Jennifer Lopez returns to television — that is, acting on television — in the new NBC drama "Shades of Blue," which premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. The show has been touted as Lopez's first foray into TV drama, overlooking her roles in the soapier 1993 CBS series "Second Chances" and its spinoff "Hotel Malibu" (which, to be fair, didn't last very long).

The project, which Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever calls a "solid and ambitious dirty-cop drama," is a reminder that Lopez — who began her multi-faceted career as a Fly Girl on "In Living Color" — was once considered a serious actress. Stuever writes:

It's tempting to laugh off the pop superstar's attempt at glamming down (a rather sexy definition of "glammed down") and star in a "serious" show, but the results are not entirely unimpressive. In fact, "Shades of Blue" recalls that talented actress many of us only first noticed in the 1998 film adaptation of Elmore Leonard's "Out of Sight."

Lopez received favorable reviews (and a Golden Globes nod) for her breakthrough role as Selena Quintanilla-Pérez in the 1997 biopic "Selena." The Post's review noted that "the film rightfully belongs to Jennifer Lopez, who captures Selena's luminous beauty, innate sweetness and boundless energy."

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Lopez starred in the Steven Soderbergh-directed "Out of Sight" the following year, in what many consider to be her best ever film performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, that film boasts the second-highest rating of Lopez's extensive filmography. (For what it's worth, the highest goes to the animated film "Antz.")

The films that followed (and reminder: there were many) weren't nearly as well-received by critics, but there were some box-office blockbusters in the mix, including "Maid in Manhattan" and "The Wedding Planner," which opened at No. 1 the same week her chart-topping sophomore album J. Lo debuted.

There's no arguing that Lopez's acting career became secondary to her career as a singer, which spawned a number of hit singles and albums. Her rising profile led to multiple fashion lines, a rabid interest in her personal life and the overall J. Lo brand. But even post-"Gigli," Lopez still had power on the big screen (see: "Monster-in-Law").

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"I've done a lot of movies at this point, I've been doing this a long time now," Lopez told Seth Meyers last year while promoting her (widely-panned) film, "The Boy Next Door."  "There's some, I go, 'Wow it was so amazing to be a part of that,' and some that…you mention the name and I'm like, 'Huh, what, which movie? I'm sorry, I don't even remember that!'"

"Nobody bats 1000," Lopez said good-naturedly, before Meyers reminded her that she was in "Anaconda." "I was also in 'Gigli,'" she added. "What else sucked?"

Lopez took another serious turn in the 2007 film "El Cantante," about salsa legend Hector Lavoe. She was a producer on the film and starred as Lavoe's wife, Puchi. The film received generally negative reviews, but there was praise for Lopez, who later told Latina magazine that she felt her role was Oscar-worthy. The Post's Ann Hornaday said that Lopez "steals the show."

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"A star isn't born in "El Cantante" as much as it's reconfirmed," Hornaday wrote. "She's still here, and she's still got it."

Lopez took a long break from movies after "El Cantante." Her next on-screen performance was on the small screen — a guest appearance on "How I Met Your Mother." And in yet another reinvention, Lopez joined the judges table on "American Idol" in 2011. That year, she topped Forbes's Celebrity 100 list.

Joining "Idol" proved to be a shrewd business move. Lopez debuted the music video for "On the Floor," her 2011 collaboration with Pitbull, during a highly-watched episode of the singing competition and it landed on the Top 10 chart, effectively relaunching her music career. The following year, Lopez embarked on her first ever world tour.

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"Shades of Blue" puts Lopez on two networks at once, a point not lost on the "Idol" Twitter team:

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"Shades of Blue" might not be Soderbergh, but it is an attempt to do something different — unexpected, even. Lopez stars as a Brooklyn detective dealing with a precinct that's rife with corruption while also raising a teenage daughter. It might be difficult to imagine her a struggling single mom. But she might surprise us. She is, after all, an actress.

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