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TV Series Review

Harrison Brennan was a doctor, a husband, a father. He was black.

Now he’s dead.

He made the mistake of going to a Chicago convenience store late one night, shedding his surgeon scrubs for a hoodie. A crook robbed the place, slugged the manager with a gun and ran off. When Harrison tried to help the injured man, Officer Paul Evans saw the black man and the screaming injured manager in what appeared to be a confrontation, and he pulled the trigger of his service revolver. Twice.

In a fraction of a second, life ended for Harrison—and the lives of many were forever changed.

Show-cially Aware

Paul was exonerated by the federal government. Now he’s back in a squad car, trying to make Chicago a little safer—all he got into the force to do, honestly. But just because the government said he wasn’t a criminal doesn’t mean he’s not potentially culpable. A $5 million civil lawsuit filed against him and the city ensures that the awful mistake never leaves his consciousness.

Not that it would anyway. Again, the government can say he did nothing wrong. But that doesn’t erase Paul’s guilt—or the fact that his old partner, without his knowledge, took the store’s security footage in order to protect him.

“A month from now? No one’s going to care about you,” she says. “Or Harrison Brennan.”

Daniel Calder, Harrison’s husband, is the guy who filed the lawsuit, of course. He and his adopted daughter, Jira, don’t need the money—but they sure could stand some closure. Harrison’s death has been hard on their relationship. It doesn’t help that Jira’s black, like Harrison, and that Daniel’s white. When Daniel tells her that he wishes every day that he’d died instead, Jira shoots back, “It never would’ve happened to you!” The teen wants a parent who not only loves her, but looks like her, too.

Jira’s birth mom is quite close by, turns out, unbeknownst to her. Tia Young was just 15 years old when she had Jira—a baby not only adopted by Harrison, but delivered by him as well. And as Jira has grieved Harrison’s death, Tia has watched from only a slight remove.

But circumstances make it difficult to forge a relationship. You see, Tia’s no longer a scared 15-year-old, but a wife and mother with her own little boy to think about. Maybe more importantly, she’s running for Chicago’s city council. And if her living, breathing, youthful indiscretion was known to everyone, her political career would implode. Or so she fears.

Crossing the Line

CBS seems to be targeting one demographic with The Red Line: folks who are fans both of NBC’s This Is Us and of progressive politics. It’s so woke that makers of caffeine tablets should really talk to CBS about potential branding partnerships.

I say this without finger-pointing, by the way. Or, at least much. Listen, we face some really vexing social issues in this country, but I’m not sure if a self-serious, shallow network drama is the most effective place to deal with them.

The show’s sense of sexuality is perhaps the biggest social-issues hook where The Red Line tries to draw attention. While most every new series features a LBGTQ character or two, this one makes its leading man a gay man who’s grieving his husband even as the show seems to suggest a new romance might be just around the corner. It adds another LGBTQ element wth Jira’s BFF, who identifies as nonbinary. (When that character, Riley, laments the fact that Riley’s brother won’t call the character “they,” as the Riley wants, Jira mocks the brother for playing too much Dungeons & Dragons.)

But while many a discerning Christian family may recoil from the show’s unbiblical sense of sexuality (and many a conservative will fume at its reactive sociopolitical bent), The Red Line offers some positive elements, too. And they begin with its adoption storyline.

Sometimes, entertainment suggests that moms dealing with an unwanted pregnancy have just two choices: to keep the baby, or to abort it. The Red Line stresses that there’s a third path—and perhaps the most honorable of all. When Tia struggles with her decision to contact Jira, she admits to her husband that she just wants to do the right thing. “You did,” he says, “when you gave her up.”

We know—and are told repeatedly—that giving birth to a baby isn’t the same as being a mother, and that parenthood has little to do with DNA: It’s about being there for your kid every day. But that doesn’t minimize what a birth mom might feel for her baby, or the child’s desire to know where she came from.

The show has gone relatively light on content, too. Sexual identity may constitute a significant element of the show’s dramatic context, but we don’t actually see a lot of sex. Violence takes a back seat to personal relationships. Even the language is dialed back from what you’d typically expect to hear in an edgy drama these days. It features a pretty likable cast, too.

But while The Red Line offers some merit in spots, that’s a little like saying a steak-turned-charcoal-briquette is redeemed by a dollop of applesauce on the side. Even as it tries to cater to the This Is Us crowd, the show leaves behind that popular NBC series’ wit, writing and heart. What CBS hoped would be an inspiring drama turns dispiriting and disquieting instead.

The Red Line is technically named after the train line that Tia’s husband drives and that Jira and Daniel occasionally ride. But it works so much better as advice for what viewers should do if they see the show written, for some reason, on their calendar: Take a red pen and draw a line right through it.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

April 28, 2019: "We Must All Care/We Are Each Other’s Harvest"



Readability Age Range





Noah Wyle as Daniel Calder; Emayatzy Corinealdi as Tia Young; Noel Fisher as Paul Evans; Howard Charles as Ethan Young; Aliyah Royale as Jira Calder-Brennan; Michael Patrick Thornton as Jim Evans; Vinny Chhibber as Liam Bhatt; Elizabeth Laidlaw as Vic Renna






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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