October 17, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Rookie”


THE ROOKIE:  Tuesday 10PM on ABC

THE ROOKIE is mostly a standard-issue police procedural, not surprisingly most reminiscent of ABC’s long-running summer series Rookie Blue, but with one big difference:  it’s unmistakably a star vehicle for Nathan Fillion.  He’s one of those actors who seems to have spent his entire adult life starring in TV series, and The Rookie has been built around his shoulders by Alexi Hawley, who previously created Fillion’s hit Castle.  As John Nolan, a Pennsylvania construction contractor who decides, after quick-wittedly breaking up a bank robbery, to pursue his dream of becoming an LAPD cop, the character’s age is part of the story, and Nolan can’t run or climb as proficiently as his young colleagues.  Nevertheless, it’s made clear that he’s the true hero among them, brave and selfless.  And more than that:  a scene where a beautiful waitress slips him her number even though he was clueless that she was even interested turns out to be a fake-out, because secretly, Nolan is having a relationship with fellow rookie Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil), who’s even younger than the waitress and jeopardizing her career just by dating him.  (Oh, and through some contrivance involving an old roommate, the working-class Nolan somehow has a gorgeous LA spread with a view of the skyline.)

The Rookie struggles with its desire to split its focus among Nolan, Chen and the other rookie, Jackson West (Titus Makin), while especially servicing its star.  So in addition to defining Chen in part by her romance with Nolan, Hawley’s script gives Nolan his own antagonist in Sergeant Wade Grey (Richard T. Jones), who’s made it his mission to drive Nolan from the force, apparently because he’s afraid that if Nolan succeeds, the LAPD will be beset by a flood of 40-year old rookies.  Luckily for Nolan, Grey’s own boss Zoe Anderson (Mercedes Mason) is on his side.

The show’s other regulars are the rookies’ training officers, Talia Bishop (Afton Williiamson) for Nolan, (Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) for West, and Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) for Chen.  The two women are defined thus far by their competitiveness with one another, while Bradford is a demanding straight arrow who has a backstory that involves his estranged drug addict wife (guest star Mircea Monroe), who lives on the streets.

The storylines of The Rookie could interchangeably be found on any other network cop show:  a domestic disturbance that goes bad, a shoot-out with some hardened bad guys, the search for a little boy locked in a car on a hot day, and some comic relief from burglars who break into houses to have sex in them.  Pilot director Liz Friendlander uses the cops’ body cameras to introduce some variety into the visuals, and at least in the opening episode, there’s some effective use of LA locations, including a pile-up on Hollywood Boulevard.

The only thing that really sets The Rookie apart, though, is the presence of Fillion, and the show’s success will depend on how many viewers want to watch him prove each week that his character’s instincts and nobility outweigh his middle-aged limitations.  Airing against procedurals on the other networks (NCIS: New Orleans and NBC’s own successful rookie New Amsterdam), all concerned may have their work cut out for them.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."