Creating a worthwhile new cop show is tough. At this point, we’ve seen just about every possible variation within the genre, from comedies to reality shows, and every dramatic procedural in between. Plus, two of the biggest cop shows are still in rotation: Law & Order: SVU clearly knows the formula for success, and then there’s the buzzed-about True Detective, which recently raised the bar for just about every detective show from this point forward. So what do you do when everything’s been done and been done well? Spoiler: Murder in the First might have just done it.
Murder in the First presents itself as a sort of hybrid between Law & Order: SVU and True Detective. It’s spending an entire season on one overarching case, much like True Detective, but the day-to-day feels much more like something you’d see on your favorite procedural.
The pilot kicked off by introducing us to the private lives of partners Terry, the detective who’s losing his wife to cancer, and Hildy, the detective who’s recently entered the realm of being a divorced single mother. Together, through murderous circumstances — hence the show’s title — they’re introduced to billionaire Erich Blunt, the Silicon Valley-esque CEO of APPLSN and creator of all things apps. From there, it’s about piecing together the events that will kick off this year’s big mystery: Who killed Blunt’s biological father, and secondly, is that the same person behind the murder of Blunt’s sort-of ex-girlfriend (but definitely ex-flight attendant)?
Simply put, the mystery is intriguing, as are the characters. Tom Felton’s Blunt is the perfect mix of charismatic and crazy, which presents a bad guy that viewers desperately want to figure out. Then you’ve got your heroes: Taye Diggs shines in this opener as the good cop who’s trying to work though his loss. Without saying much, he becomes a character who fans can root for. By his side, Kathleen Robertson’s Hildy is lovably tough. She’s strong and understated in a way that balances out the dynamic of the entire office (and of the show). Plus, she kind of rocks as a mom.
Overall, this is a very well-made hour of television, which isn’t surprising considering it came from NYPD Blue‘s Steven Bochco. The production quality is high, the direction is smart, and therefore, the foundation is solid. Where Murder in the First will struggle is in its most basic form — its premise. Do people really want to watch another cop show? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure I would’ve watched this if I hadn’t been such a fan of Diggs. But I will say this: I’m glad that I did.
As far as typical cop shows go, this one’s a step above. The quality outranks that of a Law & Order: SVU, honestly. So do you need another cop show in your life? Probably not. But should you watch this one anyway? Probably. At least give it a shot before you decide you already have enough murder on your plate.