Tuned in: Fox tries serious drama with ‘Shots Fired’
March 17, 2017 12:00 AM
Conor Leslie, left, Helen Hunt and Stephan James follow scripts that play off current events in "shots Fired," premiering Wednesday on Fox.
By Rob Owen / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PASADENA, Calif. — Consider the 10-episode event series “Shots Fired” (8 p.m. Wednesday, WPGH) Fox’s attempt to do something similar to ABC’s recently returned “American Crime” (10 p.m. Sunday, WTAE).
Like the excellent if sometimes uncomfortable-making “American Crime,” “Shots Fired” tackles a relevant social issue but does so with a twist (and, presumably because this is Fox, with more characters sleeping together).
In next week’s premiere, African-American North Carolina sheriff’s deputy Josh Beck (Mack Wilds, “90210”) kills an unarmed white college student during a traffic stop in a rough part of town. Afterward Beck tells U.S. Department of Justice investigator Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan) and special prosecutor Preston Terry (Stephan James, “Selma”) “a white guy in that neighborhood usually means drugs.”
It’s interesting to see “Shots Fired” initially reverse the usual narrative — white cop shoots unarmed black man, justifies it with racial profiling — but by the end of the premiere the story expands to include a second case about the murder of an African-American teen.
At a January Fox press conference, series creators Gina Prince-Bythewood (”Love & Basketball”) and Reggie Rock Bythewood (”New York Undercover”) said they wanted to draw in viewers who might tune out the version of events they see in the news.
“In flipping the narrative, it allows folks who don’t normally identify with characters to empathize with them, and through empathy you can change,” she said. “But it was also a way in because once [the investigator and prosecutor] get down there, they discover that there’s been a shooting of a young black teenager. So it also allowed us to deal with these two shootings and be able to see how the community, the media, how these two different murders of these two young boys are treated.”
So, they were concerned viewers would not sympathize or find the story as relatable if the first person dead in a police shooting was black?
“We wanted to take the audience to look at it from various points of view,” Reggie Bythewood said. “One of our other creeds was to kind of give a view from every seat in the house.”
Other characters include the boys’ mothers, the North Carolina governor (Helen Hunt, “Mad About You”), a veteran sheriff (Stephen Moyer, “True Blood”) caught in the middle of the investigation and a private prison owner (Richard Dreyfuss, “The Education of Max Bickford”).
“We shot probably the most current show you’ll ever see,” Mr. Dreyfuss said. “As we were shooting [in Charlotte], it was happening, and then when we left, it happened there, and that’s why, as you watch this show, you’re going to be reminded very clearly of the most current headlines in your life, and it doesn’t say it was about two days ago; it says it’s now. This is America.”
Mr. Bythewood said while “Shots Fired” is a message show, it also intends to be entertainment.
“ ‘Shots Fired’ is a whodunit and a whydunit. Who killed Joey Campbell, and why was Jesse Carr killed?” he said. “So the mystery element is highly important, and we knew that we wanted to create a great narrative that would just ideally keep the audience at the edge of their seats. That being said, we had a creed for the show when we put it together, which is to get the audience to the edge of their seats and, while they’re leaning forward, hit them with the truth. So we clearly wanted to do a show that had great characters, really dealt with the social issue that we delve into, but the mystery element was just the kind of glue that keeps us coming back.”
Mister Rogers’ birthday
To mark what would have been the late Fred Rogers’ 89th birthday on Monday, PBS and its assorted brands plan to post videos, graphics and images of Mr. Rogers on social media platforms while encouraging fans to share their memories using the hashtags #ILovePBS and #BeMyNeighbor.
PBSKids.org will get a “Daniel Tigers’ Neighborhood” Trolley-themed takeover, and Fred Rogers-related content will post to pbsparents.org, the PBS Teachers’ Lounge blog and the PBS Kids YouTube channel.
Locally, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will have free admission Monday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’s” speedy delivery man, Mr. McFeely (David Newell), will greet guests from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the museum’s theater.
“Crashing” (HBO), “Legion” (FX) and “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access) were each renewed for sophomore seasons.
A&E will bring back Leah Remini’s “Scientology and the Aftermath” for a 10-episode second season.
FX renewed “Baskets” for a third season.
Netflix renewed “Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events” for a second season.
Cable’s Pop renewed “Schitt’s Creek” for a fourth season.
The CW renewed “The 100” for the 2017-18 TV season.
CBS punted low-rated “Training Day” from 10 p.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. Saturday, effective April 8. “The Amazing Race,” which had been slated to return in late April, will move into the 10 p.m. Thursday time period March 30. “Undercover Boss” episodes will air Fridays at 8 p.m. beginning April 28.
A new season of USA’s “Mr. Robot,” which had aired in summer, won’t debut until October this year. … The “Saturday Night Live” segment “Weekend Update” will get a four-episode prime-time run beginning at 9 p.m. Aug. 10. … Tyra Banks will host NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” this summer, replacing the departed Nick Cannon. … Even MTV is acknowledging the importance of TV with its annual “MTV Movie Awards” becoming the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” (8 p.m. May 7). … CBS ordered a “Big Bang Theory” spinoff, “Young Sheldon,” for 2017-18, about the early life of Sheldon Cooper with original Sheldon actor Jim Parsons narrating. … HBO plans to chronicle the 2016 presidential election in a miniseries from the producers/director of a previous political film, “Game Change.” … WTAE’s Project Bundle-Up online auction continues through April 7, auctioning off 300 items to buy outerwear for local seniors and children. … WTAE’s latest installment of “Chronicle” (8 p.m. Wednesday) explores the opioid addiction epidemic in Western Pennsylvania.
Tuned In online
Today’s TV Q&A column responds to questions about “This Is Us,” “Nashville” and “CSI: Miami.” This week’s Tuned In Journal includes posts on “American Crime” and “Kicking & Screaming.” Read online-only TV content at http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in.
This week’s podcast includes conversation about “This Is Us,” “Feud” and “Trial & Error.” Subscribe or listen to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette podcasts at iTunes or at https://soundcloud.com/pittsburghpg.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.
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