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"The Rookies" The Complete Second Season DVD Review

The Rookies: The Complete Second Season DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Rookies: Season Two (1973-74)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Rita Lakin / Producer/Developer: William Blinn / Executive Producers: Aaron Spelling, Leonard Goldberg

Writers: William Blinn, Hal Sitowitz, Robert I. Holt, James Basler, Webb Marris, Hoke Howell, Robert Harland, William Douglas Lansford, Robert Heverly, Paul Savage, Don Balluck, Sandor Stern, Richard Landau, Paul Edwards, Sy Salkowitz, Frank Telford, Irv Pearlberg, Dan Ullman, Alvin Boretz / Directors: Harry Falk, Leonard Horn, E.W. Swackhamey, Gene Nelson, Richard Newton, Philip Leacock, William Claxton, Alvin Ganzer, Barry Shear, Edward M. Abroms, Lee Philips

Regular Cast: Georg Stanford Brown (Terry Webster), Sam Melville (Mike Danko), Michael Ontkean (Willie Gillis), Kate Jackson (Jill Danko), Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Lt. Eddie Ryker)

Notable Guest Stars: John Saxon (Farley), Michael Baseleon (Tate), James Sikking (Captain Gentry), Claude Akins (Buck Sanborn), Robert Walden (Joey), Robert Hooks (Barney Miller), Victor French (Crazy Marvin), Scott Jacoby (Tim Halley), John Travolta (Eddie Halley), Joseph Campanella (Joe Mannley), Joan Blondell (Mrs. Darrin), Pat Harrington (Arnold Winkler), James Olson (Steve Wainz), Richard Bull (Maitre D'), Glynn Turman (Jimmy Webster), Mark Slade (Bernard Amazeen), Florida Friebus (Sister Elizabeth), Johnny Brown (Huggy Bear), Lary Golden (Howard Talbott), Jim Nabors (Corley Curlew), Billy Green Bush (Country Marc Rogers), Richard Hatch (Cleve Andrews), Leif Erickson (Ben Fuller), Sissy Spacek (Barbara Tabnor), Malcolm Atterbury (Red McPherson), Fionnula Flanagan (Judy Karcher), Ester Anderson (Pamela Hines), Darleen Carr (Pip Brent), Strother Martin (Teacher), Don Johnson (Al Devering), Nick Nolte (Tommy), Wendell Burton (Larry West), Dane Clark (Joe Daley), Abe Vigoda (Michael Vance), Andrew Parks (Eric), Lorraine Gary (Lynn Corey), Robert Walden (Mark Haines), Tyne Daly (Lucille Baker), Anthony Zerbe (Sneed)

Running Time: 1168 Minutes (23 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
Season 2 Airdates: September 10, 1973 - March 18, 1974
DVD Release Date: August 7, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Six single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Clear Keepcase

Buy The Rookies from Amazon.com: Season 2 DVD Season 1 DVD The Greatest '70s Cop Shows DVD

Cop dramas seemed to hit their prime in the 1970s. The decade that gave us such esteemed films as The French Connection, Dirty Harry, and Serpico also provided no shortage of police entertainment in primetime
with shows like "Kojak", "The Streets of San Francisco", "Hawaii Five-O", "Starsky & Hutch", "Charlie's Angels", and "CHiPs" all enjoying long, prosperous runs.

The cop drama hasn't entirely fallen out of fashion on television, but the genre definitely claims a much smaller percentage of the airwaves than it did forty years ago. And though cop dramas both then and now can be popular and cost-effective, they have typically not enjoyed the prominent afterlives that syndication has treated their more consumable sitcom contemporaries to. Thus, when a procedural drama is retired, it doesn't remain in pop culture's consciousness or in television listings very long.

The effects of that reality are evident in the home video industry, which has seen studios struggle to make releasing yesteryear dramas on DVD economically feasible. Paramount has favored splitting seasons from its vast CBS library into two volumes, an approach that draws criticism but sees largely forgotten series continue to slowly be made available to own. Other studios have mostly gotten out of the catalog TV DVD game, either leaving shows partially released or letting some other company handle distribution for them.

More often than not, Shout! Factory is that "some other company." Through their small, customer-satisfying business model, Shout! has managed to issue countless hours of vintage TV on DVD. Sony Pictures Television has repeatedly handed over video rights to Shout!, letting them release such '70s cop shows as the Angie Dickinson drama "Police Woman", "S.W.A.T.", and the sitcom "Barney Miller."

"The Rookies" is another title Sony has leased to Shout!; five years after Sony released the first season to DVD, Shout! takes over with the August 7th debut of The Complete Second Season. This not especially well-remembered procedural drama ran on ABC for four seasons, from 1972 to 1976. Created by veteran TV writer Rita Lakin ("Peyton Place", "Flamingo Road") and produced by Aaron Spelling and former vice president of ABC programming Leonard Goldberg, "The Rookies" focused on three officers new to the vaguely located SCPD (which apparently stands for Southern California Police Department). Obviously by Season 2, the heroes were no longer rookies, but the title nonetheless stood.

The Rookies run in a grainy title shot from the opening credits sequence. The second year police officers Terry Webster (Georg Stanford Brown), Willie Gillis (Michael Ontkean), and Mike Danko (Sam Melville) share a very staged three-shot.

The rookies are principled, upstanding, youngish and hip. In the rare instances these "rookies" don't play by the rules, they do so in the interests of helping the people. Terry Webster is the cool guy, played by Georg Stanford Brown ("Roots", Stir Crazy, and the ex-husband of guest star and fellow TV cop Tyne Daly), who for the most part hides his Cuban accent. Curly-haired Willie Gillis is portrayed by Michael Ontkean, who comes from the Keanu Reeves school of acting and left after this season. Then there's Mike Danko (the late Sam Melville), who was secondary to the other cops in the episodes I saw and somewhat lacking in personality.

Kate Jackson, future star of "Charlie's Angels" and "Scarecrow and Mrs. King", plays Danko's wife, a nurse who the show invents reasons to feature prominently (typically, an injured victim or witness). Finally, there is Lt. Ryker (Gerald S. O'Loughlin), the guys' boss who is no-nonsense, but with a warmth to him. (Fun fact: In the pilot, which aired as an ABC Movie of the Week, Darren McGavin played Ryker, then just a training sergeant.)

Lieutenant Ryker (Gerald S. O'Loughlin) gives the orders and composite drawings with warmth but no nonsense. Nick Nolte and Don Johnson are just boys in their Season 2 guest appearance.

Obviously, "The Rookies" now exists not only as a scripted fictional TV series but as a capsule of '70s fashions, lingo, and programming sensibilities. Those sensibilities are far removed from the grittier cop shows of modern times.
Even though bad guys feature in every episode, they conform to broadcast standards, remaining more menacing in theory than in action. And yet, as in life, bad things happen to good people. Still, every episode is always tidily resolved in its final minutes, with spillover serialization seemingly never occurring.

Though guest star power was limited when these episodes aired in 1973-74, you'll spot some famous faces watching them today, including young turns by John Travolta, Sissy Spacek, Nick Nolte, and Don Johnson. In addition, Jim Nabors ("Gomer Pyle, USMC") picks up his only television credit between 1969 and 1975, playing against type as a criminal. In the strangely prescient department, there are guest characters named Barney Miller and Huggy Bear, though neither qualifies the imminent cop show that featured the name regularly as a spin-off. A Season 3 two-parter, however, did inspire "S.W.A.T."

With this DVD posing my introduction to the show, I opted to watch one episode from each disc, those that I synopsize below.

Stranded together in the desert, Willie (Michael Ontkean) allows the more seriously wounded Terry (Georg Stanford Brown) to lean on him when he's not strong in Season 2 premiere "Cauldron." In a reverse from the norm, nurse Jill Danko (Kate Jackson) is the one who needs the hospital bed after she is shot in "A Matter for Justice."

Disc 1

1. Cauldron (51:07) (Originally aired September 10, 1973)
After a 19-year-old sniper is killed in a standoff, Terry and Willie get kidnapped by the decedent's brother and a criminal associate. While the bad guys drive a stolen mobile home en route to a miracle drug that is supposed to rid one of the ex-cons' brain tumors, the two wounded cops are left for dead in the desert.

2. Margin for Error (50:54) (Originally aired September 17, 1973)

3. Deadly Cage (50:57) (Originally aired September 24, 1973)

4. Frozen Smoke (50:54) (Originally aired October 1, 1973)

Disc 2

5. Get Ryker (50:53) (Originally aired October 8, 1973)

6. Cry Wolf (51:08) (Originally aired October 15, 1973)
Terry and Willie feel guilty when they fail to check in on a lonely, anxious old woman who lands in the hospital as a result. They take measures to solve her violent beachfront house robbery and save her from being sent to an elder care facility.

7. A Matter of Justice (51:06) (Originally aired October 22, 1973)

8. Blood Brother (51:06) (Originally aired October 29, 1973)

Shazam! Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) goes bad in "Down Home Boy." A 23-year-old Sissy Spacek sports bangs, rides bikes, and needs insulin in "Sound of Silence."

Disc 3

9. Code 261 (50:37) (Originally aired November 5, 1973)

10. Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard (46:21) (Originally aired November 12, 1973)
This opens with a disclaimer warning that it was mastered from the best available video source. That seems to acknowledge but not explain a runtime considerably shorter than the rest of this set's episodes. After a Catholic priest is murdered, the three cops try to prevent a street war. Meanwhile, nuns try to clean up their neighborhood.

11. Down Home Boy (51:05) (Originally aired November 19, 1973)

12. Lots of Trees and a Running Stream (51:06) (Originally aired December 2, 1973)

Disc 4

13. Another for Ben Fuller (51:08) (Originally aired December 10, 1973)

14. Sound of Silence (51:02) (Originally aired December 17, 1973)

15. Trial by Doubt (50:36) (Originally aired January 7, 1974)

16. The Authentic Death of Billy Stomper (51:02) (Originally aired January 14, 1974)
After an habitual troublemaker is gunned down, the department takes a half-hearted approach to the investigation, except for Terry. His eyes are caught by the crime's fetching Jamaican chief witness, who unknowingly is in great danger.

The Dankos (Sam Melville and Kate Jackson), the show's one regular couple, enjoy a warm, loverly 1970s hug in "The Late Mr. Brent." Georg Stanford Brown and his then less famous wife of the time Tyne Daly are bank vault hostages together in "Time Lock."

Disc 5

17. The Late Mr. Brent (51:05) (Originally aired January 28, 1974)

18. The Teacher (51:06) (Originally aired February 4, 1974)
The rookies are outpaced on a robbery executed by a crime ring led by an old ex-con. This episode includes some of the earliest appearances of Nick Nolte and Don Johnson, as two of the team's young thieves.

19. Eyewitness (51:04) (Originally aired February 11, 1974)
Note: for some odd reason, this episode closes with a Columbia TriStar Television logo, rather than the more current Sony Pictures Television one that ends all the rest.

20. Something Less Than a Man (51:08) (Originally aired February 18, 1974)

Disc 6

21. Rolling Thunder (51:08) (Originally aired February 25, 1974)

22. Time Lock (50:32) (Originally aired March 4, 1974)

23. Death Watch (51:02) (Originally aired March 18, 1974)
A crook sick with viral meningitis and his accomplice try to bump off a woman. Willie gets infected as a result.

Terry arrests a 19-year-old John Travolta in "Frozen Smoke." Nuns and hookers share a community and a workplace in "Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard."

VIDEO and AUDIO

For nearly 40-year-old television, "The Rookies" offers quite good picture quality on DVD. Evidently shot on film, the series boasts a clean print and natural colors here. Sound is good too, as the 2.0 Dolby Digital monaural mix keeps dialogue crisp and intelligible. Some episodes have more of a kick than others in bass and volume, though none falls outside the expected range for a mid-'70s TV drama. Sadly, as is often the case for Shout! Factory releases, no subtitles or closed captions are provided.

The Rookies' Season 2 DVD cover art also features on the menus for Discs 1 and 6.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Despite reports that the series' original pilot, missing from Sony's Season 1 DVD, would appear here, no bonus features are included. Shout! Factory makes a greater effort than most studios to dig up or produce pertinent supplemental material.
But not every title is given that luxury and on a show that clearly isn't a huge seller, the omission of extras is understandable.

Disc One opens with promos for "Barney Miller": The Complete Series, "Dragnet" (1968): Season 2, and "Adam-12"

The six discs fit into Shout!'s preferred packaging, a clear standard-sized DVD keepcase, with the extreme discs claiming the insides of the case and Discs 2-5 sharing swinging trays. The five credited leads each claim a disc label, with the final disc featuring the three rookies. Episode titles and synopses are supplied for each disc on the reverse of the cover artwork, although the discs and the case's plastic makes reading them somewhat of a challenge.

Very briefly animated, each disc's basic 16:9 main/only menu features one or more of the cast's cover photos (repositioning them to get them all to fit) while Elmer Bernstein's theme music plays.

Officers Gillis and Webster are on the case and on the move! SCPD officers rarely crack smiles outside of episodes' closing minutes.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"The Rookies" is reasonably engaging in that 1970s television drama fashion. It's not a show I would go out of my way to see, strongly recommend, or even request for DVD review.
Watching six random Season 2 episodes, however, proved to be something different and mildly agreeable, a taste of TV before my time but not inaccessibly so. I imagine any show from the color era that was able to run more than a couple of seasons is quite bearable now viewed on DVD in moderation.

Those who grew up with this series or simply have fond memories of it would be wise to pick up Shout! Factory's basic but satisfactory Season 2 DVD release. If the second season is only surfacing now in 2012, chances are that the release of the remaining two seasons is far from certain, even with Shout!'s realistic sales targets. If you're one of the few who would much rather live in a world where all of "The Rookies" is available on DVD, then this is no time to be stingy or hesitant.

Buy The Rookies on DVD from Amazon.com: Season 2 / Season 1 / The Greatest '70s Cop Shows

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed July 28, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1973-74 Spelling-Goldberg Productions, Sony Pictures Television and 2012 Shout! Factory.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.