Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
All the ingredients are right there for some great television. David Simon running the show with co-creator George Pelecanos. An adaptation of a non-fiction book by a Baltimore Sun journalist. The Baltimore police department at the center of it all.
There's a natural inclination to compare We Own This City, which premieres tonight at 9pm on HBO and HBO Max, to David Simon's masterpiece The Wire. I've always stood by my decades old claim that The Wire is the best drama to ever air on TV (Breaking Bad comes in second). Those two series had lots of bandwagon jumpers claiming to have been there all along, but the ratings say otherwise. Consider me OG on both.
Further fueling the flames of comparison will be the presence of many actors from The Wire who appear in We Own This City, albeit in different roles. These talented actors are often confused with the parts that they play. If you're a fan of The Wire, you'll be grinning throughout this six-part series seeing those faces back in Baltimore.
David Simon knows this comparison is coming, and my guess is that he doesn't really care. The Wire came from the six-part drama The Corner, which profiled what was really happening on the Baltimore streets. Simon is all about nailing the details and highlighting flaws to reveal who the "good guys" and "bad guys" really are. He takes a no-holds barred look at the police, and his television truly makes a difference.
We Own This City tells the true tale of the Baltimore PD's Gun Trace Task Force. The city of Baltimore should be credited as a co-star of the show. Since Homicide, this city continues to be the most powerful backdrop for any police corruption scandal and an illustration of "life in the streets." All the Law & Orders and similar knockoffs feel like they're shot on a set. Baltimore oozes through the screen and takes the stories being told to a different level.
The casting is top notch. Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, played by tailor-made for a David Simon project Jon Bernthal, has risen through the ranks by any means necessary. Baltimore's most hated cop Daniel Hersl is played by Josh Charles who brings a wicked smirk to a nasty role. Jamie Hector (The Wire’s Marlo) is back in Baltimore as detective Sean Suiter who contemplates testifying against his fellow police.
The task force had tremendous success taking guns, drugs and criminals off the streets. Their methods, however, were anything but scrupulous, and the final destination of what they removed often ended up in the task force members pockets. If the police were getting results, why would anyone care about how they were doing it? This fundamental flaw in the Baltimore PD is the sweet spot for David Simon and George Pelacanos.
The corruption of the task force leads to a federal investigation which gets down and dirty. The series is filled with examples of the task force taking things too far while being lauded for boosting the crime stats. This is a hard story to tell, and you're right in the middle of it. Once again, you're left wondering who is keeping the police in check.
It's exciting to see David Simon return to his city to produce more provocative television. If you haven't seen The Corner or The Wire, it’s past time that you jumped on the bandwagon. We Own This City is another worthy chapter in his Baltimore TV canon.
Here's what else is worth watching this week…
2022 NFL Draft (ABC, ESPN, NFL Network)
Thursday, April 28th – Saturday April 30th
I've written before about growing up with the NFL Draft and the impact it's had on my life. What used to be a weekday sports fan's precious secret has become a three-day primetime extravaganza with plenty of hype and a little bit of substance.
The first round of the draft takes place Thursday at 8pm on ABC as 32 picks will be stretched out for three hours. Rounds two and three happen Friday night, and the remaining four rounds take place on Saturday.
The Offer (Paramount+)
Thursday, April 28th
The Godfather rightfully sits atop most lists of the best films ever made. The 70's classic still has an impact on current pop culture as evidenced by this new show about the making of Coppola’s masterpiece.
Miles Teller stars as Albert S. Ruddy who is hired to produce an adaptation of Mario Puzo's novel. Assembling the creative team provides plenty of conflict and the involvement of the mob itself. We've all seen the final product, and this 10-part series shows everything it took to get it on the big screen. Watch trailer.
Friday, April 29th Season 4, Part 2
The Byrdes are running out of options as this series comes to an end. The final season picks up right where it left off in the aftermath of some major characters meeting their demise. Marty and Wendy continue to search for a way out of their circumstances and find inevitable trouble with family and friends along the way.
Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Julia Garner continue their acting clinic doing bad things while believing their intentions are good. There's plenty of nostalgia and callbacks as the series draws to a close in the mighty Midwest. Raising a family of four is never easy with secrets as extensive as this family has. Breaking Bad comparisons are unfair, but Ozark stands on its own as an entertaining dark drama that leaves you questioning your own morals. Watch trailer.
Bang Bang Baby (Amazon) – Based on the true story of the youngest female member of the Milanese mob in Italy. Thursday.
THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)
David Spade: Nothing Personal (Netflix) – First Netflix stand-up special for the very funny comedian with fresh takes on everything around us. Tuesday.
Under The Banner Of Heaven (Hulu) – Adaptation of the Krakauer novel about a murder in Utah and questioning Mormon faith. Thursday.
Made For Love (HBO Max) – Cristin Miloti returns for a second season with a chip in her head battling love and technology. Thursday.
Shining Girls (Apple TV+) – Reporter Elisabeth Moss teams with Wagner Moura following a string of murders that mirror her own assault from six years ago. Friday.
I Love That For You (Showtime) – Vanessa Bayer finds her calling as a new spokesperson for a QVC channel where Molly Shannon is the reigning queen. Sunday at 8:30pm.
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)
This Week's Pick: Magic City (Peacock) – Underrated drama centered around a Miami Beach hotel in the 1950s as things are getting interesting with Cuba. Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as former cabana boy turned hotel owner Ike Evans who charms his way through a rough crowd in the hippest hotel on the beach.
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.