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APB Is a Technology-Happy Cop Show Without Any Innovation

There are too many bugs

Tim Surette

Fox has a new cop show for you to watch, which means it's a cop show... but different. The network has been thirsty for a police procedural hit for years now, but can never settle on a typical entry point into the genre.

That's why we've seen Fox fond of cop shows with a wacky twist as of late, with ideas like, "Hey, let's pair a world-famous escape artist with a world-famous author" and make it a cop show, or adapting a successful sci-film but not really and making it a cop show, or taking a haunted literary figure and time-traveling him to present day and making it a cop show, or making an actual cop show... but adding a robot.

It's no surprise then that Fox's latest cop show can't resist the "but it's not your typical cop show" twist, and ladies and gentlemen, I give you APB. The hook here is that a tech billionaire named Gideon Reeves (Justin Kirk) assumes control of a Chicago Police Department precinct after his friend is murdered and the perp gets away. Using technology and cash -- so much cash, like ridiculous amounts of cash, we're talking Scrooge McDuck levels of cash here -- he whips the precinct into shape. Well, the shape of a precinct loaded with cash and gadgets, in order to revolutionize, sorry, DISRUPT conventional police workings. (Yes, he says "disrupt," the overused term in Silicon Valley that gets made fun of by Silicon Valley.)

Caitlin Stasey and Justin Kirk, APB

Caitlin Stasey and Justin Kirk, APB

The promise of the fuzz using fancy gizmos to catch bad guys isn't a bad one, but APB wastes it by giving us things that are just a little bit better than what's already out there. During his first day as boss of these cops, Gideon proudly shows off a new kind of taser gun... which pretty much does the same thing as a normal taser but looks like something out of Halo. He also has new and improved body armor, which can stop bullets a liiiiittle bit better than the old ones. The cars? They're better looking cars than your typical Crown Victoria, and now they have a small screen in the center console. Again, not really enough of an improvement to make a whole show around the idea. And there are drones, so many drones.

The big star of Gideon's tech is an app. An app called APB. Its purpose is to essentially crowd source tattling on crimes in progress by asking anyone with a smartphone to report something sketchy they see, and the information is sent directly to the cops. An early scene with Gideon calling 911 and being put on hold twice shows the inefficiency of the system that he hopes to improve, but a crime-watching app that's directly hooked up to the police has so many inherent problems in it that none of it seems well thought out. In fact, the first call the app gets is a hoax. Who didn't see that coming?

The problem here is that Gideon doesn't seem like a visionary fixing a system in desperate need of fixing. He seems like an arrogant rich guy who thinks he can change things by throwing money at it. He's not Elon Musk or Bill Gates. He's the new CEO of the company you work for who thinks he knows what he's doing but really has no idea.

APB wants to show an "optimistic vision" of crime-fighting and has the toys to do it

Obviously, Gideon's ideas ruffle feathers of the old flock, and much of APB focuses on the tug-of-war between new technology and old ideology, with cops looking at these pricey toys and saying, "Fuhgeddaboutit!" Like those cops, APB doesn't seem to know how to incorporate the tech, either, and much of the action is standard cop stuff anyway. A drone may see the crook, but after that it's fairly generic police chases instead of heat-seeking ballistics or guns that can see through walls.

Gideon also runs afoul of Chicago's mayor, providing a series-long enemy (as if thugs in the street and code bugs weren't enough) who uses his political clout to make life tough for Gideon (who bullies and pressures the mayor early on into giving him a precinct in an outrageous court scene). Someone swipe right on the APB app for the mayor, because he seems fishy!

On the cop side, Amelia Murphy (Under the Dome's Natalie Martinez, again playing a cop for some reason) plays Gideon's confidante because... I don't really know. But she's there to remind Gideon that old cop skills are still important to the police force even when they have a bangin' whip with a touch screen to cruise around the hood in. And of course her ex-husband is heading the task force set up by the mayor to challenge Gideon.

Person of Interest's David Slack created the series but left after creative differences, and it's easy to see why. I would assume that Slack's version of APB emphasized the dangers of technology, the problems of when the wrong people get their hands on it and the questionable ethics of using technology, all themes that made Person of Interest a fantastic series. Instead, Fox just turned APB into a cop show with more computer screens.

APB premieres Monday, Feb. 6 at 9/8c on Fox.