Reviews

'Blue Bloods: The First Season' Gives Us Too Much Blood, Not Enough Blues

Blue Bloods serves up plenty of its best product, Tom Selleck, but its procedural format kills any life outside the man with the mustache.


Blue Bloods

Cast: Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, Len Cariou
Length: 43 minutes/22 episodes
Studio: Panda Productions Inc., Paw in Your Face Productions, CBS Productions
Year: 2010
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Release date: 2011-09-13

Tom Selleck is back on TV! And he’s a cop! If that’s all you need to know in order to tune into Blue Bloods every Friday at 10EST or buy the first season on DVD, you’re in luck. It’s the only reason you’ll get.

Yes, Selleck has been on TV plenty of times over the last two decades. He’s had guest stints on The Closer, Boston Legal, Las Vegas, and even Friends. Despite this seeming ever-presence, he hasn’t appeared as a regular on a show considered his own since 1988, the final season of the massively popular, Magnum P.I.. Here, he's not quite a private “I”, but he's a cop. The top cop, at that.

Selleck stars as Frank Reagan, the NYC police commissioner and the head of a family of police officers (and one district attorney). Learning the characters’ names is unimportant. The only name that matters is Reagan, and the family members throw it around more often than they eat. So from here on out, I’ll refer to them as Papa Reagan, Grandpa Reagan, Sister Reagan, Angry Bro Reagan and Rookie Reagan.

Selleck, as Papa Reagan, is in a comfortable position. He’s clearly the show’s moral compass. Sitting at the head of a family dinner table across from his opinionated, wild card father, Selleck commands his clan with carefully considered wisdom and timely advice. He does little wrong and the mistakes he makes are calculated ones. In one of the six-disc set’s special features, Selleck describes himself in the role of “referee” when surrounded by his family. Though I don’t think he meant it in a negative manner, the term accurately describes the banality of decisions he has to make.

Sure, Selleck gets some good material every once in a while. He’s called on to save his daughter from an attacker. He calls out a few liars, cheaters, and law-breakers. His stern tone is ever dominant and his performance matches it. Selleck’s air of believability is the stuff of legend, and deservedly so. He acts and reacts with the best of them. Damn it if he doesn’t almost save this show.

The pilot shows some promise. We are briefly and succinctly introduced to the characters before settling into its genre’s stereotypes. We get a new case every episode because a case is solved every episode. How? Well, the good guys find the bad guys and then they confess. Yes. Every. Single. Time. Confessions. It’s preposterous, even though the cops go about getting the confessions slightly differently each time. Some are slightly manipulated into admitting their crimes while others are so scared they just blurt it out. Evidence usually comes into play, but lawyers usually aren’t even present at the time of interrogation.

The first episode does find the appropriate balance between family intimacy and case-by-case urgency. Rookie Reagan is graduating the police academy, so the family comes together more than just for the weekly family dinner (where some of the show’s best scenes occur). The case involves a missing girl and thus draws an applicable amount of fervor from the family members involved. It’s a solid premise for a pilot and we’re immediately drawn to the easily likable family. However, it’s apparent early on that disputes are settled in a little too neat and tidy of a fashion, probably for the benefit of the show’s older audience.

After the first episode, Blue Bloods becomes a procedural owing a giant debt to Law and Order. Yes, the Reagans still gather around the dinner table every Sunday and break bread. Yes, we’re probably given a little more of these characters’ personal lives than on the legendary, forever-in-reruns cops and court drama. The problem is none of the extra information matters because it never carries over from week to week.

It is absolutely infuriating how none of the intense emotional subject matter carries over from episode to episode – Rookie Reagan is dumped by his fiancé, and he is all but a-OK by the next episode. Angry Brother Reagan has a breakdown about the war near the end of another episode. It’s never spoken of again. Sister Reagan is attacked and nearly raped, but she’s out on the town with her pops the next time we see her. Perhaps one of the most egregious errors is the ignorance displayed after one of the Sunday dinner clan is kidnapped. There's no mention of it again, and the victim is literally putting on her party dress in the first scene of the next episode.

Nothing relevant sticks. There are less than a handful of story arcs that last the season, and those develop so slowly you can forget about them. The one and possibly only season-long subject is the existence of an old cops-only secret society called The Blue Templar. Rookie Reagan deals with them the most in the first season, but his experiences are limited to once every three episodes or so before the whole thing is tidily tied up in the finale. These sort of practices make it impossible for the audience to be concerned about the characters. If what happens in one episode has no effect on them down the line, why worry what happens at all?

I doubt most of the fans do, actually. Blue Bloods is made for a crowd who doesn’t want to remember too much from week to week. They like things simple, and that’s exactly why the CBS drama is a mild hit. For those of us who demand a little more, though, in these days of high quality television, it’s another disappointment. What makes it even more frustrating, though, is that quality shows with similar angles are getting nixed (I’m sorry, but I really miss The Chicago Code, a cop drama with much more street cred). Oh well. I guess there’s still progress to be made in some genres of television.

Anyone interested enough to check out the special features should be pleasantly surprised. There are deleted scenes for almost every episode, and they’re conveniently attached to their respective 42-minute originals. There are also six behind-the-scenes featurettes ranging from four- to 24-minutes apiece. All include interviews with the cast and crew, including comprehensive conversations with each of the regulars. None are essential viewing, so to speak, but they are well-produced and give the viewer anything and everything they could hope for – plus there’s a gag reel and promos used to advertise the pilot.

One note – it's slightly uncomfortable to watch creators Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess glowingly praise the show they created, but are no longer a part of thanks to the arrival of veteran Law & Order producer Ed Zuckerman. Still, it’s nice they were gracious enough to shoot the interviews or allow their interviews to be used.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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