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'The Rookie' Shows More Promise if it Shows Less Action
October 16, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

ABC’s new cop drama The Rookie has a decent shot at becoming a good show.

The Rookie, which premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, may already be a good show. Maybe it just needs to trust its premise and not feel it needs showers of gunfire to sell itself.

Nathan Fillion (top), who tagged along with a cop on his last ABC show, Castle, gets his own badge for The Rookie. In a story somewhat based on true events, he plays John Nolan who at 40 becomes the oldest newbie in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The age thing turns out to be more than a minor curiosity. Nolan’s immediate superior, Sgt. Wade Grey (Richard T. Jones, right, with Fillion), wants to harass Nolan into quitting, on the premise that if more “guys having midlife crises” decide to become cops, it will eventually weaken the department because they don’t have the same long-term passion as young people.

It’s not personal, says Grey. It’s a matter of protecting police lives. And while Grey immediately becomes the villain to everyone who is rooting for our good guy Nolan, Grey is making a point that’s at least worth discussion.

Beyond Grey, Nolan also is taking heat from his training officer, Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson, below). The first thing she tells him is that she wants to be police chief someday, and he’d better not do anything to screw up her path. Okay, boss.  

Nolan is, in fact, one of three new cops starting the same day.

Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil), a tough young woman, gets assigned to training officer Tim Bradford (Eric Winter), who makes Marine drill instructors look like Montessori teachers.

Jackson West (Titus Makin), son of the head of internal affairs at the LAPD, seems to have the whole police thing nailed. He’s assigned to training officer Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz), who has her own promotion at stake.

Fillion is okay as Nolan. The early writing does him no favors. The rest of the cast comprises a solid ensemble whose connections to the rookies would seem to open the doors for storylines rarely explored except in passing on other cop shows.

The Rookie looks to be heading in that direction when it quickly adds new dimensions to the stories of the training officers, particularly Bradford.

But then, in the last third of the show, The Rookie tucks those stories on a shelf and blasts into full-throttle shoot-'em-ups – those classic police gun battles where everyone fires several hundred rounds and hits nothing until the drama calls for it.

It’s not that cops never get into gun battles. It’s more that the odds of all three rookie cops becoming involved during their first few hours on the force strains credibility, particularly since they had faced other lethal incidents even before that.

Okay, television dramas telescope reality. They skip the everyday routines of police officers and expand the parts that get the adrenaline pumping.

But in this case, The Rookie has other options. It can poke further into the early days of a new cop’s career, when training can either feel like fraternity hazing or the tough love necessary to show the new officers what the job is really like, in real time with real people.

That wouldn’t mean scrapping the action scenes. It would mean not making action the focal point of an episode’s climactic scenes and thereby suggesting the rookie stuff is just an incidental entrée to a routine police drama.

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George Ashur
Thanks for the write-up, David. Reading your review, the most-excellent series Southland came to mind -- LA cops, diverse cast. While I don't expect The Rookie to come close to that earlier show's quality and integrity, I will give it a shot nonetheless.
Oct 16, 2018   |  Reply
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