Several networks got together and decided that this would be the perfect week to premiere their generic police procedurals. It may not have necessarily proved extra-convenient for TNT and ABC to launch “Memphis Beat” and “Rookie Blue” within days of each other, but it definitely saved a little bit of time for me and Sepinwall.
Sepinwall handled “Memphis Beat” and said basically what I would have said, which is that despite Jason Lee and a potentially fruitful locale, TNT’s latest could star anyone and be set anywhere without any alterations to its bland, by-the-books characters and story. It’s a pretty big disappointment.
I get to review “Rookie Blue” which, if nothing else, isn’t nearly as disappointing as “Memphis Beat.”
Because of Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard and producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney and director Clark Johnson, “Memphis Beat” raised expectations and dashed them. Other than a couple actors I like, “Rookie Blue” didn’t do anything to tease my high hopes and it pretty well lived down to my expectations. Like “Scoundrels” and, to a slightly lesser extent, “The Gates,” “Rookie Blue” looks and feels like exactly what it is: A zero-risk summer burn-off for ABC. Viewers probably don’t expect much quality and ABC probably doesn’t expect many viewers, so if there are times when stars Missy Peregrym and Gregory Smith at least keep things vaguely likable? Well, there’s that.
More on “Rookie Blue” after the break…
While “Grey’s Anatomy” has been a long-running smash for ABC, the network hasn’t put much effort into replicating the formula. Last summer the network ran a few episodes of “Grey’s Astronomy” — that’d be “Defying Gravity” — in the summer as a low-cost pick-up that had a couple devoted fans, but they were the only people watching. Last spring, the network ran a few episodes of “Grey’s Attorney” — that’d be “The Deep End” — and nobody noticed at all. I can’t come up with a not-so-clever nickname for “Grey’s Anatomy in a Canadian Police Precinct,” so I’m just calling “Rookie Blue” “Training, Eh” and that’ll be fine.
Written by Illana Frank, you’ll recognize the formulaic influences to “Rookie Blue” without any difficulties. Five ambitious young cops begin their first day of work at a police department in a Major Canadian City that doesn’t seem to be called Toronto in the pilot, but certainly is Toronto. [“Rookie Blue” goes for non-descript Toronto lensing, rather than the higher production values and, thus, enhanced specificity of “Flashpoint.”
They’re all given very basic character traits that can be boiled down in no time flat. Andy (Peregrym) has a father who used to walk the beat and the ensuing daddy issues that come with that profile. Enuka Okuma, the show’s token African-Canadian actress gets to play Traci, predictably a sassy single mom. Smith plays Dov Epstein, who you can certainly think of as Ephram Brown with a gun and a badge. There are two other cops, played by Charlotte Sullivan and Travis Milne, but only one week after watching the pilot, I really had to look at ABC publicity images to remember Sullivan was there, while I’m pretty certain Milne doesn’t appear in the first episode.
The “Rookie Blue” pilot has some basic first-day-of-work procedural stuff, wherein hour heroes get to work full of pluck, anticipating the heroism to come, but quickly get humiliated for their lack of experience and then eventually do enough things right for us to be sure that eventually, they’ll be admirable officers. You’ve really seen this sort of thing before. You’ve seen the routine hazing, the nervous camaraderie, the post-work bar-hopping and the stern authority figures who get to say things like “Stay right behind me and cover me and don’t shoot me in the back.”
There are at least two hunky older officers ready to play the Sgt. McDreamy role, though at least for the pilot, “Rookie Blue” is refreshingly romance-free.
Oh and did I mention that “Rookie Blue” features gratuitous narration from Peregrym’s chracter, who may have police blues in her genetic makeup, but she’s still wide-eyed enough to opine wisdom like, “There is absolutely no training that can prepare you for life on the street.”
Then again, Andy isn’t so wide-eyed that characters should be able to get away with calling her “Bambi,” a cutely nickname that belies that fact that Missy Peregrym looks capable of taking down every single one of her male co-stars in a fair fight. Maybe it’s just from watching “Stick It” and “Reaper” (another character named “Andi”), but I never doubt Peregrym’s ability to acquit herself in physical situations. She’s also fine at playing vulnerability and she will escape the tedium of “Rookie Blue” without losing any of her dignity.
Smith will also be fine, because he has a nervous charm that makes it possible tolerate his character even if the expositional details about the character don’t quite seem to line up with the performance the “Everwood” veteran is giving.
Still, “Rookie Blue” may not be a great time investment for Smith and Peregrym, because these Canadian police procedurals tend to get renewed. “Flashpoint” is in its third season almost without CBS lifting a finger, while “The Bridge” has already been renewed by CTV before CBS has even bothered to air the first episode. It didn’t matter that “The Listener” tanked on NBC, because CTV was happy to have a second season. It’s doubtful that “Rookie Blue” is going to cause much of a stir on ABC, but it’s premiering day-and-date on Canada’s Global and success North of the Border would presumably knock its stars out of future casting cycles.
Since I doubt I’m going to watch more than another episode or two at the most, I’d hate to think that my only memory of “Rookie Blue” would be as the show that kept Missy Peregrym out of better shows.
“Rookie Blue” premieres at 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 24 on ABC.