Police Work And Race In The Spotlight In AMC+ Drama

A new series about Chicago cops and a drug bust gone tragically wrong goes over some of the same grim ground where other TV dramas have gone before.

But this time, the story is told with a certain twist that establishes a different jumping-off point for this story of cops, gangs and young black men who have avoided the gang life, but get caught in the crossfire anyway.

A challenge for this TV Blog about this new show -- titled “61st Street” and premiering Sunday on AMC+ -- is that revealing this twist would be a spoiler.

What I can say is that the series sets up a scenario that is not as cut and dried as some other TV treatments of this understandably sensitive subject.



The title of the show refers to a close-knit community on Chicago’s south side in and around 61st Street.

The main characters in the set-up of this story are a high-school track star who is headed to college, a plainclothes policeman who is part of the Chicago PD unit that focuses on gangs and their criminal activities, and a veteran public defender on the verge of retirement who agrees to defend one of the principals in this messy case.

The public defender is played by Courtney B. Vance, who emerges as the star of this ensemble cast.

Filmed in Chicago, this is a high-quality series that exudes an aura of Importance (with a capital “I”) due to its highly charged, emotional subject matter. 

As everyone knows, real-life cases of violence involving cops and young black men who too often are presumed guilty and wrongly arrested (or worse) are a source of anguish for black communities and a catalyst for anger for thousands of others who then mount peaceful protests that sometimes morph into destructive riots.

Having said that, one wonders what another scripted drama about this tragic subject can add to the ongoing conversation about police work and racial bias.

One response might be that a subject as important as this one requires continuous attention by whatever media are willing to take it on.

This is a valid consideration because when the spotlight is no longer cast upon them, such subjects tend to be forgotten by all but the ones most directly affected.

At the same time, however, the story told in “61st Street” is violent and sad and as a result, difficult to watch in spots.

Still, for those with stronger stomachs for this kind of content than the TV Blog, “61st Street” has much to say about life today on our city streets.

“61st Street” starts streaming on Sunday (April 10) on AMC+.

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