Saturday, April 09, 2022

61st Street, on AMC+

This show should have been called “Defund the Wire.” It takes place in Chicago, presumably somewhere around the titular street. Regardless, the city is highly prone to street crime, but the cops are the real source of danger in Peter Moffat’s 61st Street, which premieres tomorrow on AMC+.

Michael Rossi was just told he was passed over for promotion by Lt. Brannigan. Coincidentally, he is also wearing a wire, fishing for information from the Lieutenant on a possible corruption case. Shortly thereafter, Rossi is accidentally killed during bang-bang street incident. Moses Johnson is a potential college track scholarship athlete, who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lt. Brannigan immediately fits Johnson for the murder, but public defender Franklin Roberts is determined to circumvent the railroading and represent the accused teen in a court of law. Unfortunately, the timing is bad. Roberts has just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and his wife is running for office on a an explicit “defund the police” platform. He really ought to talk to Rossi’s partner, Johnny Logan, who found the wire before the rest of the cops arrived on the scene. He knows there is something fishy about what Brannigan says, but since he comes from a family of cops, Logan is conflicted.

61st Street recycles elements of shows like The Wire and adds a “Defund the Police” ideological bias. This would be the perfect time for an updated Bonfire of the Vanities, which would skewer every side of the racial politics that roiled the nation over the last two years. Unfortunately, Moffat and company blatantly play favorites, which makes it dull.

Nevertheless, Mark O’Brien is excellent as Logan, who is the closest thing to a realistic character in
61st Street, rather than a symbol of injustice. Courtney B. Vance is reliably world-weary as Roberts, but Moffat might as well CGI a halo over his head. Likewise, Holt McCallany has a big, fierce screen presence, but there is absolutely nothing ambiguous or redeeming about Lt. Brannigan.

61st Street
is so nakedly manipulative, it pushes viewers out, instead of pulling them in. (Fair notice, I only made it through three episodes.) It labors to gin up outrage, but really just reveals its own agenda. There are so many bad actors looking to promote and profit from social discord, Moffat had no shortage of worthy targets. Instead, 61st Street feels like it was assembled from stilted headlines and advocacy groups’ press releases. Not Recommended, 61st Street starts streaming tomorrow (4/10) on AMC+.