Continuing the spate of television series adapted from films, CBS premieres TRAINING DAY tonight. Set fifteen years after the film of the same name, but still in that universe, obvious because they name drop one of the main players from the movie, the plot is very similar. A straight-laced rookie is sent undercover to expose the corruption of a veteran cop as they work the very dangerous, drug-laden streets of Los Angeles.
This time around, Bill Paxton (Edge of Tomorrow, Big Love) is the grizzled veteran, Detective Frank Rourke, who has no problem blowing up gang houses and shooting the perps with foam bullets. He is a bit more moral than Denzel Washington’s version, who had a different name, as Frank is shown to have a code that he lives by, and that includes protecting some innocents. But other than that, he is still the rule-flaunter who dates a whorehouse madam (Julie Benz, Defiance, Dexter) and doesn’t give a crap about his fellow officers.
The newbie is also similar to his counterpart, played by Ethan Hawke on the big screen, the entry point for the audience into this world. Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwall) is a noble man who wants to succeed within the existing system. This TRAINING DAY gives him added plot by having him determined to avenge his father, Frank’s former partner, and he also has a loving woman waiting for him at home, Alyse (Lex Scott Davis). But yeah, from the same mold as Hawke’s role.
I’m a bit confused about why this is a sequel to the movie. Despite the race switch, the relationship and story for the two leads is so similar to that of the film that it’s eerie. Deputy Chief Lockhart (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Without a Trace) even comments that she doesn’t want Frank to be the next officer like Washington’s Alonzo, so the characters acknowledge the parallel, but that feels forced, not organic. I can’t help but feel the series would be better served to make these the same two lead roles, rather than setting it in an established world they’re not likely to make much use of.
Of course, since this is a broadcast television cop show, there are more than just two officers on the team. We’ve got Rebecca Lee (Katrina Law, Arrow), whom Frank rescued when she was a child, and Tommy Campbell (Drew Van Acker, Pretty Little Liars), a former pro-surfer, to round out the squad. They’re present probably because that’s the more typical format, and CBS doesn’t like to break format. Which is why TRAINING DAY won’t be anything special, this show clearly being a case-of-the-week procedural, with only a little bit of serial story tossed in.
Honestly, aside from the ugly lighting, TRAINING DAY doesn’t feel all that much different from a slew of other shows. I know I say this a lot in crime show pilot reviews, but that’s because so many of the non-cable fare is so similar. Adding an already-recognizable title doesn’t change that, and actually makes me less interested than a more original project.
I didn’t enjoy the TRAINING DAY movie, either, for the record. But at least it had an engaging story, something we hadn’t seen as much before, and with some gripping performances. Paxton seems to be phoning it in, having fun, but not making use of his range the way he has in other projects. Cornwall is serviceable in the role, but not stand-out. The ideas and complexity of the story are watered down, the best parts removed to make way for the repetitive structure.
With trite dialogue, gratuitous action, and unnecessary redeemable qualities for Frank, who would be far more interesting without them, though admittedly the series would have a more limited believable run, mixed with a predictable, too-familiar formula, this is not a series that is must-see.
TRAINING DAY premieres tonight at 10/9c on CBS.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.