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Featured TV on DVD Review: Detroit 1-8-7: Season One

August 28th, 2011

Detroit 1-8-7: Season One - Buy from Amazon

Detroit 1-8-7 is a police procedural set in the Detroit homicide division. Since Law and Order debuted more than 20 years ago, police procedurals arguably have been the most common genre on TV and there is still a flood of them on air right now. In fact, last week I reviewed two of them. So Detroit 1-8-7 needs a hook to stand out and draw viewers in. Does it deliver?

The Show

In a word: No. When the show was developed it did have an interesting hook. The show was going to be a mockumentary and everything we saw was going to be seen through a documentary camera that was part of the action. However, in-between the time the original pilot was shot and the show was picked up for TV, that aspect of the show was dropped. I've read many stories that said it was due to an actual shooting on one of the real cop shows. I don't know if that's 100% true, but an incident like that would certainly frighten a TV executive.

So without the mockumentary, what are we left with? A solid, but unremarkable police procedural. The show does have a good cast, led by Michael Imperioli, who is no stranger to the genre, having been in both Law & Order, one of the no-frills examples of the genre, and Life on Mars, one of the more high-concept examples. Here he plays Detective Louis Fitch, a ten-year veteran who has just been teamed up with Damon Washington, who is on his first day on the job. 30-year vet, Sergeant. Jesse Longford is partnered with Detective Vikram Mahajan, whose parents immigrated for the faraway land of Canada. (That's not true. The character is Indian, but the actor is actually from Newfoundland, Canada.) The last pairing is Detective Ariana Sanchez, who comes from one of the poorer neighborhoods in Detroit, who after the first episode is teamed up with John Stone, who just transferred from undercover narcotics work. The whole unit is run by Lieutenant Maureen Mason while Dr. Abbey Ward is the coroner.

It's a good cast with strong chemistry and there are many really compelling mysteries. However, the season does start out a little slow, likely because they had to retool it without the mockumentary angle. (Also, some of the character are a little heavy on the quirkiness to start with, which can be off-putting, not to mention it interfered with the authenticity they were otherwise going for.) And without the main hook, there's little here to set it apart from the crowd. It's good, but it's not so good that it can reinvent the genre. Finally, it was canceled. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, but I can understand taking that into consideration when deciding whether or not to get into a show. Do you want to risk loving this show while knowing it will cease to exist after just 18 episodes?

The Extras

There are no extras on this four-disc set.

The Verdict

Detroit 1-8-7: Season One has a lot of strong elements, but the end result was not enough to save the show from the incredible competition. By the time it ended its run, it had lost about half of its initial viewers. The DVD doesn't offer anything besides the episodes, so I'm not sure its worth picking up, even if you were a devoted fan. If you have never seen the show, it is worth checking out, if you are willing to watch a show for 18 episodes knowing its already over.


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