FX Builds on Buzz of Hit Series

Its season premiere is three months away, but FX is already stoking the fire surrounding its hit drama, The Shield.

A campaign breaking this week trumpets the show’s second season, which debuts Jan. 7. Created in-house by the cable network, the effort includes black-and-white TV spots directed by Albert Watson, a photographer who is well-known for his stark celebrity portraits. The ads seek to capture the essence of each character on the show, beginning with Vic Mackey, played by Michael Chiklis, who won an Emmy last month for his role as the rogue cop.

The spots use tight close-ups and dramatic lighting on the characters as a soundtrack plays memorable dialog from the show’s first season. Each ad ends with a new line written by series creator Sean Ryan that foreshadows that character’s role in the new season.

The ads will run through the end of the year on FX and other Fox networks. They may also run on other cable networks through barter arrangements.

The 30-second Mackey spot shows the shaven-headed cop in his trademark leather jacket moving cautiously through a dark space and pointing his service revolver with both hands. Lines from last season include a description of him as “Al Capone with a badge.” The spot ends with Mackey’s voice asking, “Who can I trust?”

Watson, whose work has graced the covers of more than 200 magazines, including Vogue and Vanity Fair, said he was originally retained to shoots stills for The Shield. “The head of marketing said to me, ‘It’s a shame you don’t do TV spots,’ ” he said. “And I told him that I most certainly do do TV spots.”

Watson, who has directed commercials for Toyota, AT&T and Dockers, filmed three Mackey spots and four others. The next one set to air focuses on Mackey colleague Claudette Wym, played by CCH Pounder.

Chris Carlisle, evp of marketing and promotions for FX Networks, said scenes from the new season could not be used since filming is ongoing. Watson’s “film noir” technique, he said, will help the campaign stand out in the general TV-marketing blitz this fall. “We knew the broadcast networks would be throwing everything they’ve got behind their new shows, and we thought, ‘How can we cut through that?’ ” Carlisle said.

Asked why he did not use an ad agency, he said, “Because no one knows our show better than us.”