'Gang Related': TV Review
Thursday at 9 p.m. on Fox, beginning May 22
Terry O'Quinn, Ramon Rodriguez, RZA, Cliff Curtis, Jay Hernandez, Sung Kang, Inbar Lavi
Viewers will wish they were in a really long line at IKEA during a holiday or something equally awful because this show is a pile of cliches that not even Terry O'Quinn can save, and he pretty much saves everything.
Sometimes a stubborn, little, not very good, but not terrible television series will come along and make things difficult. You want to look away, but in a moment of charity you reason that the show might work if only it's tweaked a certain way. You see hope and potential in the sloppy execution and slightly off writing. On extremely rare occasions, the second or third episode rewards your faith, and a good show grows from the rubble.
Other times, like in Fox's instantly awful Gang Related, it's pretty clear right away that you're dealing with a pile of cliches that can never be anything more than dreadful. Every minute that you keep watching, part of your soul festers and peels away. Somewhere inside you, a pained voice screams out in anguish at whoever could have greenlighted such a blatant display of yuck.
"It was Fox," you say quietly to that voice inside. "Fox did this."
Among its many faults, one area where Gang Related does succeed is in proving that the incredibly talented Terry O'Quinn (Lost) can actually star in something that he doesn't make appreciably better. Though O'Quinn might be able to carry 99 out of 100 shows, as he's demonstrated via an impressive assortment of roles through the years, Gang Related is that 100th show. The writing is just too terrible for him to overcome. If you slow down the playback you can almost see his mind and mouth trying to make the words better as he's saying them, his face trying to act some life into their dullest nether-regions, all with no luck.
Terry O'Quinn can't save Gang Related. He can't even make his own scenes work. I'm sure the extras on the DVD box set will have an interview with him crying about this, and I feel terrible for him.
He can only play Gang Task Force Leader Sam Chapel and say things like this: "This was not your fault. There was nothing you could do." When he utters those cliches, which have been spoken billions of times before on television, they come out of his mouth like wooden spoons. You can read the agony on his face for having to say them (perhaps I'm reading into that since there was agony on mine for having to hear them). O'Quinn, who was even good as the devil in 666 Park Avenue, then has to compound the issue by saying these additional lines, which are straight out of the People Have Talked Like This on TV For Years school of script writing: "I brought you on to this task force because you're a great cop. I know what you're going through because I've been there. But you're not alone."
Wooden spoons fall out of his mouth and beat a sad song on the floor as they drop. I'm sorry, Terry O'Quinn. I'm sorry you had to do that.
Of course, his character, Gang Task Force Leader Sam Chapel (I wish he had to say that in full every time before talking) is actually wrong about the cop in question. He's not a great cop. He's devoted to a gang leader.
Yep, Det. Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez), has — in the words of Fox — "pledged allegiance to a different band of brothers." (Who knows, maybe those words were written by series creator Chris Morgan (Wanted, Fast Five), who also wrote the pilot. They have that same familiar clunk.)
Anyway, Lopez is beholden to Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis, who is also wasted here) in one of those gang sleeper-cell concepts that are so common. The problem for Lopez is he ends up liking being a cop and he's then torn between serving wasted-in-the-role Terry O'Quinn or wasted-in-the-role Cliff Curtis, which I'm sure wears on him. You almost feel sorry for him. Until he says, "It's a dangerous tightrope we're walking here."
And then you club your television with a bat until the neighbors get worried and text you wondering if you're off your meds.
To which you reply, "It's my op! I'll take the heat — you just get results," which is what Terry O'Quinn had to say with a straight face, which no doubt he was able to hold by channeling the anger he feels toward his agent for getting him this job.
Oh, the carnage. It was my op to watch a bunch of episodes that Fox sent of Gang Related. But I didn't — more like I couldn't, really. Why? Because if the executives at Fox — and we're talking a lot of people here — couldn't see how awful this pilot was, and how the pilot worked like a truncheon to the head in quelling any desire to watch more episodes, I certainly can't help them. Nor will I enable their lack of vision by watching more episodes. I wanted to see if RZA, who plays another underling of Gang Task Force Leader Sam Chapel, could save the show, but it was already a lost cause.
I should have known, though, a lot earlier. Because one character said, "We did good today, partner." And another replied, "We do good every day, brother."
And, as I held my sides while laughing out loud, I let the episode play on. And then something predictable happened. So predictable that, before it could even happen, I shouted, "You're dead." (He did die, but hold on, it gets better.) Moments later I said, "And if you go into that abandoned building, you're really dead." But he went in.
And now he's really dead.
Like this show.
So I turned it off. And I picked up Terry O'Quinn's wooden spoons and shook my head sadly.