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The Shield Oral History

I watched this phenomenal show as it aired and it was one of my all-time favorites. Because there’s never been a sequel or reboot, it’s sort of faded from memory, but this article reminded me how first-rate it is.

The storylines are all a blur now, but I remember being taken by the run-and-gun cinematography, the naturalistic casting (wherein characters looked like real people, not TV mannequins) and the top-class, season-long guest stars like Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker. Even though it had ad breaks for broadcast, it was really a “streaming” show ahead of its time.

The best way to understand it narratively is as the “undercover” genre stood on its head: the bad guys are secretly “undercover” as the cops!

Every episode had a wonderful sense of tension and out-of-control mayhem—with Michael Chiklis as an all-time great antihero. (I seem to remember some controversy as to how dark to make his character. Sometimes they put him in colored undershirts to literally lighten him up.)

And they totally stuck the landing for the finale. Bravo.

I used to see David Marciano, who played Det. Billings, in the Ralph’s at Third and La Brea, and would say, “Keep up the great work.” I remember him acknowledging, but not like, “Go away, fan”—he seemed genuinely proud and pleased to be on such a good show.

I did notice in the article no mention whatsoever of Michael Jace, who I thought was terrific as the repressed gay cop, Julian Lowe. Not to harp on a terrible tragedy, but he is currently serving time for murdering his wife—awful.

I loved this show but for whatever reason never watched anything else by the creator, Shawn Ryan, or the writers who worked under him (Sons of Anarchy by Kurt Sutter). Only so many hours in the day, I suppose—and I got my crime fill from the Breaking Bad world.

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