Shots Fired (FOX) pilot preview: A lesser American Crime

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Also known as Indictment. Created & directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights, The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball). Co-created by Reggie Rock-Bythewood (Notorious BIG, Players, New York Undercover). Produced by Francie Calfo (Empire) & Brian Grazer (24, Friday Night Lights, Gang Related, Arrested Development). For FOX, 20th Century FOX Television, Imagine Television & Undisputed Cinema. 63 pages.

Description: A black officer shoots a white teen in a racially charged Tennessee town. Considering the unusual circumstances of this case, two out-of-town black prosecutors are brought in to sort through the evidence and find out what really happened. As the community grows anxious and the country is buzzing, Preston Terry and Ashe Bell must keep personal bias and suspicions to themselves to seek the truth…

With Sanaa Lathan (Nip/Tuck, Boss, Family Guy, Alien Vs Predator, Out of Time), Stephan James (Selma), Helen Hunt (Mad About You, As Good As It Gets, Twister), Richard Dreyfuss (Weeds, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Conor Leslie (Klondike, Other Space), Aisha Hinds (Under The Dome, True Blood), Tristan Wilds (The Wire, 90210DeWanda Wise

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I’ve just finished my American Crime season 1 binge-watching when I’m writing this article. So, sorry if this brilliant show comes up a lot during the following review but the truth is they share a lot and even though Shots Fired is a decent pilot script, it can’t compare to American Crime‘s. In any way. That’s said. The FOX “event series” as they call it -meaning it’s written as a miniseries but it could get a second one with a new story if it works- is described by the proud network as a “mystery-thriller drama”, but I don’t think it really fits with what I’ve read. It’s a cop show, mostly. Yeah, it doesn’t sound as exciting but it’s closer to the truth. And a few very serialized cop shows like The Killing are great so it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad and generic. Mystery implicates surprising plot twists and twisted characters. Not that kind of show. Thriller means suspense and action. Not that kind of show either.

At its core, Shots Fired tells the story of a detective investigation led by two very different people, whose main common thread is to be… highly desirable. And it doesn’t take long before they start being flirtatious. Yeah, it was obvious from the pitch it was going to happen. At least, they don’t try to hide it. Just a few pages and we’re right in the middle of it. Well… It took 9 seasons for Mulder & Scully. Why do I talk about those two beloved characters? Because they’re back and because when you look closely at the pitch of Shots Fired, it’s like The X-Files, without the monsters or any supernatural events. Except, maybe, the monsters are humans hiding in this town.

American Crime is an anomaly on ABC. It’s a cable show from start to finish. Shots Fired is very networky. It means it gets a better chance to work, especially if FOX decides to pair it with Empire, since they share a producer and most of all a potential afro-american audience with two black leads and a racially-charged topic. And I’m okay with it, don’t get me wrong. It’s cool to have a fair entertaining show that treats a subject which is resonating with the news, with America. Especially when the next presidential election is coming. Oh but.. FOX means… FOX News. And FOX News means Republican propaganda. Means Donald Trump! Means misinformation and guns for all. And suddenly I’m afraid the show could be instrumental for the campaign. And that’s a scary thought… But NOTHING in the pilot script resembled any sort of propaganda. And the writers are black themselves. It’s safe to assume it’s all gonna be OK.

Shots Fired tries to be realistic mostly, and that’s where I have a little disapointment: the script is not detailed to the point where you can really feel the atmosphere of this little town in Tennessee smothering you, like Modesto did in American Crime. There’s not the same raw emotion either. They want us to be comfortable in front of our TV. And when you decide to talk about such a sensitive subject, making people comfortable is not the best way to make your point, in my opinion. It should be a punch in the face. It should make you feel pain, you should be able to sense the despair of the population. Let’s take an example: there’s the mother of the victim. We briefly met her during one of those classical interrogation scenes we’ve seen a thousand times before in every cop show. There’s no emotion coming out of it. At least on the page. It’s lazy. And that’s a real problem to me. Then you think about Felicity Huffman’s character in American Crime, also the mother of the victim, and it’s definitely another level… But it’s not fair to compare words with acting. That being said, as a network show, it works. It’s efficient. You want to see more. It’s a good place to start and you can only hope it’s gonna get more ambitious along the way, more complex, more subtle. One can dream, hum?

With Shots Fired, the real question is not “Is it any good?” but “Is it up to the challenge?”. And I really fear it’s not. It needs to be ‘cos it’s serious stuff here, it’s politics. You can’t fuck this up. It would be a shame. It’s too important these days. This love story they’re forcing between the leads doesn’t reassure me at all, honestly. So okay, you understood me: Shots Fired is not American Crime. Never will be. It’s not great but it’s not bad either. Let the writers call the shots. We’ll see what they’re capable of.

 

NEXT: DESIGNATED SURVIVOR (ABC)

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