NEW COP DRAMAS “FBI” AND “THE ROOKIE” SEEK A TV SPOTLIGHT
A TV Review by Tim Riley
“FBI” ON THE CBS NETWORK
The prolific Dick Wolf, producer of the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” franchises, has a strong presence on the NBC network schedule. But for now, his new series “FBI,” a police procedural, has a home on the CBS network. During the summer TV press tour, Dick Wolf explained to the assembled critics that he grew up idolizing his FBI agent uncle and “having a very, very warm feeling about all the agents I met back there.” Seeing his uncle as a role model translates into this show’s favorable portrayals.
An intense, moving drama about the inner workings of the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation offers the opportunity for “FBI” to cover all the bases of the crime beat, including gang activity to terrorism to hate crimes. As a matter of fact, the basic themes are pretty much covered in the first two episodes, allowing Special Agent Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym) and her partner Special Agent Omar Adom “OA” Zidan (Zeeko Zaki) to demonstrate their talents. The pilot covers the gang activity of the treacherous, murderous MS-13 expanding its turf and the sinister moves of a neo-Nazi white supremacist. The second episode goes for the topical terror threat posed by ISIS recruiting impressionable youth. Agent Zidan, a Muslim who graduated from West Point and spent two years undercover for the DEA before being cherry-picked by the FBI, adds special skills with his ability to speak Arabic when uncovering the ISIS poisoning plot in the second episode. Don’t get comfortable with Connie Nielsen as the person in charge because she’s replaced by Sela Ward’s Special Agent in Charge Dana Mosier, starting with the second episode. This is one reason it’s important to go past any series’ pilot to get the full picture.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jubal Valentine (Jeremy Sisto) is really running the show because he’s constantly barking directives in a commanding way that highlights his innate strengths. Sisto nails his role with effortless ease. The pairing of Agent Maggie Bell and Agent Omar Adon Zidan works on several levels. Zidan proves to be sturdy and strong, while Bell has a sensitive core that relates to the emotional state of victims and the accused alike. “FBI” may come to be a good bet for CBS for the primary reason that this type of police drama is like comfort food for the mind at the end of a long day.
“THE ROOKIE” ON ABC NETWORK
The fact that the titular character for “The Rookie,” a police procedural in the setting of Los Angeles, would seem an unnatural person to be taking up a career in law enforcement underlines this series’ human interest story. Nathan Fillion’s John Nolan, a small town guy whose marriage and career crumbled, is starting over in the big city in his pursuit of a dream, at the age of 40, to become a police officer, in the LAPD no less. The pilot episode wasted no time in moving John Nolan on a new path. In the middle of a divorce and giving up on construction work in his midlife crisis, Nolan foils a bank robbery with a reckless bravery that propels him to the uncharted waters of police work.
As the creator, writer and producer of “The Rookie,” Alexi Hawley was best-suited to point out during the summer TV press tour that Fillion’s character lands in a “sort of in between place because the other characters who are his age are his superiors.” After getting through the police academy, the first day on the job proves to be a test that Nolan does not pass with flying colors. It’s not easy getting into the middle of a domestic dispute that turns ugly and bloody violent.
As befitting someone of advanced age, Nolan can’t quite keep up the pace of his fellow rookies. We see that he’s unable to jump a fence during a pursuit. Heck, he can’t even run fast enough to catch the ordinary street criminal. The officer in charge of training rookies, Sgt. Wade Grey (Richard T. Jones), doesn’t want Nolan to be there in the first place. He doesn’t hold back on letting it be known that the LAPD is no place for someone trying to find himself because he’s “a walking midlife crisis.” Don’t expect Nolan’s training partner to have a light touch. LAPD officer Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson), tasked with taking Nolan on the beat, wonders why a middle-aged rookie is even being given a chance. Veteran officer Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) is equally tough.
Aside from the grittiness of the mean streets of the City of Angels which go far to create a sense of realism, “The Rookie” benefits from the likable presence of Nathan Fillion that serves him well in whatever role he plays.At first blush, “The Rookie” looks promising for having a dark edge that doesn’t sugarcoat the rigors of dangerous police work in the urban setting.