Review: NBC’s Ambitious 17th Precinct and Why Grimm Got the Call Instead

NBC had two very intriguing series in development at this time last year; two series with interesting new takes on the crime procedural.

But come May, only one was picked up to series. And Ronald D. Moore’s 17th Precinct was not that one.

Though Grimm got the call from NBC, it is interesting to still take a look at 17th Precinct‘s great qualities and why NBC made the right decision in moving forward with the former instead.

First off, this is like a fanboy’s dream cast. As a fan of Battlestar Galactica it was awesome to see Jamie Bamber, James Callis and Tricia Helfer reunited and in different roles. Plus as a big fan of the late, great Kings, seeing Eamonn Walker was an added bonus. Stockard Channing, Esai Morales (recently of the BSG prequel Caprica) and Matt Long round out the great cast.

17th Precinct‘s incredibly ambitious premise and execution is certainly no problem for the BSG and Kings vets. But it could be a little problem when marketing the show to mainstream audiences.

The series follows detectives in a world where magic reigns and science is a dangerous tool being used by “terrorists” wanting to change the way the world works.

Centered in Excelsior, a magical version of San Francisco, this world follows a completely different set of rules and laws tailored to a world that is dominated by magic. From unique law enforcement weapons and techniques to unusual criminal sentences, 17th Precinct‘s pilot episode only scratched the surface of possibilities.

But because Moore and Co. are creating this brand new world full of brand new rules, the series could easily go over some people’s heads. 17th Precinct may be too confusing for some who can’t follow or maybe don’t want to put the effort into comprehending physical “streams” of information and lifting blood trails literally off the ground.

17th Precinct is truly magical and highly imaginative. This is the kind of show I’d easily get sucked into and many would agree. It is difficult, however, to efficiently set up a world that includes the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges floating in mid-air without being supported by foundations in the San Francisco (Excelsior?) Bay. But the series does an admirable job in the pilot, giving enough to keep you wanting to explore more, especially with the requisite end of pilot twist.

The idea of solving cases using magic is intriguing enough. Like all procedurals, it all depends on the case of the week to keep things going. And while the main case in the pilot wasn’t all that exciting, it did its job in introducing what to expect from the series.

17th Precinct had incredible potential, a fascinating premise and a great cast.

But NBC made the right decision in choosing Grimm instead.

Now, between Grimm and17th Precinct, Grimm is by far the more accessible of the two. It requires less of that effort to understand what’s going on. That’s not to say Grimm is inferior, just only less ambitious.

And sometimes, the unfortunate truth on network television is that ambition doesn’t always equal ratings success. Should NBC have given 17th Precinct a shot? Sure. It’s sad to see networks afraid to take chances anymore.

But could NBC have picked up both Grimm and 17th Precinct? That, I’m not so sure about. Though it is certainly possible for both to co-exist on the same network, it’d still be an uphill climb to make one, let alone both successful.

Grimm has been a relative hit for NBC on Fridays and rivaling as the network’s highest rated drama. But with their conservative scheduling this past Fall, 17th Precinct would’ve found itself a Friday timeslot as well had it been picked up. If NBC had only a Friday slot open for both shows, NBC made the painfully unfortunate, but correct decision to choose Grimm over 17th Precinct.

When the two projects were in hot contention at NBC, I knew only one would be picked up. I favored 17th Precinct because of its pedigree and I still wish it could’ve made it to air. But comparing both it and Grimm, you can understand the decision.

It has definitely paid off for NBC so far and Grimm, should it maintain its numbers, will enjoy a 2nd season in the Fall. Just like any other new series, 17th Precinct had a 50/50 shot at becoming a huge, breakout hit or just another huge bomb.

NBC went with the show that had a 51/49 shot, but I do hope the networks don’t shy away from shows like 17th Precinct in the future. Networks should take more risks because I believe the reward greatly outweighs what they’d lose.

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