The end is near: Good shows and bad are about to see their lives cut short. Their brief run in prime time will soon be over. Pilot season is upon the networks and no matter what anyone says, that shiny new highly promotable pilot with the highly promotable star always looks better than that old series that hasn't really been pulling its weight (after all). Pilot season is all about the hype and the promise - and tends to cloud a network's ability to appreciate what it's already got. And of course I speak of "Detroit 1-8-7." Sunday is the finale -- 10 p.m. on WABC/7 -- and after that the future is grim indeed. Numbers are low, buzz, too, and there seems to be nothing at this point keeping ABC's finger off the trigger.
But I'm here to tell you -- stay the execution, ABC. This show deserves another chance. Yes, you've been generous -- good time period, an almost-full order (18 episodes, I believe), a final shot at glory on Sunday. No one's blaming the network for what might be an untimely demise. But networks know that shows take time; good shows sometimes take more time.
How much time? At least another season. A cop procedural -- and there's another good one, "The Chicago Code," on the bubble -- might even stand out from the crowd of historical-magical-mythical-supernatural high concept dramas that'll stuff schedules next fall.
A good old fashioned cop procedural. What a concept - and not a high one either.
OK, here are 10 reasons . . . yes. . . 10 . . . why "Detroit 1-8-7" must stay.
1.) Racially diverse show. This is the most racially diverse cast on network TV. Television needs racially diverse shows (duh) but they are dying, or disappearing, or simply being ignored.
2.) James McDaniel: He finally has a series worthy of his considerable talents -- at least one since "NYPD Blue." He's created a wonderful, memorable character in Jesse Longford -- forever dreaming of some magical retirement villa in Tuscany while he's so firmly and in fact permanently rooted in the hard streets of Detroit. His Longford is an everyman who's full of regrets and dreams and what-might've-beens, and yet someone who knows in his heart that what he's spent his life doing is more than enough. He's a noble character, and the beating heart of the show.
3.) Michael Imperioli: I mean, come on! Imperioli! Another incredible actor who's created a livin, breathing human being on the screen. His Louis Fitch is in fact a wonderful creation -- curdled, embittered, suspicious, and yet . . . a loving father and intensely loyal partner. His scenes with his son -- his real son, I do believe -- have been terrific, and utterly believable. Man, when you get an actor as good as Imperioli in a role that he's indisputably made his own, why cut that short? You nurture it.
4.) Great cast: Yes, a great cast full of actors you've hardly ever heard of . . . Aisha Hinds, Shaun Majumder, Jon Michael Hill, D.J. Cotrona, Natalie Martinez, Erin Cummings. This cast has jelled, and their work is consistently good.
5.) Detroit: Great American cities need good shows . . . they just do. New York, the greatest, has had its share, and so has Los Angeles and Chicago. But overlooked Detroit has not, or at least has not in recent memory. "1-8-7's" second unit has done excellent work -- and really captured the place. This isn't a cliched Detroit but a living, breathing, functioning city.
6.) "NYPD Blue" heir: "Blue" was one of TV's great classics, but there hasn't really been anything in the last 10 years that attempts to recapture some of the grit and intelligence that it had in abundance. "1-8-7" has that ambition, and it's a worthy one.
7.) "Southland:" I throw this up as a cautionary only. NBC went off half-cocked on a ridiculous prime time strategy and cut adrift smart, well-produced shows -- or at least this one. It was a bad move, of course, and ABC might want to consider this unfortunate precedent.
8.) Solid secondary cast: "1-8-7" has employed many actors -- and most of them black - who wouldn't otherwise get the time of day in Hollywood. "Blue" used to do this; "Law & Order." too. And of course . . ."The Wire."
9.) Unfinished stories: Hey, what is going to happen to Fitch? Will Jesse go to Italy? Those are minor picayune questions -- the larger point is this: What do these characters become? And in the process, what will that journey say about cops, Detroit, and maybe even America?
10.) This is a show about something -- about real people, real cops, real crime, real life and death. Its larger themes still need to be resolved; it's been too much under the pressure cooker of primetime to fully get to the bottom of what it wants to say. The question, you have to ask yourself, I think, is simply this: Do you care about the characters, and the journey each of them is taking, and will that journey ultimately offer a more meaningful glimpse of what it is to be human? I do and think it will. Reason enough to save this show.