by Charles A. Monagan
Mar 5, 2012
12:57 PMOn Connecticut
The Other Side of Connecticut
I saw this recent story in the New London Day about how Hartford will be the setting for a new police drama that will be premiering on TV in the fall.
According to the article, reaction to the show "The Second Disrict" has been mixed. Some fear that it will showcase the issues our capital city has been having with crime and therefore hurt efforts of revitalizing the city. Others think that any publicity is good publicity, and being on TV will only raise Hartford's profile.
"The Second District" is the brainchild of Mark Manson, a 14-year veteran of the Hartford police force, and Felix Soto, a convicted criminal currently serving a federal prison sentence for bank robbery.
As anyone who even casually watches TV knows, there is no shortage of crime dramas on the air. It's a popular genre because it's usually pretty easy to follow: bad guy does something wrong, good guys try to stop them. Of course, the better cop shows, say like "NYPD Blue" or "The Shield," are so because the characters are shades of gray, and it's not always so easy to tell who is on which side of right and wrong.
Usually, however, the characters are the stars of the show, not the locale. Even in such location-specific dramas such as the aforementioned "NYPD Blue," "CSI: Miami," "The Streets of San Francisco" or even "Mayberry RFD," the eponymous city may give the show some flavor, but ultimately it's not the defining aspect of the show. You're more likely to remember David Caruso's sunglasses than any particular aspect of South Beach.
The interesting part of the story to me is that "The Second District" will show a side to Connecticut that many outside of the state don't get to see: The hardscrabble life of our inner cities. I know we're all familiar with the high-crime areas in big cities like Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport or Waterbury, but I'm always surprised at how many people who live in other parts of the country think that all of Connecticut is like Greenwich and the Gold Coast, and that we all spend our days at country clubs or on the golf course. And even if they don't believe that exact version of Connecticut, they believe the rest of the state is like Star Hollow, the cozy, fictional Connecticut small town that was home to "Gilmore Girls." I've had to tell those who have never actually been here that there are really very poor, rough-and-tumble communities that rival any poverty-stricken areas in the nation. It's hard for others to believe that such a supposedly affluent and well-off state could have such neighborhoods. But we do.
Coincidentally, this morning on Bing.com, an idyllic picture of the Hartford riverfront is featured, one probably closer to how the city would prefer outsiders to see it, and certainly one that we would love to be the reality for the entire state.
I hope that "The Second District" will show the rougher side of Hartford. I don't think it's a bad thing, especially when it's a real thing. Pretending like it doesn't exist won't help. Maybe exposing that other side of Connecticut will aid in the efforts to eradicate it.