DETROIT 1-8-7 “Pilot” Review

Detroit 1-8-7 Pilot

Finally, the much anticipated, at least by me, pilot episode of DETROIT 1-8-7 made its debut. Detroit 1-8-7 is a Homicide Life on the Street meets a NYPD Blue meets the Office show. Originally intended to be in a documentary style (hence the Office reference), the writers changed it up a bit after getting a bit of flack from the real City of Detroit officials who were concerned with the image of the city as portrayed in the show. It is one thing to have the show entirely fictionalized, I suppose, than have it portrayed as a documentary or “real.” Unfortunately, that left the show a bit stilted. At times it was clear that it was supposed to be in documentary style, like when a witness grunts directly into the camera, but the rest of the time it was shot like a normal show. The combination turned me off a bit. I can only hope that with each new episode, the show will correct itself and find its groove.

Detroit 1-8-7 centers around the homicide division of the City of Detroit Police Department. We are immediately introduced to a slew of characters. Our main guy is Det Louis Fitch (Michael Imperoli), a 10 year veteran, who is a bit antisocial and awkward, but really good at his job. He is paired with Det. Damon Washington on his first day in homicide. Det Washington had the highest conviction rate at his precinct, but spends his first day in homicide bumbling around, throwing up and taking phone calls from his wife who is expecting their first child any minute. Washington set a particular ringtone for his wife and instructed her to only call when she was sure she is in labor. However, since it is her first baby, she is never sure. Thus, Washington gets calls at inopportune moments such as when they are telling a woman her daughter was murdered or when he is apprehending a suspect.

Other characters include Sgt Jesse Longford who plans on buying a house in Tuscany and retiring. Anyone want to take bets on whether that actually happens? He is partnered with Det Aman Mahajan whom we really do not learn that much about. Rounding out the detectives, we have Det. Ariana Sanchez, a sharp tongued strong and attractive woman who is later partnered with Det John Stone, a former undercover cop who was recently promoted to detective. Stone is teased about being a model cop as he posed as Mr. February in the police officer charity calendar. In charge of this crew is Lt Maureen Mason who seems to be a no nonsense take charge leader.

The show starts off immediately with three murders. Two occur at a pharmacy and appear to involve a personal vendetta as one of the victims is shot multiple times. The third murder is of a divorce attorney who is found in a train at the bottom of a bridge. Fitch and Washington investigate the first one and Longford and Mahajan investigate the second one. It isn’t until much later in the episode that they discover how closely related the three murders are and a manhunt, hostage situation and ultimate officer shooting take place.

Since this is the first episode of Detroit 1-8-7, I thought that I would share what I thought worked and didn’t work in the show. I thought Michael Imperoli did an outstanding job with his character. It is difficult to capture the combination of awkward and brilliant, but he was able to do so. I loved Fitch’s quirks like the fact that he would call Washington from his cell phone to tell him what he did wrong at a crime scene even though he was sitting across from him or in the same coffee house as him. In the end, when he actually speaks to Washington face-to-face, we get the impression that perhaps Fitch has accepted Washington a bit. Since they started off with a “And I don’t like you” comment by Fitch, that definitely shows improvement. I also liked how they gave Washington some vulnerabilities and weaknesses since this was his first day. His interview with a suspect was just a disaster (compare with Fitch’s brilliant and patiently obtained confession), he threw up at his first murder scene, and he almost let an arrestee escape while chained to a slide just to take his wife’s phone call. Even the criminal has to say “you taking that call?” incredulously. Meanwhile, Fitch’s monologue when he is in the hostage situation was nothing short of amazing.

What I didn’t think worked, at least for this episode, was the introduction of so many characters. Perhaps it is the docmentary style name and information flashed on the screen that signaled I needed to pay attention to them and that made me then try to keep track of 8 characters at once. I prefer that we learn a little about each character as we go, which I think is where we are headed. Tonight was more Fitch and Washington centered. Perhaps next week we can explore Langford and Mahajan or Sanchez and Stone more.

I was impressed with the storyline and the culimination of events at the end. If the last scene didn’t get to you, I would be surprised. I think this show has a lot of potential. Already I am wondering what is going to happen with Fitch and Washington next week. I am also intrigued a bit by Sanchez. If the show can manage to pull me into the other characters, I could see myself becoming a huge fan quickly.

What did you think of Detroit 1-8-7? Did you like the characters and the story? Would you prefer the docmentary style or the old school cop show style? Do you think this show has staying power? Share your thoughts about the pilot episode in the comments below.

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