed. Executive Producer Shawn Ryan is the one constant throughout the commentaries as he is present on 11 of the 13 commentaries available for our listening pleasure. He is a joy to listen to and it seems that his excitement for the show spills over onto other members of the cast and crew as well. No matter the mixture of participants, it’s always a lively and engaging discussion and there’s plenty to be learned every time out. As expected, Chiklis is quite a firecracker and he really adds a lot to the 5 discussions he’s involved in. There are far too many topics and far too many discussions across the 13 episodes to bring up each and every item, so you’ll just have to take my word that they’re all equally interesting and engaging. Fox has provided us with the mother lode of audio commentaries and information on The Shield and I for one, couldn’t be happier. Super job.
The Making of “The Shield” (21:25) is next and it gives us our standard fare behind-the-scenes featurette with lots of interviews from the cast and crew and most of them spend their few moments on-screen discussing the edgy nature of the show and its characters. Ryan and others discuss the creation of the show and their motivations for doing it. We also cover the style of the show and its edgy camerawork and cinematography, as well as the iterations that the show went through in order to come to the final product we see on the set. There’s a bit of character study that goes on for all of the main players and a lot, if not all of the information, is rehash from the multiple commentaries heard earlier. However, it’s a nice addition nonetheless. There’s not a ton of social commentary to be gleaned from the extra and what we’re left with is a really nice and precise introduction to the show and its characters. Interviews are conducted with Michael Chiklis (Vic), Shawn Ryan (Creator/Executive Producer), Benito Martinez (David), Kenneth Johnson (Lemonhead), CCH Pounder (Claudette), Michael Jace (Julien), Clark Johnson (Director of “Pilot”, “The Spread”, and “Blowback”), Jay Karnes (Dutch), and Catherine Dent (Danny).
Following is ”The Shield” FX Featurette (2:28) and while very similar in style to Making, it really serves more as a teaser for Season Two of the show. There’s a lot of rehash from the first featurette and nothing new is really brought to the table. Interviewees on this extra include Michael Chiklis (Vic) and Shawn Ryan (Creator/Executive Producer). By the way, Season Two premieres on FX on January 7, 2003 – the same day that Season One will be released on DVD.
The Pilot Script follows and by using our DVD remote, we are allowed to browse through the script for the pilot episode of The Shield. Nice for all of you future screenwriters out there, but admittedly it’s a bit laborious to get through for the rest of us. Even so, it’s nice to have and I appreciate Fox adding it to the set.
Casting Tapes are a nice find and included, we find the actual tapes for each of the main stars of the show. Included are Michael Chiklis (1:18), Catherine Dent (1:54), Walton Goggins (1:59), Michael Jace (3:11), Kenneth Johnson (2:02), Jay Karnes (2:07), Benito Martinez (1:39), and CCH Pounder (3:39). There’s no –PLAY ALL- feature included and each of the tapes must be selected individually.
Last up are 17 Deleted Scenes from the show. As mentioned in my –VIDEO- section, the scenes are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and each is given a quick introduction from executive producer Shawn Ryan as to what we’re about to see and why it was cut. The scenes were an incredible addition to the set and it’s unfortunate that most of them had to be dropped due to time constraints placed on the show. Being a television series, there’s simply not as much room for additional footage as there might be for a feature film and here’s a collection of scenes that suffered because of that fact. Scenes included are: “Episode 100: Danny and Julien”, “Episode 100: Dutch Checks on Dr. Grady”, “Episode 100: Julien’s Blowjob”, “Episode 101: At the Funeral”, “Episode 102: Vic Takes A Raincheck”, “Episode 102: David and Desk Sergeant Nathan”, “Episode 102: Dutch Finds the Body”, “Episode 103: Vic & Claudette in the Kitchen”, “Episode 103: Shockley Congratulates Julien”, “Episode 105: The Porta-Politics”, “Episode 106: Julien & Tomas’ Job Application”, “Episode 108: Dutch Comes to Kim’s Rescue”, “Episode 108: Lemonhead & Tigre Lover’s Quarrel”, “Episode 109: Claudette Suggests New Material”, “Episode 111: Melissa Cries to Claudette”, “Episode 112: Lightbulbs”, and “Episode 112: Vic’s Breakdown”. Again, Fox neglects to add a –PLAY ALL- feature, but it’s really no big deal. The scenes are all worth checking out and their addition only makes this set that much stronger.
This is a truly incredible set of extras and Fox has just upped the ante on how a television series should be released on DVD. The commentaries are incredible and the rest of the extras, while good in their own right, are simply icing on the cake.
Fox’s currently broadcasts the two best shows on television – one being 24 and the other being The Shield. Thankfully, the network with the best shows is owned by the studio that releases the best TV series boxed sets around – Fox. The show itself is flawless and perfect in every respect and while I wish Fox had decided to release the show in widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, you won’t hear any other complaints out of my mouth other than “Give us Season Two as quick as humanly possible!”
Do I need to spell it out for you? The Shield: Season 1 comes highly recommended.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Making-Of “The Shield”
- FX Featurette
- Pilot Script
- Casting Tapes
- Deleted Scenes