Shawn Ryan may not be a name familiar to many, but his work is unmistakable.
Ryan, a native Chicagoan, started as a writer on the Don Johnson vehicle Nash Bridges before becoming a producer on Joss Whedon’s Angel. He’s served as showrunner on FOX’s Lie to Me, CBS’s The Unit, and FX’s short-lived but critically acclaimed Terriers, but his real claim to fame is as creator of and head writer for FX’s breakout drama The Shield.
The Shield put Ryan and FX on the map, paving the way for the network’s subsequent hits Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me and once again making Boston University alum and series star Michael Chiklis a household name.
When The Chicago Code premieres this Monday on FOX, Ryan hopes to bring the complexity and realism that made The Shield such a hit to broadcast television, a difficult task to be sure, especially considering the number of restrictions present on network television that simply don’t exist on cable.
However, previous FOX shows like 24 have done a great job of pushing the limits and seeing what they can get away with in primetime, both visually and thematically, so the realism Ryan seeks to portray in The Chicago Code might seem tame by comparison.
The Unit was another heavy show that didn’t shy away from showing the brutal reality of war and what it takes to keep this country safe. This broadcast series felt like a misplaced FX original at times and embraced its brave yet flawed characters. The show also had a number of ongoing storylines that gave viewers who committed to sitting down each week to watch an increasing incentive to follow along and a bigger payoff for doing so.
As evidenced with The Unit, Ryan clearly knows how to maintain a well-crafted police drama, and if he takes everything he’s learned from his previous series and channels that into The Chicago Code this could indeed be a late season hit.
Whether The Chicago Code can trump The Shield is difficult to say, and it may be an altogether unfair comparison, but the latest previews indicate an affinity for serialization and Ryan’s well-honed sense for creating believable characters, two elements which already give this show a leg up over the generic and drab competition.
While the grittiness in his new series might not be as palpable as it was on The Shield and even though the characters might be more entrenched on the “good cop” side of the line, rest assured that Ryan will not be pulling any punches as he does his best to give his audience an authentic look at what life is like for those willing to stand up to the corruption that for far too long has plagued their sweet home, Chicago.