Check back throughout the week as I’ll be writing a series of articles about The Chicago Code.
If you’re a fan of crime TV at all, you’ve probably watched something where Shawn Ryan was involved. From his first serious TV writing job for Nash Bridges in 1997 to this week’s premiere of The Chicago Code, some might say his name has become synonymous with clever, edgy cop shows that skew just a bit from the norm.
Ryan began as a writer for seasons of Nash Bridges and Angel, but he is probably best known for The Shield, the 2002 police drama about a Los Angeles precinct. Contrary to most popular cop shows, where the officers are noble and good despite whatever’s thrown at them, The Shield‘s main character, Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), was more of an anti-hero. His intentions were good (usually), but he had no qualms about using whatever means necessary to achieve his goals. It presented a darker side of L.A. law enforcement, and the truthfulness earned it a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and a Peabody Award.
On the heels of The Shield’s success (and overlapping with its final season) Ryan became an executive producer for The Unit, a military show about special ops. Like The Shield, it was praised highly for its quality writing, complex characters, and no-frills stories that seemed to dig deeper than many of the other military procedurals that were on at the time. It presented a realistic look into covert operations, while still appealing to a broader audience with likable characters and more personal storylines.
After The Unit ended, Ryan was brought in as a showrunner for the second season of Fox’s Lie to Me, which followed a firm that specialized in reading microexpressions. Tim Roth starred as the quirky, occasionally obnoxious Cal Lightman, whose gift at reading facial expressions allowed him to help the police and the FBI solve crimes, prevent tragedies, and prevent innocent people from going to jail for crimes they didn’t commit. While Lie to Me’s ratings were only mediocre in the second season, it did garner enough support that Fox picked it up for a third.
By then, however, Ryan had already moved on as the showrunner for an FX show called Terriers about an ex-cop and an ex-con who started an unlicensed private investigation business. Despite both critical and fan support, FX declined to order more than 13 episodes of the low-rated show, and the series finale aired on December 1, 2010.
The Chicago Code is Ryan’s second “creator” credit, and advanced reviews suggest he will showcase his talent for creating quality programming with good writing and characters. It premieres on February 7, 2011.
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