This story first appeared in the May 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
If Shawn Ryan and his fellow writers had a chance to do The Shield all over today, none is confident the pitch-black cop drama would have the same ability to cut through a noisy television landscape.
"It's harder to get noticed and make your mark today. In a way, we were solely occupying that space back in March 2002," says Ryan of the antihero genre that has come to define cable during the decade since Shield launched.
But as Glen Mazzara recounts, it wasn't a particularly easy sell then, either. "It was after 9/11, and the idea that we were doing a show about corrupt cops was a problem at the time," he says. "People really hated that. They said: 'How could you do that? Cops are heroes.'"
Fortunately, the show had the full support of FX. The only note the writers recall the network giving with regularity was one early on that read, "Worlds collide" -- and the writers ultimately opted not to implement it. "They were afraid of being in this poor, destitute part of town for the whole show, so they were looking for ways to get Vic Mackey to Beverly Hills," says Ryan, laughing at the very idea.
Then there was the time FX was skittish about livestock. "In [the episode] 'Cupid & Psycho,' we had a scene in a frat house," recalls Mazzara. "A bunch of guys were going to be standing behind a sheep. The network got very nervous that we were promoting bestiality. They actually sent [executive] Eric Schrier to the set to make sure nobody was standing directly behind one."