New cop show succeeds by shining light on men behind the badge

Do you like watching rookie cops on their first day on the job? Have shows like The Chicago Code, Rookie Blue and Southland not been enough for your fix of naïve police officers learning what the streets are really like?

CBS’ new drama NYC 22 is yet another show about six diverse new cops learning the ropes while walking the beat of the 22nd Precinct in Manhattan. They are made up of a former Marine, an ex-NBA player, a fired newspaper reporter, the sister of a gang member, an Afghani immigrant and the classic cop from a family of cops who knows he has big shoes to fill.

Surprisingly, these characters are able to get past their stereotypes in the pilot, with well-written scenes between each other that build up their personalities believably.

The ethnic diversity of the cast seems a little silly and obvious for network television, but their likeability overrides this. These are solid characters for a police drama. They might not be revolutionary in any way, but they’re not generic names and faces either.

That does not mean the stories are anything special so far. Gang fights in the street and a domestic dispute make up the two most important plots of the premiere. These are plot points that have been seen on many cop shows in the past ten years. For network television, however, it’s deeper than most have gone in depicting violence since NYPD Blue.

NYC 22 won’t be as serialized as The Chicago Code and definitely not as character-driven as Southland. It will probably strike a balance between the two, though more emphasis will be on the characters than the plots. The pilot does do a pretty good job of setting up the future stories the show is sure to get to this season.

More than anything, NYC 22 feels incredibly out of place on CBS. The network known for inoffensive procedurals like NCIS and CSI is not the place I’d expect to see a fairly gritty cop drama with Jay-Z’s “Heart of the City” as its theme song. Because of this, it probably won’t survive, which is unfortunate. It doesn’t fit with CBS’s brand, and will likely be rejected by that network’s core older viewers.

NYC 22 isn’t a great show, but it is a pretty good one. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but does a fine job at working within it to tell its story. If it was on another network or a cable channel, it might have a better future. But CBS isn’t the place for dramas with a young cast or ones with long-running storylines, and NYC 22 deserves better.