True to its name, The Chicago Code serves up the Windy City on a platter. Everything feels authentic in this new cop series (Monday, 8 p.m., Fox), starting with settings that range from posh skyscraper offices to cruddy vacant lots.
Then there's the pervasive corruption that everyone takes for granted everyone except Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals). A whiz-kid promoted to the city's top cop, Teresa is fearless in confronting both dirty police officers and dirty politicians, including a string-pulling alderman (Delroy Lindo). She finds a kindred spirit in her former partner, Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke), a White Sox-loving straight-shooter who's given special authority to pursue interesting cases. And for once, they really are interesting, involving connections among mobsters, street thugs, powerbrokers and businesses.
The series' pace is exhilarating, and so is the acting. I don't know where Beals the former Flashdancer and still glamorous beauty found the reserves of toughness to play her role, but I hope she keeps finding them. You don't doubt for a second that she can stand up to a demoted cop who calls her a "smug little bitch," nor do you doubt that there's an actual human heart beating under that righteous persona.
The Chicago Code promises to take us to brutal corners of the city. "If there's one thing Chicago knows," says Wysocki, "it's how to punch back."
I can't wait to be punched again next week.
Who Do You Think You Are?
Friday, 7 pm (NBC)
The normally uplifting series about celebrity genealogy takes on a more sinister tone in the second-season premiere. African American actress Vanessa Williams doesn't have to go very far back in her family tree only to her great-great-grandfather's generation to encounter a really awful United States of America.
One of her ancestors was likely born a slave in Tennessee. He had an opportunity to serve in the state legislature after Emancipation but then fell victim to the Ku Klux Klan-enforced racism that denied Southern blacks their civil rights. Another ancestor fought for the North in the Civil War, knowing he would be enslaved if captured by the Confederates.
Williams is in tears by the end of the episode. The rest of us will be, too.
Sunday, 5:30 pm
I don't know enough about football to predict who will win the Super Bowl, the Packers or the Steelers. But I am laying 3-to-1 odds that Fergie will be sexy and sassy during the Black Eyed Peas' halftime performance.
Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
Sunday, 8 pm (PBS)
This portrait of first lady Nancy Reagan is generally sympathetic but doesn't gloss over problematic issues. It acknowledges that she alienated her share of Americans by wallowing in opulence even while President Reagan was cutting welfare. It also covers her notorious reliance on a White House astrologer to set the president's schedule.
The documentary's chief concern, though, is exploring Nancy's considerable power during her husband's two terms in office. Indeed, historians have concluded that she was one of the most powerful first ladies of modern times, despite her public persona as the adoring, traditional, pre-feminist wife. Scholars and administration officials detail her behind-the-scenes role in hiring and firing, as well as her moderating influence on Ronald Reagan's hard-right impulses. According to one commentator, the arms-reduction talks between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev might not have happened but for Nancy's various interventions.
I came away from the documentary with a new understanding of the first lady. I highly recommend watching it, if your astrologer approves.
Tuesday, 8:30 pm (Fox)
It's yet another sitcom about adult male friends who act like 13-year-olds. Ethan (Kris Marshall), Adam (Nelson Franklin) and Mike (David Denman) keep in constant cell-phone contact with each other while driving or, yuck, spending time with their female partners. The wives and girlfriends are always spoiling the guys' fun by telling them they have to attend to their responsibilities, like (boring!) taking care of the kids. When females aren't ballbusters, they are and this will surprise you pliant sex objects. "I have great boobs," one of them says when a guy looks down her shirt.
With dialogue like that, you start to suspect that Traffic Light is actually written by 13-year-olds.