Spike’s series following DEA agents debuts tonight

DEA, a new series, debuts on Spike tonight at 11 p.m. ET. The show is executive produced by Al Roker, and “follows Special Agents as they work cases ranging from street level dealers all the way up to international drug traffickers” in Detroit, according to the network. The first act of the first episode is online.

Agent Justin Mohr told the Detroit Free Press, “I think the difference between us and general cop shows … it goes into relationships … when we’re not on the streets. … I think they did a good job of capturing how we work as a group.”

The first episode does, in many ways, feel like an updated version of COPS, especially with the increased focus on the personalities of the DEA agents it follows. The cinematography is also a lot stronger, and it’s cleaner and easier to watch than its predecessor. There’s also a stronger sense of tension and drama, because the agents work up to, say, raiding a house, rather than just responding to a call and finishing it within one segment. Unfortunately, the series opts for an unnecessary narrator who nearly always states the obvious, a sign that producers think viewers are morons.

Other critics also find that insufferable, but generally like the series. The New York Daily News’ David Hinckley says “the producers ramp up the drama with ominous music and narration that’s determined not to leave a single cliche unspoken,” although “the show’s subjects are interesting enough to make routine observations seem much more meaningful.” And The Boston Herald’s Mark A. Perigard says that while the show “sets up viewers to be disappointed” because “the voice-over narrator warns that these daring law enforcement agents could face disaster at any second,” which never materializes, “The best moments come when the show goes afield to show the camaraderie between the men who share this stressful job.”

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