all things people, parties & sexy sports
February 2013

"Boston’s" Finest is really good reality
By Scott Kearnan

Photo Credits: Liz Owens
The movie industry has been pretty good to Boston over the last couple years, sending many more Hollywood productions to the Hub. But things have been quieter on the television front. And as much as we love Cheers, it might be nice for Bostonians to see themselves on the small screen in a show that didn’t end twenty years ago.

The tides seem to be turning, but we’re not sure that’s a good thing. Last month A&E debuted Southie Rules, a miserable misfire that offended basically everyone. Not because it featured local yokel caricatures (“Massholes” love to laugh at themselves), but because its transparently scripted approach to an “unscripted” series was so profoundly embarrassing and unfunny, I wanted to gouge my eyes out with a Dunkin’ Donuts straw. Next month VH1 rolls out Wicked Single, a reality show about a fun-loving group of twenty and thirty-something friends who enjoy hanging out, pahtying hahd, and embarrassing grandma in her final days. (The show premieres on St. Patrick’s Day because – drunk and Irish, get it?) And CBS recently ordered a pilot for “The McCarthy’s,” a sitcom that will star comedian Brian Gallivan as the gay son of a straight-laced Irish-Catholic family, which would have sounded really funny and edgy in 1996.

Sigh. We can do better. And we have, it seems, with Boston’s Finest.

Premiering Wednesday, February 27 (9 p.m. EST) on TNT, Boston’s Finest is an eight-episode series that lets viewers ride shotgun with real members of the Boston Police Department: officers, detectives, SWAT and Gang Unit forces, and more. Though it’s too early to tell whether it will end up the, uh, finest TV show built around Boston, an advance screening of the first two episodes was a very good sign. Boston’s Finest looks fantastic, boasting borderline-cinematic production values. And it treats the city with respect, capturing local color – especially the personalities of our men and women in blue – without spoon-feeding viewers tired clichés.

Unlike other shows made by out-of-towners invading (and exploiting) our turf, Boston’s Finest is produced by a beloved Bostonian: actor and New Kids on the Block member Donnie Wahlberg.

“We wanted to do something that shows Boston in the proper light,” said Wahlberg during the show’s red carpet premiere at Theater 1 inside the Revere Hotel Boston Common. Wahlberg, who also narrates Boston’s Finest, pitched the concept to the city in order to gain unprecedented access to its police force and follows officers out on the streets – and back to their homes, where the cameras capture their personal lives. Wahlberg, who currently stars as a detective on the CBS police drama Blue Bloods, said he wasn’t looking to trade in hokey stereotypes. “We told the city it would be about showing heroic people doing heroic things, and a slice of life here in Boston. They held us to that every day,” said Wahlberg. “We had to convince them that this wasn’t just a reality show where we were looking to exploit people, make things all crazy, and have a bunch of cops just yelling, ‘Get in the CAH!’”

He laughs, but then turns serious. “We wanted to show more about police officers than certainly any unscripted show, and possibly any TV show, ever has.”

Wahlberg knows a thing or two about police officers, and not just through television. He grew up in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood during the area’s rougher days, and his siblings weren’t exactly strangers to the local cops. (Especially younger brother Mark, who had some pre-Funky Bunch hooligan days.) “I was the good brother, believe it or not,” smirked Wahlberg. “I rarely saw the inside of a cop car.”

Boston’s Finest viewers will certainly get a glimpse. But they’ll also have a chance to follow the police officers home and learn about their personal lives. “I don’t think people recognize that once we take off the badge, we’re normal people with our own issues and traumatic things that happen in our lives,” says Boston’s Finest star Myles Lawton, an officer in the Gang Unit. Lawton’s father was a 15-year Cambridge police officer who was killed in his retirement during a drug deal gone wrong. “They did a respectful job putting that story out there,” says Lawton of the show. “It shows how it helps when I work with victims of gun violence, because I’ve been a victim of gun violence myself.”

And the show illustrates how dangerous the job is, says officer Manny Canuto. “Your biggest fear is about whether or not you’ll come home at night,” said Canuto, who costars with his fellow officer and childhood friend, Diamantino Araujo. “We’ve been best friends since we were nine years old, and we always dreamed about being police officers,” said Canuto on the red carpet. “So this was a dream come true.”

Those who have been waiting for a quality Boston-based reality show might also find their prayers answered. Even Wahlberg sounds like he’s had enough with some of the – ahem, lesser attempts.

“The movies are good,” said Wahlberg, when asked about the influx of productions in town. “As for the TV shows – look, if they put people to work in Boston, that’s great. But I could do without some of those reality shows.”

So could we. But will we be watching Boston’s Finest? Guilty as charged.

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