"The Chicago Code" hasn't solved the mystery of grabbing huge ratings yet, but creator Shawn Ryan hopes the cop drama can still crack the code for a second-season pickup on Fox. And if that happens, some credit might go to Charlie Sheen.
"It seems like we’re in that nether zone, where we’re not some big hit and we’re not some huge disaster," said Ryan, a writer-producer best-known for FX's groundbreaking crime drama "The Shield." "We’ll be judged over the 13 weeks and we’ll see where we are at the end of it. I think we’re doing OK, but there’s certainly room for improvement."
Ryan's midseason show -- which stars Jennifer Beals as a Chicago police commissioner bent on reforming the city's corruption, Delroy Lindo as a conflicted alderman and Jason Clarke as the hotheaded young detective -- got an unexpected break recently from, all of people, Sheen. When CBS and Warner Bros. halted production on the top-rated "Two and a Half Men" after a public spat with Sheen, "Code" lost one of its key competitors in the 9 p.m. Monday slot. The Fox drama will air against less-highly rated repeats of "Men" for the time being.
Last week, "Chicago Code" averaged 8 million total viewers, with a repeat of "Two and a Half Men" drawing 11.6 million.
Ryan knows there's still a long way to go.
"I’m not sure that there’s been a huge hit amongst any of the new shows this year," he said in a phone interview. "It’s really hard to launch new shows, without a doubt."
He speaks from personal experience. Last year, Ryan endured a rare failure with "Terriers," an unusual crime show on FX that won effusive praise from critics but struggled to find an audience.
Looking back, Ryan said, "I wouldn’t change anything about it. We made the show we wanted to make."
What about those complaints that the show was poorly promoted, that the title made viewers think it belonged on Animal Planet?
"Any time you have something that a lot of people acknowledge is really good and you can’t get people to watch, the conversation will go to things like that," Ryan replied. "I just don’t know how fair it is or if it had a different title or a different marketing campaign, would that have made a big difference?
"If I had to do it over again, I probably would have spent a lot more time thinking of some alternate titles and tried to come up with something better. But that's the past and I can't change it."
'The Chicago Code' coverage on Show Tracker
-- Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)
Photos, from top: Jason Clarke and Jennifer Beals in "The Chicago Code" (credit: Peter Sorel/Fox); Shawn Ryan, creator of "The Chicago Code" (credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters).