ABC has their new show called “The Rookie” and I was prepared to love this show based on the little I knew about it. A 40 year old hero from a bank robbery decides to become a cop and join the LAPD. Hence he is their oldest rookie. It doesn’t scream hit to me, but with Nathan Filion aka Rick Castle playing the lead, I was in like Flynn to give it a shot.
The show unrolls, at first, exactly like I thought it would. There’s an opening “event”, in this case a bank robbery at the bank where the main character, John Nolan, is putting his divorce decree in a safety deposit box. He’s a good guy, and the divorce was amicable — they even stayed together 2 extra years so their son could go off to college first. He’s just a little lost now, wondering who he is and what he wants to do with his life. As he’s exiting the bank, two bank robbers come in and start robbing the place. One assaults the bank manager, John’s friend, and John reacts, drawing the attention of one of the robbers. Just as the robber is about to see the bank manager hit a silent alarm, John distracts him to get his attention back on him, and in the process, gets pistol-whipped. Then John sees cops pull up across the road, and to distract the robber, he draws his attention again. Just as the robber is about to shoot him, the cops save the day. Fast forward nine months and Nolan is joining the LAPD as the oldest rookie.
At this point, the story could go a lot of different ways. First, it could be a comedy of errors and blunders as he stumbles through being a rookie. It could even be an actual comedy. But it’s not, it’s a drama.
Second, it could go with the very traditional “story of the week”, the tried and true formula of Castle, Blue Bloods, pretty much every other procedural out there. But he’s a rookie, not a detective. So, no.
Third, it could focus on him as he learns the job, totally about him being a surprise superstar. Nope, not the way they went.
Fourth, it could focus on him as he struggles to learn the job, a “lesson of the week” type approach. This is kind of the premise, but they threw in two twists I wasn’t expecting.
John isn’t the only rookie — there are three in total, John, Jackson, and Lucy. And they are all assigned training officers. Plus the TOs have a boss who hates John, and that boss has a boss who likes the idea of John’s potential positive press. And so it is a LOT like Rookie Blue from a few years ago. No Missy, but that’s a good thing in my books.
But what I wasn’t expecting was the extra support. That’s John plus seven other key regulars, and while I assume Nathan Filion pulled in some big money, it was the other cast members that I was surprised by in terms of their pedigree.
Okay, I’ll start with Nathan on Team 1. I like him a lot. He was great on Castle, loved the show. However, while I watched Firefly, I’m more enamoured with his short-lived show after Firefly — Drive. So I was going to give this one a good try, even if the pilot was slow. Nope, I liked it, we’re all good. His training officer, Talia Bishop, is played by Afton Williamson, and I have only seen her in guest star roles, none of her larger series roles. She’s good, appropriately tough, and sits well in the role as a strong training officer.
Team 2 is a combination of rookie Lucy Chen, played by Melissa O’Neil who I loved on Dark Matter, and training officer Tim Bradford, played by Eric Winter who is a bit hit and miss for me (okay on Mentalist, meh on Rosewood).
Team 3 is rookie Jackson West, a gung-ho, squared away, energetic rookie played by Titus Makin Jr. (a few guest star roles that I’ve seen, but nothing memorable) and training officer Angela Lopez, played by Alyssa Diaz (some guest star roles that I’ve seen, a bunch of others that I haven’t).
At this point, I was just happy to see Filion supported by O’Neil. Then we meet the boss of the TOs that hates John…Sgt Wade Grey, played by Richard T. Jones. Jones was one of the few highlights on Wisdom of the Crowd, and I liked him all the way back to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles or even farther back to Judging Amy. He makes a great cop, so happy to have him. And since he’s set up as a source of conflict for John, he’ll be around regularly. Watching, waiting to pounce.
But he has a boss too. A Captain Zoe Andersen, played by Mercedes Mason. I’ve seen her around in shows — NCIS: LA, 666 Park Avenue, even Castle. And I always like seeing her. She doesn’t have a big part in the pilot, so hard to tell for the future, but I’ll count her as a plus.
Actually, I’m counting all of them as a plus. I thought it was going to be mostly just Nathan Filion, newbie. But the story was a bit deeper than I expected in the opening, albeit not very strongly written, but it’s got some potential meat lined up for future EPs. I’m in. My original prediction was RENEWAL, and I’m sticking with that prediction. And I’ll be watching.