`’The Shield” exemplifies the good cop/bad cop enigma, all rolled into one character. And audiences have taken a real liking to FX’s controversial police drama.
The show is the top-rated original drama on ad-supported cable in total households and adults 18 to 49. Its initial episode last March grabbed the highest rating ever for an original series premiere on an advertiser-supported cable network, a 4.1 household rating, representing 3 million homes and 4.8 million viewers.
“At the core of the show is the idea of an antihero, and that’s a genre that just has not been exploited enough,” said Kevin Reilly, president of FX Networks Entertainment.
Mr. Reilly should know something about the antihero character. In his previous job as head of Brillstein-Grey Television he shepherded a little project for HBO known as “The Sopranos.” `The Shield,” he suggests, may become a more significant program for FX than “The Sopranos” has been for HBO.
“I can’t say that I thought it was going to reinvent the network, but I thought we had a shot with it,” he said.
`’The Shield” got an early boost when TV critics embraced the show. The buzz they helped create catalyzed a modest yet targeted marketing program that included outdoor ads in key markets and some bartered spots on other cable networks.
“We don’t have a $10 million budget, so the fact that critics were behind us so enthusiastically was really meaningful,” Mr. Reilly said.
It also didn’t hurt that series star Michael Chiklis pulled off a surprise Emmy win for best dramatic actor.
While `’The Shield” was a hit with audiences, it was anathema to some advertisers put off by its violence, language and sexual references. Almost 20 of them pulled out early on, though some later returned.
FX has picked up `’The Shield” for a second season, with new original episodes set for January 2003.