Review: Lincoln Heights 1×01

Lincoln Heights

In the US: ABC Family, Mondays, 7/6c

In the UK: Nothing yet, but probably The Disney Channel

What is it that makes a programme a “family programme”? Well, obviously there can’t be much swearing, sex or violence – can’t have kids knowing about that. Or anything else adult. Or that corresponds much to the real world.

It can’t be too complicated for the kids, either, or else they won’t get it. So it can’t deal with serious issues in a sophisticated way, no matter what it claims.

What to make then of Lincoln Heights? It’s The Wire, but for a family audience. How does that work then?

Plot (stolen by someone living next door to the ABC Family web site)

Eddie Sutton (Russell Hornsby) is a dedicated police officer, his wife Jenn (Nicki Micheaux), a devoted nurse, but their most important job is as parents to their three teenage children Cassie (Erica Hubbard), Tay (Mishon Ratliff) and Lizzie (Rhyon Brown). They’re your everyday American family living in the suburbs of Southern California, but the Suttons are thrown for a loop when Eddie decides to move his wife and three kids to the inner-city neighborhood where he grew up. Through a police department program that provides incentive for cops to move into dangerous neighborhoods, Eddie sees the golden opportunity to achieve the American dream of home ownership while bringing about positive change in a struggling community. How he’ll balance his desire to transform his old neighborhood while protecting his family is at the heart of this one-hour drama series, “Lincoln Heights.”

Is it any good?

How old are you? Teenager? You’ll probably love Lincoln Heights. Unless you’re extremely sophisticated, it’ll probably be the most hard-hitting thing you’ve ever seen. There are like rats and split-screen and chases and drugs and stuff. No one gets shot, badly hurt, knifed, mugged for their shoes or anything too bad, but it has the look of adult crime shows and repeats many of their clich?ɬ�s.

If you’re an adult and you’ve been raised on a diet of The Bill or Picket Fences, you’ll probably feel the same way, but if you’ve caught CSI, The Wire or anything else that’s genuinely adult, you’ll be less impressed. You’ll be wondering why the cop whom everyone knows is a cop, who’s already done one raid on a drug house and now lives in the same street as the druggies, isn’t killed by the gangs as an example within minutes of moving back into the neighbourhood. Breaking up domestics in the street without a gun in his back pocket, just in case? I don’t think so.

One rat does not a drug house make

Not living in Lincoln Heights myself, I can’t say for sure that what ABC Family depicts is as distant from the real thing as Dempsey and Makepeace was from policing London (and someone will probably say it’s just like that, really), but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that any comparison with The Wire stops at

  1. it’s mainly about black people
  2. it’s set in a poor area
  3. there’s some crime about.

I reckon the chances of the average cop family moving into the neighbourhood he polices for reasons other than plot necessity are infinitesimally small, and if they did, they wouldn’t last a season. And one rat does not a drug house make.

Questions about realism aside, it’s a likeable enough show, though. Russell Hornsby plays the father well and the character is interesting enough; his family has a certain amount of background irritation that they emit regularly, but are no worse than any other TV clan; and it’s good to have an African-American family at the centre of a drama on a mainstream network for a change. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have to watch tele with their kids or who is a kid, but it’s definitely at the upper levels of teenage-oriented programming, and may well represent the very top itself.

Here’s a family-friendly YouTube trailer.


Erica Hubbard (Cassandra Sutton)

Michael Reilly Burke (Kevin Lund)

Mishon Ratliff (Tay Sutton)

Nicki Micheaux (Jenn Sutton)

Rhyon Nicole Brown (Lizzie Sutton)

Robert Adamson (Charles)

Russell Hornsby (Eddie Sutton)