Jon Michael Hill, left, and Michael Imperioli are shown in a scene from the series, 'Detroit 1-8-7.'
DETROIT — ABC's new cop drama Detroit 1-8-7 has all the local flavor of club soda in a Vernors bottle.
This is especially disappointing because of the show's considerable buzz. It is the only drama to be shot here in its entirety — with the exception of the pilot — all the while pumping millions of dollars into the city's economy. But if the pilot is any indication, the producers and writers behind Detroit 1-8-7 have some homework to do.
For starters, the storyline follows a group of homicide detectives. The star is Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos fame.
Yes, Imperioli is a tremendous actor, and his scenes are impressive, but everything about him screams New York, not Detroit. When asked in a separate
interview about being synonymous with New York, Imperioli said his character is a Big Apple transplant who has lived in Detroit for nearly a decade.
At least Imperioli tries to alter his accent and phrasings to sound like he could live
here, but the same can't be said for some of the actors sharing the screen with him.
In one scene, an accused drug dealer is brought in for questioning, and in an accent more commonly found in Los Angeles, he says, “You just drank the last of my soda.”
Huh? We don't say soda in Detroit. We say pop. In another part of the show, Lt. Maureen Mason (Brooklyn, N.Y., native Aisha Hinds, True Blood) is screaming at a corrections officer over the phone and says “slice” when referring to piece of pizza.
That's a New York turn of phrase, no? The only character who feels like a Detroiter is Sgt. Jesse Longford (James McDaniel, NYPD Blue), and he's a secondary player.
On the surface, these seem like minute and easy to overlook details, but they are not. When a show is called Detroit 1-8-7, the city is the main character and therefore the characters should genuinely reflect that city.
Look at NYPD Blue. Dennis Franz oozed New York out of every pore. Not only was he a detective in that city, he was the city.
HBO's The Wire is another prime example. Even when the stars didn't have that Baltimore edge, the supporting actors did and when they spoke, you could hear the blue crab on their tongues.
If Detroit 1-8-7 doesn't get the flavor of the city and fast, producers should change the name to Cleveland 1-8-7 because without that title, the show feels like just another police procedural with the blur of Woodward Avenue and a quick nod to American Coney Island — not Lafayette — in the background. It doesn't help that about 50 percent of the pilot was shot in Atlanta last winter.
As a generic crime drama, the show holds up.
Producers eliminated all the documentary-style scenes from the original pilot out of sensitivity to the accidental shooting death of Aiyanna Stanley-Jones, the 7-year-old girl who died during a Detroit Police raid in May. A camera crew from A&E's The First 48 was shadowing officers at the time.
In turn, the newly shot scenes, which account for a quarter of the episode, give the show a more seamless feel.
The detectives also are well-developed and easy to follow. Imperioli's character, Detective Louis Fitch, has a dark past that begs for further pursuit. There also seems to be an untouched chemistry between him and Detective Ariana Sanchez
(Natalie Martinez) that could heat up and become something intriguing.
Throw in the partnership between Longford and Detective Aman Mahajan (Shaun Majumder), and there are some relationships worth investing in.
However, the relationship that needs to be pursued the most is the one with Detroit itself.