We were looking forward to 17th Precinct, the fantasy cop show from Ronald D. Moore and his dream team cast of Battlestar Galactica alums, but sadly it never reached our screens. But now, the show about cops who use magic discs instead of guns, spells instead of forensics, and plants instead of electricity has finally appeared online — and now you can see for yourself.
Above is a rough video of the entire pilot episode for the 17th Precinct — which you'd better watch fast before it disappears off the internet forever. And just in case, we're going share a few first impressions with you right here, right now.
First and foremost, holy shit we can't believe how fresh and new 17th Precinct feels, even with the tired police procedural premise. Moore has done it again: Rejuvenated a whole new genre with an obscure idea that is firmly grounded in blood and tears.
Tricia Helfer joins, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, with Eamonn Walker and Stockard Channing to create a very green world that's fueled by magic. Admittedly, the first few minutes are a little jarring. There are two adults casting actual magic spells, wearing adult clothes and making boring adult small talk. And yet, no one is cry-masturbating or a vampire.
We can understand how a pack of "Just Keep Making Three And A Half Men" executives might not grasp the white hot creativity burning from this one episode, because it hasn't been done before. This world is, to put it bluntly, exceptionally weird. The energy sources are different (plants) their religion is different (Wiccan?) — even their paper is different (it's a stream of smoke light people dip their fingers into, then they point to a paper and PRESTO — news.) All the same "weird shit items" we're betting that Moore had to fight to save at every turning point on Battlestar Galactica. But these two dramas are only similar in two ways: their cast, and the fact that they demand the audience to jump into this brave new world, or else you can just show yourself out.
Even though I was watching a crappy video of this pilot, the whole thing looked shiny and glorious. And bursting with new ideas.
So let's break it down: in this alternate world where there is no oil or batteries, and everything runs on plants, fire and magic. It's up to the cops to be on top of all the magical happenings. For example, Stockard Channing and her new Rookie partner head out in their magically powered car to check out a run-of-the-mill magic problem, they pull up to a big apartment complex and all the windows are opening and closing on their own — it's spectacularly creepy. The owner runs out complaining, "No hex has this staying power. It's a curse, and that means the city has to step in." Ah, so there's a difference between hex and curse. Little moments like that are casually thrown at the audience, and it's up to you to catch on, unlike the present day fairy-tale dramas that feel the need to lead the audience around the room like a dog that just pooped on the carpet. Here, it's sink or swim.
Take Tricia Helfer's character — she's a necromancer, which apparently means she can speak to the recently deceased. But here's the problem, most people who just died are kind of absent-minded dicks! It's great. It's also great following around Channing and her newbie, who are tracking down the larger big bad, a group of no-good terrorists who want nothing more than to rid the world of magic. This secret clan no doubt would have formed the larger arc of the never-picked-up season. Which is a shame, as their mysterious power-weapon is a hoot, and one hell of a great reveal.
And then you have the other partners, Bamber and Callis, who are sniffing out the smaller cases that should propel each individual episode forward — and no doubt all linking together, close to the finale. These pairs each have fantastic chemistry, and Moore is already easily poking at some interesting personal skeletons for each member. Why is it so hard for Bamber to cast the blood spell? What does Callis think he needed to work on "as a friend"? (He's talking about sex, right?).
Also, for more details about the different characters on the show, and the ultra-weird setup, check out the preview post we did several months ago.
All in all, what a huge misstep for NBC. We wonder if the red and blue trainwreck that was the Wonder Woman pilot didn't put the studio off from genre shows. It's too bad because this series would have cleaned house during this last season. Especially when up against things like Person of Interest, Grimm and Once Upon a Time. To be fair, it's hard to say if this series would have built up a huge following — again, the audience really has to let go of any past police procedural notions, especially when Bamber picks a lock by shoving moss into it. But it's still acted, paced, delivered and written very very well. It was a huge, terrible mistake not to let this series have its chance at bat.
But see for yourself — what do you think of 17th Precinct?