– By Michael Arceneaux
During the first commercial break of the new NBC drama, Shades of Blue, I received the following text message: “When the f**k did J.Lo get to be a good actress?”
There are two types of critiques about Jennifer Lopez the actress that I often feel are unfair. The first being that she is not a solid actress. I’ve never held that belief, only I do believe for every Selena or Out of Sight, there are the majority of other film roles. Most of them lack complexity, which makes it not totally surprising to notice some see Lopez display depth and range and wonder if she’s been possessed by the spirit of a more gifted talent.
I’m not sure whether that’s a symptom of Lopez’s choice in roles or the roles Hollywood has offered her over the years. I assume it’s the latter so it makes sense that Lopez, like many other minority actresses, have turned to television for better opportunities to show what she can do. Though it remains to be seen if
Shades of Blue will prove to be that, based on the pilot, Lopez appears to be in good hands.
Lopez plays Detective Harlee Santos,a single-mother and right hand to Lt. Bill Wozniak, played by Ray Liotta. They are crooked cops full of righteous indignation. In their minds, their bribe-taking and other law-evading activities are just because they’re doing what’s necessary to keep their precinct safe. Similarly, their paltry pay rate makes their supplemental income a necessity. Unfortunately, Lopez finds herself caught and subsequently forced to work in the FBI’s anti-corruption task force for no other reason than she can’t bear to go jail and leave her teenage daughter behind.
When I saw Det. Santos get placed in handcuffs and hauled away, all I could think was yet another white man is ruining Jennifer Lopez’s career. I immediately flashbacked to Jenny’s time with Ben Affleck. Forgive me for being very Flashback Friday right now, but that was a very dark period in my life.
That said, while I do think the plot twist makes for an interesting show premise, I do wonder exactly how long Shades of Blue can work as a show. There are so many shows on television now with strong premises that seemingly have short shelf lives. When they become hits, the networks stretch them out far longer than they should — typically ruining what should’ve been a short and sweet yet enjoyable run.
I’m curious to see how the writers make this show work beyond a single season, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the good acting from each cast member that spares Shades of Blue from being yet another cop show that we don’t need.
Admittedly, though, my immediate reaction to the show within its first few minutes was that Jennifer Lopez is the most glamorous police officer that I’ve ever seen. That leads me to the other critique about Lopez that wears me: the focus on how pretty she is and how it’s purportedly distracting when she’s playing roles like a maid or police officer. I may be caught up in Lopez’s beauty, but not to the point where I ever feel it makes her roles implausible.
To be fair to the Bronx’s greatest creation (sorry, everyone else) I don’t think it’s possible for Jennifer Lopez to look bad. She literally cannot help it. Some people need to suck that truth up and let that boring line of criticism go already.
As gorgeous a crooked cop as Lopez looks, it does negate shift from her character being anything but. She is someone who takes money in exchange for looking the other way. She is someone who is supposed to enforce the law, but finds herself covering up the wrongful shooting deaths of unarmed citizens. To wit, when I hear Santos stage a cold-blooded killing as a clean shooting by quipping “the truth is in the paperwork,” I can’t help but hear that line, think about the times we live in, and cringe a little.
Worse, Santos is unapologetic and essentially cold in her hypocrisy. She has truly convinced herself that what she does is worth it. That makes for a rather unlikable character on paper, but what I like about that is Lopez could have easily played someone easier and safer, but she opted for this role anyway. She wanted something messier and challenging.
It’s about time.