Friday, August 28, 2015

Pilot Review: Public Morals

Public Morals (TNT)
Premiered August 25 at 10pm

It seems that a new show set in a memorable decade from the 20th century with a specific theme related to law enforcement premieres every few months, usually in the form of a miniseries. TNT, which made the short-lived “Mob City,” which I somehow missed when it premiered last year, has chosen 1960s New York City as its setting and the cops charged with keeping the city safe from all forms of denigration as its focus. As expected, that heavily involves the mob and plenty of corruption on the part of the police officers who are supposed to be protecting the city from negative influences. Ed Burns’ Terry Muldoon even goes as far as to spell it out explicitly for a new recruit, pointing out that these crimes are victimless and someone has to keep the peace. This familiar premise comes with the usual predictable traits, characters who espouse their deep moral values and then contradict them at evert turn, excessive force used to intimidate both good guys and bad guys, and people with unfortunate attachments that cloud their judgment and will likely lead to problematic places. Burns definitely nails the vibe, and Michael Rappaport is also a good fit for the character he’s playing. It’s hard to get too attached to anything else on this show that feels like a pale imitator of “Boardwalk Empire” removed a few decades with a far less compelling style and characters. I didn’t have high hopes for this show, and nothing about this pilot did anything to exceed them.

How will it work as a series? The episode-ending execution shows that the Public Morals division does not have nearly the hold on the city and its criminal elements as its members think they do, and so they’re going to have to battle internal and external enemies, which should travel down a path that anyone who has watched a crime-related drama before will surely recognize.
How long will it last? Despite decent reviews, this show is all but guaranteed to follow in the footsteps of its similarly-themed predecessor. The ratings for the debut installment were lower than TNT’s other current offerings, even those whose numbers aren’t much to write home about. I’d expect the initial ten episodes to serve as the entirety of this show’s run.

Pilot grade: C-

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