LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - We’ve all been spoiled during the past 20 years for cop shows by “Law & Order.” The verisimilitude that comes from filming on actual city streets with local actors can’t be duplicated on a set 3,000 miles away. (I’m looking at you, “CSI: NY.”)
So, in a sense, “Rookie Blue,” premiering Thursday on ABC, has the right conceit: Determined, fresh-from-the-academy recruits are sent into on-location neighborhoods, patrolling real streets and poking around in shabby buildings that don’t feel like sets. It’s well-faked grit; as one cop notes to another, “There is no training that can prepare you for life on the streets.”
But somewhere during the pilot — perhaps while glimpsing the generic cop cars, or perhaps when the recruits first appear in uniform with city-less badges — the question will arise: What streets are we talking about here?
“Rookie” is not wholly horrible, though it’s no cop “Grey’s Anatomy,” either. Lead Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym) is smart, green and rightly questions her instincts. She’s a winning focus (at least in the pilot) and makes lines like, “Don’t make me shoot you! This is my first day! Please!” actually work.
But at its core, “Rookie” is a terrible show. You can’t ask viewers accustomed to decades of such series as “Hill Street Blues,” “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and “Southland” to buy into a police series in an unnamed town. The city is the unspoken actor in a cop show: It shapes the streets being patrolled, the people living on them and the back-story for each crime. To avoid even the invention of a faux-Gotham personality (filmed in Toronto, “Rookie” has a typical New York-by-way-of-Canada falseness that leaves a day-old coffee aftertaste) is lazy writing; even lazier than having a lead character who’s by-the-book to a fault but fails to Mirandize not one but two suspects during her first day.
But those might even be passable faults if “Rookie” wasn’t so smug. In its characterization of the rookies, it completely misses the point of its leads’ motivation. These cops aren’t out to make Generic City a better place, or to see American/Canadian justice done. They’re in it to make themselves feel good about themselves. It’s “Law & Order: Self-Esteem Unit.”
These are not the folks you’d want responsible for cleaning up the unsavory elements in your neighborhood. Even if any of these neighborhoods actually looked familiar.