Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Rookies

Go To
Left to right: Eddie Ryker, Terry Webster, Willie Gillis, Mike Danko, and Jill Danko.

The Rookies is a Crime and Punishment Series that aired on ABC from 1972 to 1976, following rookie police officers of the SCPD in California. It was the first production from Spelling-Goldberg productions, and was produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldbergnote  and created by William Blinn.

A pilot film aired as a Movie of the Week in early 1972. It focused on five rookie cops of the LCPD, Jared Whitman (Robert F. Lyons), Terry Webster (Georg Stanford Brown), Mike Danko (Sam Melville), Willie Gillis (Michael Ontkean) and Kevin Lassiter (Jeff Pomerantz), who were under the tutelage of tough Sgt. Eddie Ryker (Darren McGavin). Also featured were Mike's wife Jill Danko (Jennifer Billingsley) and Kevin's wife Molly (Davey Davison). These five men were put through rigorous training and eventually thrown into a real-life situation involving a sniper.

When the series went into production, Jared, Kevin and Molly were nowhere to be found. Brown, Melville and Ontkean reprised their roles from the movie, but Jill Danko went from being played by blonde Jennifer Billingsley to brunette Kate Jackson. Additionally, their supervisor was now Lt. Ryker and was being played by Gerald S. O'Loughlin.

The series could be described as a cross between The Mod Squad (another Spelling-produced series, which was on its last legs at the time) and Adam-12. The men were young idealists like the trio in Mod Squad and also young uniformed cops. Unlike Captain Greer on Mod Squad, Ryker was hardly a benevolent father figure, but a stern taskmaster trying his best to forge his charges into serviceable officers. He felt that trying to handle dangerous situations peacefully, which the guys were always trying to do, could result in dead cops, or worse, dead civilians. He realized that no officer likes to pull their guns out, but at times, it's a necessity.

This being an Aaron Spelling series, there were an awful lot of personal episodes in addition to the crime solving (Willie facing possible paralysis, Terry facing the possibility of blindness, pregnant Jill being shot by a sniper and losing the baby, even Ryker struggling with the possibility that a kidnapped girl they're searching for just might be the daughter he gave up for adoption years before).

Off-camera, the actors looked at the show somewhat differently. Georg Stanford Brown wondered if he was properly portraying a cop; was he doing his best to portray a police officer in a positive light? Conversely, Michael Ontkean was only concerned with what the series could do for his acting career, and left the series (and temporarily also acting) at the end of the second season.

For the final two seasons, Bruce Fairbairn joined the cast as Officer Chris Owens.

The series ended in 1976, just in time for Kate Jackson to land her Star-Making Role as Sabrina Duncan in Charlie's Angels. Georg Stanford Brown, who directed a few Rookies episodes, decided to continue in that path for the next decade, working as a busy TV director before returning to acting.

The Rookies spawned a short-lived but arguably better-known Spin-Off, S.W.A.T., which was set in the same universe but in a different police department. Do not confuse this with the 2019 spy parody film with the same title, nor The Rookie'', an unrelated show with a similar premise.

You men, go out and find these tropes! NOW!

  • Amnesia Danger: Jill in "Nightmare".
  • And Starring: Gerald S. O'Loughlin as Lt. Ryker.
  • Asshole Victim: Arnie Brody in "Cliffy". He's a loudmouth and a lout who has it in for the title character, a harmless mentally challenged young man, and bullies him prior to getting clubbed to death by the bad guys.
  • Badges and Dog Tags: Mike served in the Air Force during The Vietnam War.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In "Cry Wolf", Jill has to listen to Ben Kendall, the son-in-law of assault victim Mrs. Darren, rant about how useless cops are and that they only do the job to cover their lack of masculinity. Jill then tells him he has a right to his opinion, but if she ever hears him talking like that again, she'll box his ears.
  • Big "NO!": Cleve Andrews delivers one of these in "Lots of Trees and a Running Stream" when his old girlfriend Jill, whom he has kidnapped and taken away to their 'dream house', informs him that she is now Mrs. Michael Danko.
  • Christmas Episode: "Blue Christmas", which finds Terry and Chris doing duty on Christmas Eve and handling a variety of calls, while Mike and Jill entertain Jill's visiting sister and niece.
  • Clear My Name: Willie is accused of manslaughter in "The Bear That Didn't Get Up" and murder in "Tarnished Idol", both incidents stemming from a shooting in the line of duty.
  • Clear Their Name: In "Point of Impact", Terry tries to help an old friend accused of a near-fatal attack on an officer during a traffic stop The officer was being overly aggressive, as he was having a bad day and fought with his girlfriend before going to work. Not only that, but another reason Terry's friend reacted the way he did was that a fellow passenger in the car was possessing drugs, and he was trying to protect that guy.
  • Clip Show: "Invitation to a Rumble" from the series' last season has a storyline about Terry being injured by gang members and taken and dumped somewhere to die, but it also features clips from "Concrete Valley, Neon Sky" (the series' premiere episode, which was also about gang violence), "The Authentic Death of Billy Stomper" and "An Ugly Way to Die", which was Bruce Fairbairn's first episode.
  • Creator Cameo: Lou Antonio, who directed the episode "Easy Money", played bad guys in the episodes "Tarnished Idol" and "An Ugly Way to Die".
  • Crime and Punishment Series
  • Crying Wolf: Essentially what the episode "Cry Wolf" is all about...a lonely old lady (Joan Blondell) makes false calls to the cops, just to have some company. Eventually, she really DOES need help, as a burglar has broken into her home, and she's beaten within an inch of her life.
  • Da Chief: Tough Lt. Ryker.
  • Death by Falling Over: Consuela, one of Tommy Locke's hookers in the episode "Angel", dies when he causes her to fall and strike her head on the base of a table.
    • In "Code 261", Bernard Amazeen backhands the second woman he tries to rape in the episode, causing her to fall and fatally strike her head on a rock.
  • Driven to Suicide: Professional assassin Wolfe Bardett (Jack Colvin), in the episode "Reluctant Hero", chooses to leap off a building to his death, rather than be captured by the cops.
  • Healthcare Motivation: Veteran cop Andy Page, in the episode "Legacy of Death", is partnered first with Mike and then with Chris. He puts himself in dangerous situations, hoping to get killed in the line of duty so his wife can get a huge insurance payout and his pension and pay for their son's heart operation.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the series' final episode, "Journey to Oblivion", Blair Winfield, whom Jill witnessed committing a murder in the hospital and later kidnapped her with the intent of killing her, has a change of heart after Jill has to treat him for injuries suffered when their car wrecked and persuades her to escape before his deranged accomplice can return.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Don Richardson, a police academy reject, takes to posing as a cop to murder the upcoming graduating class of police rookies that he feels are too lenient for his rigid way of law enforcement, in the episode "Dead, Like a Lost Dream".
    • Rawlins in "Dead Heat" poses as a cop to gain access to a closed shopping center he and his cronies plan to rob.
  • It's Personal: Pete McCall, in the episode "Vendetta", is a cop who returns to duty after a ten-year absence where he was forced to go on pension due to being critically wounded in the line of duty. He claims he's returning because he misses the action, but his real motivation is to find and kill the man who shot him all those years ago and stole ten years from his life.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Mike is often teamed with older, more experienced officers on patrol, including Ryker in the episode "The Old Neighborhood".
  • One-Word Title: "Commitment", "Crossfire", "Vendetta", "Angel" and "Cliffy".
  • Put on a Bus: Willie midway through the series.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Como (Jonathan Goldsmith) in "The Shield", after Terry has found the real killer and cleared him, complains that he's now a marked man because Terry had to play hero.
    Terry: What do you want from me, huh? What do you want me to do? You steal, you push dope to kids, you pimp, you rape, and if none of that works, you can always hold a gun to someone's head and make them beg for their lives? I don't feel nothin' for you, Como, so come on, take a walk!
  • Serial Killer: Jack Lambo (Lou Antonio), in the episode "An Ugly Way to Die", is a killer who is after firefighters with mustaches. His motivation is that a fire truck collided with his family, killing his wife and kids, and the fire truck driver had a mustache.
  • Shout-Out: In the episode "A Test of Courage", writer Rick Husky included a character named Esposito. This is a shout-out to Joe Esposito, who was a member of Elvis Presley's 'Memphis Mafia', just like Husky. The episode also features characters named Jerry Schilling and Sonny West, after two more Mafia members.
    • That episode also featured a gun store robbery on Presley Boulevard!
    • In the episode "Blue Christmas", written by Aaron Spelling, Mike and Jill's niece is named Tori.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Ryker, of all people, is revealed to be an excellent chess player. The guys and Jill accompany him to a chess club in the episode "Get Ryker".
  • Spell My Name With An S: In the credits for the episode "The Wheel of Death", Michael-James Wixted is credited as Michael-James Wixsted.
  • Spin-Off: S.W.A.T. (1975).
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Chris for Willie.
    • Lt. Scott Baxter, played by Philip Bruns, who fills in for Lt. Ryker in "A Time to Mourn". Gerald S. O'Loughlin isn't in this episode for good reason...he was directing it!
  • Title Drop: "Cliffy" and "Angel".