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TV Series Review

Meet Los Angeles detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis of Daddio and The Commish fame). He’s got a hair-trigger temper, more secrets than the State Department and an ego the size of a Naval dockyard. Best described as a "dirty cop," Vic is obsessed with control and power. He’s a tough guy with a capital T, protecting and serving ... himself.

The FX television series he’s showcased in, The Shield, premiered last spring in front of the biggest audience the basic cable channel has ever seen. That’s largely because it was billed as "the series too intense for network TV." It more than fulfilled that promise. Onscreen nudity, violence and gore are only a few notches shy of The Sopranos) Vulgar and profane language includes numerous unbleeped s-words, demeaning sexual slang and abuses of Jesus’ name.

The season premiere opened with a bound man being doused with gasoline and set on fire. As his engulfed body convulses and his screams intensify, his killers cheerfully turn up the volume on a boom box playing nearby. And the perps aren’t the worst guys here. Vic and his "boys" respond in kind, using gasoline and a lighter to extort money from a drug runner. The smuggler winds up in jail where he belongs, but viewers know Vic arrested him primarily to inflate his own wretched bank account. One episode later, Vic’s right-hand man threatens to rape a woman if she doesn’t give him the information he wants (a scene so disturbing and graphic it brings to mind the rape scene from the R-rated 1988 movie The Accused). Vic even murders a fellow officer.

To its credit, The Shield does explore Vic’s inner turmoil and self-doubt, exposing the repercussions of criminal activity. But it spends far more time glorifying crime. Corruption is status quo. Viewers are asked to root for what amounts to a gaggle of hardened gangsters hiding behind police badges in order to expand their turf. Vic’s motto? "I’m just trying to do some good. Deliver some karmic justice." In the process, fans are exposed to images and story lines of drug abuse, torture, mutilation, dismemberment, prostitution, sadomasochism, pedophilic rape and a "Christian" having gay sex. If there were any justice in the world of TV, The Shield would be, at the very least, banished to the HBO/Showtime-infested cesspool of pay cable.

Episodes Reviewed: Jan. 7, 21, 28, Feb. 4, 2003

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Steven Isaac

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