It makes sense for Fox to air the original series “Gang Related” on Thursday nights over the summer. It’s a fast-paced, male-skewing action drama, which makes it perfect for movie studios to buy ads for their action-packed, comic book-inspired big-screen summer movies.
And while it may not be as empty-headed as many of those wannabe summer movie blockbusters, “Gang Related” (9 tonight, WPGH) isn’t as gripping as today’s best TV dramas either. It might have been more cutting-edge a decade ago but now it’s quasi-anti-hero lead character seems like a throwback.
Orphaned as a child and raised by gang leader Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis, “Trauma”), Los Angeles police officer Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez, 2011’s “Charlie’s Angels”) now walks what he calls “a dangerous tightrope” as he attempts to root out gangs as part of a Gang Task Force while protecting his “family” by providing them tips about the cops’ raids (shades of the far superior FX drama “The Shield”).
Planting Lopez on the police force was a scheme put in motion by Acosta years earlier. (How a background check didn’t reveal his past and prevent him from getting in the GTF is not addressed in the pilot episode.) And though Lopez wants to stay loyal to Acosta, he also shows deference to his GTF colleagues, who operate in their own murky moral zone planting evidence at crime scenes.
Tonight’s “Gang Related” pilot, written by series creator Chris Morgan (“Fast & Furious 6”), introduces all the characters viewers might expect: The doomed partner, the tough but fair team leader (Terry O’Quinn, “Lost”), Acosta’s trouble-making, gang-banger son (Reynaldo Gallegos, “Sons of Anarchy”) and his trying-to-go-legit son (Jay Hernandez, “Nashville”), who gets engaged to Ryan’s ex-girlfriend (but of course!).
It’s all pretty tidy in a far-fetched manner but the action scenes are engaging if somewhat preposterous — gang bangers appear to attempt to rob an armored truck in broad daylight in Downtown Los Angeles.
“Was it fun for you?” Lopez’s partner asks after a particularly wild chase.
“Bro, don’t make it weird,” Lopez replies.
With the focus on Lopez, “Gang Related” stories will likely pivot on his strained loyalties to the gangs and law enforcement as Lopez plays a cat-and-mouse game with an internal affairs officer (Jay Karnes, “The Shield”) who may be onto him.
For what it is — a small-screen version of a big-screen shoot-’em-up — “Gang Related” is fine, but it won’t be confused with great TV.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.