The Red Line Review: An Off-Brand Series for CBS That Lacks Direction

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The Red Line is a change of pace for CBS. 

When you think of the network, you think of the plethora of procedural dramas on offer. That's part of the reason why this new drama is at an immediate disadvantage. 

It's not a procedural, a comedy or even a competition series.

From the get-go, the new Noah Wyle-fronted drama appears to be the network raising the middle finger to audiences who have taken issue with the lack of diversity in its other shows. 

Important Words - The Red Line

That being said, packaging it up with two installments per week is not the best vote of confidence in the project.

Two hours per week is a big commitment for viewers, especially in a day and age in when there are more TV shows on the air than ever.  

Related: Get CBS All Access via Prime Video Channels for Hit Shows, Exclusive Originals & Live TV!

The show's big jumping off point is the shooting of a doctor who tries to help a man after the robbery on a grocery store.

When the cops arrive on the scene, Paul (Noel Fisher) thinks the doctor is the person who was holding up the store at gunpoint and shoots him several times without even thinking about it. 

The poor doctor was unarmed and only trying to make sure the person behind the counter was safe.

Related: Aliyah Royale on The Red Line and Why It Matters Right Now

It takes viewers on a journey to how it affects the doctor's husband, Daniel (Wyle), and their daughter Jira (Aliyah Royale).

It's a timely topic given that we're hearing about unarmed black men being killed by white police officers all too often. 

A Startling Conversation - The Red Line

The issue that plagues the series is that everything aside from the shooting plays out in such an unconvincing way that it's hard not to pick up on the flaws. 

Serious moments play out with soapy twists, and it feels like a drastically different show to what the promotional material teased.

The shooting is right at the beginning of the premiere, but beyond the racial tension the show highlights, it's difficult to care for a lot of the other plots.

Tia Young (Emayatzy Corinealdi), Jira's birth mother's storyline, in particular, feels disjointed from the rest of the show.

Taking a Walk - The Red Line

Her machinations for giving up her daughter are murky at best, and the mother and daughter's initial scenes together feel very awkward.

I get that the first meeting between a parent and a child after all those years would be awkward.

The dialog is very off-putting during their first meeting. What's supposed to be a heartwarming scene falls completely flat.

Related: The Red Line: Watch the Heartbreaking Trailer 

The intriguing part in all of this is how Royale grapples with the flurry of emotions Jira is facing.

Father and Daughter - The Red Line

She worries that Daniel does not understand the severity of how she feels. Her other father had been murdered for the color of his skin, and she's worried she's going to find herself hurt by racism. 

Jira's motives for finding her birth mother are definitely warranted, and I like the story it tells about Daniel feeling inadequate as he tries to keep his daughter all to himself.

He's already lost his husband, and the very notion that he could lose his daughter to her birth mother is too much for him to handle. 

A Daughter Searches - The Red Line

Paul's storyline chugs along at a slow pace.

You would think with eight episodes, there would be no room for filler.

But he sulks around as he tries to explain that the man's skin color did not skew his decision to open fire. 

The most striking aspect of it is that all of the police officers stick together, even if not everyone in the force believes Paul to be innocent. 

Paul finds himself questioning his own motives throughout the series. Is he racist? Did he follow protocol? 

It's an interesting question, but not one the series handles very well.

The issue with The Red Line is that the show moves from plot to plot with the only one being interesting is the shooting that started it all. 

Noel Fisher as Paul - The Red Line

It's understandable for there to be a ripple effect after such an incident that affects a lot of people, but the series wants to tell too many different storylines.

At one point, I questioned whether the creative forces examined EVERY single CBS show to write characters who have not been represented by the network in the past. 

Related: CBS Confirms Fate of NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: Los Angeles

That's not a necessarily negative, but for a show that jumps off with white police officer shooting a black man, it should have more focus on that storyline and not dwell on the ones that have little to do with the overarching plot.

There are important stories that need to be told, and The Red Line struggles to find the right balance between the ones that need more representation in the media to the ones that don't. 

Daniel Remembers - The Red Line

It's a different series for E.R. vet Wyle, who is the strongest actor as the husband and father who feels like his whole life is crashing down around him.

Royale comes a close second as the teenager who worries what her father's murder means for her and other people with the same skin tone. 

The acting is excellent, but it's just shame the rest of the show does not hold up.

The show is worth watching if you're a fan of primetime soaps, but there's really not much else going for it beyond that. 

The Red Line premieres tonight at 8/7c. 

Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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