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‘Training Day’ Could Turn Out to Be an Atypical Procedural for CBS
February 2, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Training Day hasn’t lost much of its brutality or cynicism in moving to the small screen.

The 2001 movie for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar has, however, had an attitude adjustment as it morphs into a series that launches on CBS Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

Created by Antoine Fuqua, who also wrote the movie, the new edition jumps ahead 15 years to the present and dusts off the old setup with new characters.

In this version, the veteran rogue detective who plays by his own rules is Frank Roarke (Bill Paxton, top), and his nominal trainee is Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell, top and left), whose father was a cop killed in action.

While Roarke’s success at busting select bad guys has built up the LAPD’s arrest total, his bosses have finally decided the cost/benefit ratio may be tilting against him.

So Craig is sent in as an undercover internal agent, reporting back to headquarters on what Roarke is really up to.

This gives us the “rat squad” angle; the “man seeks to hunt down the killer of his father” angle; the “idealistic rookie cop facing peer pressure” angle, and the “ideals vs. results” angle.

That’s more than the movie tackled, which makes sense because the TV show has a lot more hours to fill. It may also help explain why Frankie Roarke, while he’s plenty dirty, isn’t as psycho as Washington’s Alonzo Harris.  

Making us believe Harris could navigate his way through an entire TV season would be only slightly more credible than claiming he brought peace to the Middle East.

So Roarke, while he’s still unimpressed by the law, gets some potentially redeeming features. He recognizes the difference between good guys and bad guys, for instance, and he doesn’t seem to want innocent people hurt.

That humanizes him, all things being relative. It also changes the dynamic of the show – not enough, so we’re exactly rooting for him, but enough so the television Training Day may not just be week after week of swaggering intimidation.

On the other hand, the world in which Roarke operates, and presumably led him to the worldview he embraces, is no less dysfunctional than Harris’s world. Survival of the fittest is a given, and justice is an abstraction when you’re trying to stay alive minute-to-minute.  

There are good people, like Detective Rebecca Lee (Katrina Law), who was rescued by Roarke from human traffickers. They wake up every day in the quicksand, battling to keep breathing.

All this makes Training Day, at least at the start, more intense than your traditional police procedural – though in the broader sense a procedural is still what it is.

Smoothing off some of the rogue cop’s edges, ironically, makes Paxton’s acting job more difficult. He has to keep reminding us that he’s contemptuous of many law enforcement standards while at the same time throwing out hints he still harbors some deep and real humanity.

Roarke sometimes lurches a little from this balancing act, at least in the early going, and that can throw off other characters, as well.

The premise of Training Day seems to strongly suggest it will be taking on larger real-life law enforcement issues, like whether it’s possible to balance respect for individual rights with the protection of the larger community.

There’s another balancing act because while the police procedural genre has long acknowledged gray areas, it often defaults to the optimistic notion that there is justice and it can be implemented.

Training Day seems to say it may have to get back to us on that one.

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