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After the travesty of the Jersey Shore-esque Boston series Southie Rules that bowed in January, the town’s image is in need of a cleanse. Time to call the Wahlbergs — Robert, Donnie or Mark — to the rescue. The trio have always made their hometown love of Boston well known, and Donnie’s latest project for TNT, the unscripted series Boston’s Finest, is an ode not just to his beloved city but also to the police who patrol the same streets they live on.
Boston’s Finest is a sleek and engaging work that is a world away from Southie Rules or even Cops, but it fits in perfectly with TNT’s love of Law & Order. It’s genuine and casual, chronicling the banter, the intensity, the humor and the sacrifice that goes into the daily work of the officers of the Boston police force’s many departments. In the first two episodes, the focus is mainly on the highly decorated Gang Unit (day and night shifts), the Fugitive Unit and Patrol, with ride-alongs and case work interspersed with scenes of the personal lives of the officers.
Among the early standouts are Myles Lawton and his “modern-day Brady Bunch” of six kids, as well as Greg Dankers, a former military man who works the day shift while his wife, a fellow officer, works at night. There’s also Jennifer Penton, a tough but fair female officer, who struggles with the reality that her twin sister is an addict who is in and out of jail, something that gives her a particular empathy when it comes to some of the down-and-out personalities she is in contact with on the job..
Bouncing around among departments doesn’t fracture the momentum of the episodes at all, and the work’s high stakes are felt, though the overall product does feel sanitized. Don’t look for this to be a portrayal of the good, bad and ugly of law enforcement. The men and women featured are all ambitious, talented and squeaky-clean. Cases and manhunts are wrapped up successfully in every episode, and there’s a sheen to the show that feels at odds with the crimes and nefarious characters the officers come up against.
Still, there are good stories to tell. Wahlberg and Jarrett Creative (who previously collaborated with him and brother Robert on Boston Metal) have put together a series that feels almost scripted, in the best of ways — and there are none of those typically stilted reality show conversations. Fans of police procedurals will be drawn to the show’s fly-on-the-wall feeling, with its engaging cases and easy flow of law enforcement lingo. Though Boston’s Finest hints at the darkest corners of American street life, its real aim seems to be a showcase of local heroism. Sometimes, that is enough.
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