A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gang Related is a tense, violent drama about a gang member who infiltrates an LAPD task force. Characters are in almost nonstop danger, and guns are brandished and fired, characters are shot and killed (with veritable fountains of blood), or suddenly hit by cars. Young children may also be in danger, and we see dead bodies with gore and the grieving relatives left behind. There is also some cursing: "damn," "hell," "son of a bitch." Expect some references to sex, masturbation, body parts, and pornography. Some scenes take place in bars, but no one acts drunk. Drugs frequently play a part in criminal investigations.
What's the story?
Detective Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez) is the center of the action in GANG RELATED, which focuses on a hardworking LAPD gang task force. Lopez is a fast-rising LAPD star. But he has a big secret: He still has intimate connections to a Latino street gang headed by his father-figure Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis) and his two sons: rebellious, dangerous Carlos (Reynaldo Gallegos) and the somewhat reformed Daniel (Jay Hernandez), the longtime best friend of Lopez. Lopez has one heck of a conflict. He admires and respects his coworkers, particularly task force leader Sam Chapel (Terry O'Quinn) and his new partner Cassius Green (RZA). But his ties with the Los Angelinos in general, and the Acostas in particular, run deep. When his livelihood is pitted against his loved ones, which one will win out?
Is it any good?
At first blush, Gang Related appears to be just another cop drama in a television schedule stuffed with them, and even giving the action the (slight) twist of having a main character with a double life doesn't make it original. But Gang Related transcends its humdrum genre with some very sharp choices that elevate it above the pack. First and foremost, the excellent cast. RZA is positively adorable as Lopez' partner, while Terry O'Quinn brings with him the odd jolliness that made him such a cool character on Lost. Cliff Curtis is genuinely menacing as a mob boss who's by turns brutal and fatherly.
Gang Related also boasts a racially diverse cast in the very best way imaginable. People of color, many different colors, in fact, are at the center of the action. Race doesn't go unmentioned, but neither does it dominate every interaction. A key moment occurs early in the pilot, when Lopez snarkily criticizes Green's vocal abilities as he croons along with Marvin Gaye: "I thought all black people could sing." RZA-as-Green just rolls his eyes, accepting it as the good-natured (and realistic) ribbing that it is, and responds with a list of the rules of his car, which include no passing gas and no harsh words on his singing. The Gang Related creator scripted The Fast and the Furious movies from Tokyo Drift onwards; that series is known for its excellent and easygoing diversity, so perhaps this continuation of the pattern shouldn't come as a surprise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Gang Related is a realistic show. Do the officers look like real LAPD officers? Would a real gang member really be able to serve in the LAPD?
How important is it to you to see characters from diverse backgrounds represented on TV? Do you notice any trends toward more ethnic diversity in the movies or on TV?