STUDIO: Paramount

MSRP: $19.99

RATED: Not Rated

RUNNING TIME: 276 minutes


• Full-length episode of Real Vice Cops: Uncut!

The Pitch

COPS meets The World’s Scariest Police Chases.

The Humans

Rick “Woody” Gatewood, Brad Ripkin, Ron Hoyt, John Greer, the rest of the DEA agents of Group 14, Detroit, Michigan.  The disembodied voice of Lance Henriksen.

The Nutshell

Come along as we follow Drug Enforcement Agents as they bust marijuana, heroin, crack, and ecstasy dealers and suppliers on the battered and bruised streets of poor old Detroit, Michigan. A word of warning: this isn’t like Scarface.  Drug dealing hasn’t been glamorous since the 80s, especially not in what used to be Motown. 

Even the tax incentives couldn’t entice the crew to actually shoot in Detroit, so they decided that the safer option was Somalia.

The Lowdown

Picture this scenario: You’re massively hungover after getting obliterated the night before so you find yourself immobilized on the couch watching the Rocky marathon on Spike TV and end up dozing off sometime during the Russian training montage only to wake up to some reality show about drug enforcement agents breaking into houses and you think about changing the channel but the remote is just out of reach and your head is throbbing something awful and, well, you kinda enjoy seeing dudes smash open doors with battering rams and high speed chases so while you would change the channel if it weren’t so difficult, it could be worse.

If I just described your typical Saturday afternoon, then you already know that DEA: Detroit is just your speed.  For everyone else – unless you are one of the few people without a reality show guilty pleasure – it’s not that bad, actually. 
It still has enough
substance to keep it well above the worse-for-your-brain-than-meth celebreality filth that plagues most afternoon cable TV; but,
it’s definitely still second-tier fare far below quality shows like Deadliest Catch.

Damn. New Orleans might have drowned and then slathered in oil, but at least they got the Super Bowl to keep them warm at night.  What does Detroit get? Robbed of their first shot at baseball’s 21st perfect game.  Bru-tal.

DEA: Detroit follows DEA Group 14 as they navigate the dilapidated ruins of inner-city Detroit that make Chernobyl look appealing, busting drug dealers and getting them to flip on their suppliers and then going and busting that drug dealer and getting him to flip and so on and so on the whole pointless endeavor goes. (Seeing the agents get all excited over this giant raid on a house full of marijuana plants just feels so outdated and pointless, but maybe that’s just because I live on the coast and I’m not inundated with the whole “weed is evil” rhetoric anymore.) The agents talk about how every single bust could lead to that coveted international connection, the kind of case that makes careers and, most likely, gets you out of the Detroit beat.  Unfortunately, nothing ever culminates and what you end up with is basically the same episode over and over and over with the agents busting an assortment of pathetic thugs who live in homes that should be condemned and hardly bother to put up a fight when they’re caught red-handed.  The plight of the people of Detroit commands pity, not anger or judgment — what other options do these people have for income in this sad shell of what once was a booming metropolis?

Social issues aside, perhaps I’ve been watching too much Breaking Bad lately because my biggest issue with DEA: Detroit is that there’s no storyline, no end goal, no suspense whatsoever.  It’s probably not fair to compare this to one of the best shows on television so let’s go back to Deadliest Catch, which has several seasons of roughly the same exact thing: guys on boats fishing for crab who sometimes catch a lot of crab, and sometimes don’t.  The formula that makes for compelling high-seas drama doesn’t translate well to DEA: Detroit — seeing carbon copy small-time hoods getting shaken down by the feds for hours on end gets old quickly.  And the reason that this show can’t pull it off while Deadliest Catch can is that we never connect with the characters in the same way as we do with the Brothers Hillstrand or with Captain Phil and Sons.  Part of that is the casting: the DEA agents aren’t lifeless, but aside from Rick “Woody” Gatewood, everyone else could be replaced without altering the show one bit.  The rest of it is the filmmaking: by having to give previews and recaps before and after every single commercial break, there’s no time to actually let the show breathe — it’s just raid, then planning, then raid, then planning.  Without the human element, the show has nothing keeping us coming back season after season.  Then again, this is Spike TV so I’m not sure that this target audience really cares about that type of thing.

When they weren’t cleaning up Detroit’s streets, Hank and Desmond counted the days until S.W.A.T. 2 started filming so they could made some real coin as stunt doubles for LL Cool J and Colin Farrell.

One pleasant surprise, though, is the narration.  Not that it’s particularly mind-blowing in content, but the voice behind it is none other than Lance “Not Bad For A Human” Henriksen.  Now, had he actually be one of the agents busting down doors and shoving shotguns into perps’ faces… well that would’ve been something.

There’s actually one nice moment that didn’t feel overly staged or heavily edited where Woody and Agent Brad Ripkin are waiting for their informant to show up, when a curious and skeptical neighbor approaches their truck and asks what they’re doing there, forcing Woody to improvise and say that they were from the Channel 7 news team. The neighbor chuckled and of course saw right through the lie; the looks they exchanged were great. It was one of the only genuine moments in the show where it felt like the cameramen actually caught something unexpected on tape as opposed to the stilted, staged situations that dominate the show.  Were there more little scenes these, the show might have been more than just hungover background entertainment.

“Guys! C’mere, look, look! Who am I?? Guess!  Yeah!! I’m Jim Joyce! Get it? Get it!?”

The Package

It’s a two-disc set with four-and-a-half hours of riveting drug-busting action spread out over six heart-pumping episodes.  WAIT!  THERE’S MORE! Yup, if you act in the next 22 minutes, you’ll also get the full-length episode of Real Vice Cops: Uncut! absolutely free! That’s an added value of the 60 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back — which you can’t put a price on!  Hurry, because copies are going fast.  Offer only available while supplies last.

5.0 out of 10.0

“Yo!  You seen Dre?”