After letting it sit on the shelf for a year or so, Fox appears to be burning off Gang Related, a new police drama premiering tonight. The bigger mystery is why they didn’t just torch the pilot script as soon as they read it.
Jam-packed with stereotypes and clichés, Gang Related was created and written by Chris Morgan (Fast Five), so we know in advance it’s probably going to look and sound a lot like a videogame, only not as interesting or sophisticated. Ramon Rodriguez (Battle Los Angeles) stars as Ryan Lopez, a promising member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Gang Task Force. What none of his police colleagues know, however, is that Ryan harbors a Dark Secret: When he was a child, Ryan was informally adopted by Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis, Training Day), the ruthless leader of a Latino gang called Los Angelicos, after Ryan’s father was killed.
Recognizing that Ryan was unusually bright and highly motivated by gratitude, Javier started grooming the boy for an important role in the Acosta crime family, much to the delight of Javier’s own straight-arrow son, Daniel (Jay Hernandez, Last Resort), Ryan’s best friend. Daniel’s older brother, the thuggish Carlos (Rey Gallegos, Sons of Anarchy), hates Ryan, however, seeing him as a threat to his birthright.
It was, in fact, Javier who pulled some strings and got Ryan assigned to his current unit, where Ryan has proven invaluable when it comes to “losing” evidence and tipping off Los Angelicos to police strategy.
After Ryan’s affable police partner is senselessly gunned down by a gang member, however, Ryan’s internal conflict starts to go into overdrive, partly because his mentor, Task Force leader Sam Chapel (Emmy winner Terry O’Quinn, Lost) ALSO has become a surrogate father to Ryan. Chapel’s newly launched hardline attack on Los Angelicos forces Ryan to decide whether he’s ready to stop playing at police work and turn on his childhood friends and family members.
The viewer is left to decide whether life is just too short to watch truly bad television like Gang Related. The dialogue thuds on the ear (“We did good today, partner.” “We do good every day, brother!”), and it’s just painful to watch seasoned pros like O’Quinn and Curtis struggling manfully to make their lines sound vaguely like something a human being might actually say. Loud, violent and ugly, Gang Related is such a mess that it took me three attempts before I could make it through the one-hour pilot.
For the record, I’m glad I finally got to the end, because the climactic shootout is so clumsily choreographed that I found myself laughing helplessly. Or maybe I was just relieved to know I was never going to have to watch Gang Related again.