Shout! Factory // 1973 // 1140 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // August 16th, 2012
"It's like I tell every rookie I work with: You can always spot a criminal -- there's something in their hands or their eyes. If they've got a gun in their hands or a mask on their face, they're probably a criminal."
Lest your sepia-toned memories of the early '70s convince you these were simpler, happier times, with troubles no bigger than Hot Pants, platform shoes, Pet Rocks, and David Cassidy songs; The Rookies are here to set you straight.
The Rookies: The Complete Second Season deals with duty rosters from September 1973 through March 1974, and if these twenty three episodes tell us anything, it's this: Danger lurks on every street, as constant and toxic as Los Angeles smog, and sudden death can come at any time, from any one, be it the vengeful ex-con out on parole; the embittered 'Nam vet who finds he's just traded one murderous jungle for another; the man driving the ice cream truck; or Gomer Pyle! (Well, Jim Nabors, anyway -- in a rare dramatic turn, playing against type and on the wrong side of the law).
In case you've forgotten, this Aaron Spelling-produced weekly auctioneer centered on three recent recruits to the Southern California Police Department (SCPD). Let's get reacquainted with the title characters, shall we?
Officer Terry Webster (Georg Sanford Brown, Stir Crazy) graduated from the ghetto, determined to prove a young black man had choices beyond which gang to join, which drugs to abuse, and which shortcut he'd take to an early grave. Cool-headed and committed, Webster chooses to lead by example.
Officer Willie Gillis (Michael Ontkean, Slap Shot), Webster's roommate and frequent patrol partner, is equally committed, though quite a bit more hot-headed and less worldly. What Gillis lacks in street smarts, he makes up for with his cherubic baby face and tousled chestnut tresses.
Office Mike Danko (Sam Melville, Big Wednesday) served in Vietnam prior to joining the force, has a couple of years on his buddies, often rides alone, and partners at home with wife Jill (Kate Jackson, Loverboy), head nurse at the department's hospital of choice.
Lieutenant Eddie Ryker (Gerald S. O'Loughlin, In Cold Blood) rides herd over this bunch of (relative) newbies, and a better senior advisor one couldn't find. Tough but fair, Ryker doesn't suffer fools gladly, but also isn't afraid to listen to his subordinates and admit when one of them has come up with a better idea on how to proceed.
This close-knit quintet makes quite a team, albeit one with its work cut out for it. On separate occasions, Danko and Gillis are blamed for the deaths of senior partners. Gillis finds his quick-response skills severely tested when, in hot pursuit of a van full of auto shop thieves, the ruffians pop open the back doors and begin rolling steel-belted radials at him! Webster catches bullets in two episodes, gets taken hostage in three, and gets caught behind the lines during a prison riot. Jill becomes a person of interest to a deranged ex-boyfriend (Richard Hatch, Battlestar Galactica) with plans to spirit her away, while Ryker becomes the target of a murder witness with split personalities. Public sector employees are overpaid, you say?
Working their way up the Hollywood pay scale this season are an impressive number of future superstars, including Oscar winner Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter), John Travolta (Pulp Fiction), Nick Nolte (48 Hrs.), Don Johnson (Miami Vice), and Tyne Daly (Cagney And Lacey) then the wife of Georg Sanford Brown.
Granted, there are enough life-threatening situations visited upon these five hard-working, upright citizens to strain credulity (never mind that each episode ends happily), but there's also quite a bit of intelligent writing and consistently solid acting on tap, with special mention going to regulars O'Loughlin and Jackson.
Speaking of Jackson, it's impossible to watch these episodes and be struck not only by her grace and exquisite beauty, but also by her uniquely playful sexiness. How the heck did Aaron Spelling peg her as the "frumpy one" when casting Charlie's Angels?
Shout! Factory has once again risen to the occasion, delivering a stellar set of standard definition 1.33:1 full frame transfers, remarkably (if not fully) free of wear and tear. The Dolby 2.0 Mono sound is serviceable but unspectacular, and it certainly wouldn't have hurt to have provided subtitles for the hard of hearing. The set features no extras.
NOTE: The episode "Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard" is preceded by a warning that "The following episode was mastered from the best available video source material at the time of this release." The audio and video actually isn't bad at all, but the episode seems to be missing the tag that comes between the nabbing of the killer and the closing credits.
Two seasons down, two to go. Carry on, Rookies!
Review content copyright © 2012 P.S. Colbert; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1140 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated