Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rookie Blue Returns: A Summer Peripheral

It's the close of the regular TV season with most series cliffhangers already out of the way.
Get set for TV's newest species: The TV Peripheral.
It's an industry term that well defines Global TV's Rookie Blue returning for its third summer of new episodes Thursday May 24 at 10 p.m.
But just what is a "Peripheral"?
Well, Rookie Blue exists because it's a very successful co-production between Shaw TV in Canada and American ABC.
Without ABC money the show simply would not exist. The lack of an American network sponsor meant another Global Peripheral --Combat Hospital won't be coming back for a second season.
Rookie Blue is that new breed of TV show made for the burgeoning summertime market. If it were carried during the regular season it would have been killed off in the ratings a long time ago.
A while back Canadian peripherals like Night Heat and Adderly ran on CTV during prime time and on CBS Late Nights.
Canadian producers are telling me they desperately need U.S. financing or they can't turn a profit.
Shaw TV stuck with the stylish police series King for two seasons but never could make that all important U.S. network sale. Series executive producer Bernie Zuckerman told me he should have shopped the pilot to the U.S. networks before proceeding with production --the Americans like to be in on the creative details from casting to plot development.
That's why Rookie Blue so fascinates me. It's a success in both U.S. and Canadian terms.
For Global it's much needed Canadian dramatic content. And it's a grand vehicle to showcase the talents of up and comers --all of them Canadian.
The series shoots in Toronto and abounds with references to Queen Street, the Rochester ferry, Riverdale district. You even see streetcar tracks (as in Night Heat) but so fat I've never spotted a red rocket zooming by.
Missy Peregrym is front and center as the drop dead gorgeous rookie cop Andy --but one question how long can Andy and the gang remain rookies? I'm remembering the fast exit of another similar TV series, ABC's The Rookies, after star Michael Ontkean complained he couldn't remain a rookie forever.
The first new episode was cagily made to attract a big U.S. audience --William (Star Trek) Shatner is the guest giving a sturdy turn as a distraught grand dad who lost his seven-year old granddaughter seven years ago --and he's still fighting to get her back.
The hour worked thanks to taut direction from veteran David Wellington and expert camera work by David Perrault that really got us into the Toronto neighborhoods.
The second new episode a week later (which I've also seen) was more prosaic and lacked drive --all about a Toronto high schoolers prank in stealing a police car.
The fact Rookie Blue stands up is due to its executive producers --Ilana Frank and Tassie Cameron, canny veterans of the TV series wars.
And it boasts a sexy, photogenic cast including Gregory Smith (Everwood), Travis Milne, Charlotte Sullivan, Enuka Okuma, Peter Mooney is onboard as the newest rookie but I notice series regular Eric Johnson is missing.
One nagging question: why does Rookie Blue so remind me of Private Practice?  Both sport well groomed actors who spend considerable time mooning over lost loves --a reason young emales are primarily the biggest fans.
But Rookie Blue is only the first of the Canadian Procedurals to return for the summer.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.

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