FX hopes `The Shield’ will help it bust out

Mar 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

FX’s “The Shield” doesn’t simply push the envelope, it blows it away.
Running hard against the retro, feel-good, pro-police TV tide ascendant since Sept. 11, “The Shield,” starring Michael Chiklis (“The Commish”) as an L.A. cop who appears to be very much in the Denzel Washington “Training Day” mode, gives viewers raw language, and bare breasts and buttocks in a show built around a killer cop.
In short, FX’s gritty new drama, premiering March 12, arguably goes further than basic cable has gone before, and it is possible the very future of Fox’s general-entertainment cable network is riding on whether audiences will tune in for a taste of what until now they could only see and hear on Showtime and HBO.

FX’s vaunted relaunch last fall, featuring high-profile hours like “The Practice” and “Ally McBeal,” didn’t work, and its recent crucial New York carriage agreement hasn’t yet resulted in a big ratings boost. That leaves FX dependent on movies, such as well-worn warhorse “M*A*S*H,” and its piece of the NASCAR ratings rocket … unless “The Shield” pulls in advertisers and audiences alike.
Peter Liguori, president, FX Networks, took exception to the contention that “The Shield” may be FX’s best-and last-chance to find its way out of cable’s general-entertainment ratings cellar. “To date it’s our best shot at creating a signature show for the network,” he said. “But by far and away I would not say it’s our last. This is the TV business-about 75 percent of all shows that make it to the air fail … We need some luck. We need some magic fairy dust, and as long as we keep making wise decisions, we will continue our original programming strategy.”