“To Project and To Serve” is the proud motto of the Los Angeles Police Department. Itchy and Scratchy famously altered this to “To Protect and To Sever” in a Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror episode – it’s likely they took their cue from Vic Mackey’s strike team, the axis of The Shield, FX Network‘s uncompromising cop drama that shows the grimy shit-stained streets of LA’s gangland in all their tarnished glory.
“Personally I prefer a different type of motherfucker – one knee deep in corruption and balls deep in some whore”
Television is a ghetto and its cops are suitably diverse. You may prefer a Wagner loving intellectual like Morse or perhaps you prefer one who seduces his mother like Gabriel Kent from The Bill (incest now being socially acceptable for those that ain’t know). Personally I prefer a different type of motherfucker – one knee deep in corruption and balls deep in some whore as he figures out a way to make the dead John she just put 15 holes in disappear.
“Vic and his crew police the Latino community with all the cultural sensitivity of Prince Philip paying a visit to Chinatown.”
Vic (played with grisly intensity by Michael Chiklis) and his crew police the Latino community with all the cultural sensitivity of Prince Philip paying a visit to Chinatown. Latino gangs dominate the first two seasons and the strike team spend much of their time bursting out of an SUV to crack some heads with the help of an English-Spanish phrase book. In a scene we don’t see, Vic’s boneheaded underling Shane spends 8 hours asking a 16 stone Los Mags gangbanger the way to the beach. What’s Spanish for “you’re nicked, you slaaaaaaag”?
The strike team cuts deals with the drug traffickers – offering them protection from the law and rival gangs for a percentage of the profits. Such corrupt arrangements mean that the dealers get to deliver their product to the fiends, the strike team’s clean-up rate stays high and the body-count stays low – at least that’s the theory. But Vic’s boys leave a trail of bodies behind them like so many cigarette butts. Vic tries to keep a lid on the slaughter but the intoxicating mix of guns, drugs and boredom ensures a steady flow of John Doe. The strike team have their own Inter City Firm style calling cards printed up and they get a 35% discount for body tags when they buy in bulk.
“This is classic div behaviour so a pat on the back for FX Networks for their well-researched, sensitive handling of this complex issue.”
But just like the kid from the 80s NatWest advert it’s not all “work, work, work” for Vic as he has a charming wife and two children. His son is autistic which is American for div. Vic struggles to get his div kid into a div school where he can mix with other div kids. Div kid has stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms and struggles to empathise with other children. This is classic div behaviour so a pat on the back for FX Networks for their well-researched sensitive handling of this complex issue.
“There’s a crossover I’d like to see – Vic and crew stomping out Claude Greengrass for sheep rustling as Freddie and The Dreamers’ “how do you do what you do to me?” plays in the background”
The parents’ suspicions of divvidom in their child are raised by anti-social behaviour, violence and inability to perceive other people’s point of view. Vic is all “I don’t know where he gets it from”. Has he been watching the same cop show I have? Perhaps he sat on the controls and inadvertently switched over to Heartbeat? There’s a crossover I’d like to see – Vic and crew stomping out Claude Greengrass for sheep rustling as Freddie and The Dreamers’ “how do you do what you do to me?” plays in the background.
The Shield is often compared to The Wire – dealing as it does in urban American drug wars and the morally ambiguous cops policing them. The Wire’s more sophisticated slow-paced exposition generally wins the chin-rubbers’ approval but The Shield is a very smart show with superiour narrative flair to The Wire and is supremely confident in its own skin. Rather like Mackey it swaggers through each episode following its own rules, totally at ease with its own conventions and quirks. The Shield is no sixteen pass Globetrotters play – it’s a straight slam dunk that shatters the perspex behind the hoop followed by a flurry of buckshot over the heads of the crowd.
“Justice comes in the form of a pissed-off bruiser with three inches of mangunt and a div kid to support.”
This is urban America – justice doesn’t come in the form of community outreach programmes or a well-meaning talking-to from uniformed po-po. It comes in the form of a pissed-off bruiser with three inches of mangunt and a div kid to support. Like Shakima Greggs from The Wire has it: “You rogue motherfuckers kill me… fighting the war on drugs, one brutality case at a time.”
Anyone got a better plan?
The best thing about it: It never flinches. From pretty much anything actually.
The worst thing about it: The nu-metal motif can grate a touch.
The verdict on The Shield:“They’ll kill ten of me to get the job correct – to serve, protect and break a nigga’s neck” Ice Cube
Marks out of 10: 8