DVD Review: The Rookies (The Second Season)

The Rookies tells the story of three hopefuls that enter the Police Academy together. The trio form a bond that continues through their first assignment. Instead of the usual buddy cop set-up of the rookie and the vet, we get three rookies learning from a single vet. Officers Terry Webster (Georg Stanford Brown), Mike Danko (Sam Melville) and Willie Gillis (Michael Ontkean) are assigned to the gruff Lt. Ed Ryker (Gerald S O’Loughlin) in the mysterious Southern California Police Department. The show deals a little bit with their time off the beat. All three guys live in the same apartment building, but not in the same unit. Turns out that Danko is married to Nurse Jill Danko (Kate Jackson of Charlie’s Angels). This simplifies the action since he can put holes in the bad guys while she patches them up in the second act. The Rookies: The complete Second Season keeps the trio learning more about being crimestoppers in their sophomore year.

“Cauldron” stirs up trouble when the guys take down a gunman firing out of his apartment window. John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) gets emotional since it was his pal. In an amazing coincidence Saxon and his buddy end up robbing a bar that Gillis and Webster are inside. He takes the duo hostage on his flight to Mexico. You can’t go wrong with a season starting with a guest visit from Superstar Saxon. “Margin for Error” has the FCC requirement of a visit from Claude Akins (Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo). He’s ticked off at Danko for being the reason his partner got shot during a robbery. Did Danko really commit a rookie mistake? “Deadly Cage” sticks Webster in the state pen as part of an exercise. Trouble ensues when it slips out that he’s not really a felon. Turns out prisoners might have an issue with cops behind bars. Victor French (Highway to Heaven) gets striped up. “Frozen Smoke” gets steamy with future Sweathog John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever). Willis ends up on Juvenile detail and it’s not child’s play. His ability to protect and serve gets tested by the youngsters. “Get Ryker” upgrades Jill’s camera time. She’s assigned to assist an injured Ryker. How did he end up needing a nurse? Turns out an old foe wants revenge and might want a piece of Jill. Thalmus Rasulala (Blacula) and Joseph Campenella (Mannix) are part of the action.

“Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard” gives us the birth of Huggy Bear. Ryker must find the killer of a priest that nearly murdered a nun. As they check around the community, the encounter Huggy Bear. He might have some info. Huggy Bear is played by Johnny Brown (Good Times) and not Antonio Fargas (as seen on Starsky and Hutch). The episode was written by William Binn. He’d co-create Starsky and Hutch).Rookies producer Aaron Spelling also backed the buddy cop series. “Down Home Boy” brings out the country with Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.). The cops must protect a county singer that’s being stalked by rivals. In a twist of casting, Nabors isn’t the singer.

“Lots of Trees and a Running Stream” brings on a stalker who swears Jill ought to be his wife. Can she resist the psychotic charms of Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica)? “Sound of Silence” tracks down a suicidal Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom). The can’t miss episode of this season is “The Teacher.” Strother Martin (The Wild Bunch) gives an introductory course in crime with his star pupils being Nick Nolte (Tropic Thunder) and Don Johnson (Miami Vice). How can the Rookies expect to be the stars of the show when you have Nick and Don stealing the screen? Don’s a troublemaking stud that can’t be resisted.. “Time Lock” sticks a bunch of hostages in a bank’s vault. Among those who are trapped are Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey) and Robert Walden (Lou Grant). “Death Watch” revisits the tale of a vengeful criminal unwittingly spreading a disease. Anthony Zerbe (Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park) plays the sick sicko.

The Rookies: The Complete Season marks the end of the line for Ontkean. He grew frustrated in the role and split. He must have thought this was going to be Adam-12. His law enforcement days on TV weren’t over. He’d return to the nation’s living rooms as Sheriff Truman on Twin Peaks. The Rookies is joyfully out of control with outrageous coincidences and over the top cases. This near camp element is what makes it so enjoyable after all these years. This trio might have been rookies, but their experiences outdid 30 year veterans.

The Episodes
“Cauldron, “Margin for Error,” “Deadly Cage,” “Frozen Smoke,” “Get Ryker,” “Cry Wolf,” “A Matter of Justice,” “Blood Brother,” “Code 261,” “Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard,” “Down Home Boy,” “Lots of Trees and a Running Stream,” “Another Beginning for Ben Fuller,” “Sound of Silence,” “Trial of Doubt,” “The Authentic Death of Billy Stomper,” “The Late Mr. Brent,” “The Teacher,” “Eyewitness,” “Something Less Than a Man,” “Rolling Thunder,” “Time Lock” and “Death Watch.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the details of ’70s living in Los Angeles. Wait till you get an eyeful of the wall art. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can hear all the bullets cleanly along with Elmer Bernstein’s title theme.

There are no bonus features.

The Rookies: The Complete Second Season pushes police work to the extreme with stories that don’t seem based on real police cases. This makes for extreme fun as the three newbie cops get more than mundane busts. The touch of a future Angel makes sure things don’t get too macho during the hour of cop drama.

Shout! Factory presents The Rookies: The Complete Second Season. Starring: Georg Stanford Brown, Sam Melville, Michael Ontkean, Gerald S O’Loughlin and Kate Jackson. Contents: 23 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: August 7, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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