If you love the 1960s, gangsters, and quick-talking New York City cop dramas, TNT’s new series Public Morals is everything you need in your life. Creator Edward Burns focuses on the blurred line between gangsters and cops and their moral choices – or lack thereof.
Not only did Burns (The Brothers McMullen, Saving Private Ryan) create the show, he also stars in, directs, executive produces and writes for it, too. After Saving Private Ryan, Burns was urged by movie titan Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws) to work on movie scripts modeled after Burns’ father’s life as a NYPD officer in the 60’s. While he says he didn’t pull from those scripts for Public Morals, he definitely used his research to shape the new series.
Officer Muldoon (Burns) is a smooth-talking cop, who is the go-to guy for both sides of the track when worlds collide. He has a wife he loves and seems to be the only NYPD officer that doesn’t commit adultery (though he commits plenty of other questionable acts). Muldoon is partnered with thick-accented tough guy, officer Charlie Bullman, played by Michael Rapaport (Boston Legal, Prison Break). Bullman takes on what would be classified as the “bad cop” role in the whole good cop/bad cop scenario; he has a short fuse and perpetually balled up fists. Generally speaking, both cops are “good” cops, but they’re not above looking the other way when it benefits them financially.
Muldoon walks a thin moral line – different from Bullman’s moral struggle – as he works for favors and tips from gangsters. How did this cop become so trusted and well-connected with the Irish mob? Well, it helps (or hinders, depending on your outlook) that his uncle, played by Oscar-winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, Leverage), is a head honcho in the Irish mob.
The series spends the first episode establishing relationships and revealing characteristics, but by the end of the second episode, a high-profile mob murder hits particularly close to home for Muldoon, launching him and his men into an even more tangled web with the gangsters.
Other notable players in the show are Neal McDonough (Band of Brothers, Desperate Housewives) as Rusty Patton, a ruthless, bad-tempered power-hungry member of the Irish-American mob, and Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Tommy Boy) as Rusty’s father, Joe, who happens to the Irish mob boss.
Beyond the handful mentioned here, there are a lot of players to keep up with, which can be daunting for some, but the progression of the show has been, and probably will continue to be, nudged by murder. Public Morals is still finding its footing as it walks the very thin line between Emmy-worthy programming or just another cop show. Either way, it’s worth giving it a fair chance to see the progression of the remaining six episodes this season.
Catch new episodes of Public Morals Tuesdays at 10pm ET or catch recent episodes On Demand.