Cast of The Rookies. Standing from left, Michael Ontkean, Sam Melville, Georg Stanford Brown. Seated, Gerald S. O'Loughlin.
|Created by||Rita Lakin|
|Developed by||William Blinn|
|Starring||Georg Stanford Brown|
Gerald S. O'Loughlin
|Theme music composer||Elmer Bernstein|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||94|
|Paul Junger Witt|
|Cinematography||Archie R. Dalzell|
|Running time||45-48 minutes|
|Distributor||Spelling-Goldberg Productions (1972-1974)|
Worldvision Enterprises (1974-1976)
Viacom Enterprises (1976)
|Original release||March 7, 1972 -|
March 30, 1976
The Rookies is an American police procedural series that aired on ABC from 1972 until 1976. It follows the exploits of three rookie police officers working in an unidentified city for the fictitious Southern California Police Department (SCPD).
The success of Joseph Wambaugh's book, The New Centurions, as well as NBC's ratings success with Adam-12, had sparked interest at the time in a more realistic depiction and storytelling of the typical uniformed police officer. Although various incidents during the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly in California, had sparked controversy and negative feelings toward police officers in general, The Rookies tried to better humanize the character of a police officer and show the struggles that new, younger men and women (who were often Vietnam-era military veterans and/or college graduates) faced in their lives as law enforcement persons sworn to serve and protect the public.
The pilot for the series began as an ABC Movie of the Week airing on March 7, 1972. The TV movie features five rookies newly arrived at a police academy in southern California: cadets Jared Whitman (Robert F. Lyons), Kevin Lassiter (Jeff Pomerantz), Mike Danko (Sam Melville), William "Willie" Gillis (Michael Ontkean), and Terry Webster (Georg Stanford Brown), all coming from different backgrounds including the military, college and social work. The cadets' training sergeant was Eddie Ryker, played by Darren McGavin. In the later series, Sgt. Ryker was promoted to lieutenant and was played by Gerald S. O'Loughlin. The character of Jill Danko in the movie pilot was played by Jennifer Billingsley, but was recast for the series with Kate Jackson appearing as a registered nurse.
|First aired||Last aired|
|Pilot movie||March 7, 1972|
|1||23||September 11, 1972||March 19, 1973|
|2||23||September 10, 1973||March 18, 1974|
|3||24||September 9, 1974||March 17, 1975|
|4||23||September 9, 1975||March 30, 1976|
The Rookies centers around three rookie officers: Danko, Webster and Gillis, and their superior officer/mentor Lieutenant Ryker. The show was produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. Each episode showcased highly dramatized versions of police cases and activities, often intertwined with the off-duty lives of the officers and their significant others. Danko was the only officer in the series who was married. Although filmed in and around Los Angeles and the "SCPD" badge the officers wore was said to stand for "Southern California Police Department."
After the second season, Gillis was replaced (Ontkean left the show over complaints in the story writing) with the character Chris Owens, played by Bruce Fairbairn. During the series' third season, a two-part episode (entitled "S.W.A.T.") aired on February 17, 1975 and served as the pilot for the spin-off series S.W.A.T. The SWAT two-part episode only aired on ABC in 1975 and was subsequently never part of the syndicated TV rerun package as Spelling-Goldberg decided it might confuse viewers as to which TV show it belonged. Both parts of the S.W.A.T. pilot are now considered "lost".[who?]
The Rookies has a very distinguished Place in television history.[who?] It was the first television series to use special effects Blood "squibb" Impact shots. In addition, the show had extensive violent / graphic content (later all removed for syndication to Family Hour TV). The level of violence on this show was far greater than any other TV series including Police Story, Police Woman, Kojak. In the later half of the 1970s, anti-TV violence groups put pressure on Networks to scale back the violent content. When ABC agreed to air the Spelling-Gioldberg police drama, Charlie's Angels, they were specifically told by ABC Productions they could NOT show any "bloody bullet impact shots" as shown on The Rookies. It thus remained the only TV series of its era to show such graphic content. The "N" word was also allowed to be used and it showed up in several episodes. The use of IV needles was also shown which also became "taboo" on episodic TV.
|Georg Stanford Brown||Officer Terry Webster|
|Sam Melville||Officer Mike Danko|
|Michael Ontkean||Officer Willie Gillis|
|Kate Jackson||Jill Danko|
|Gerald S. O'Loughlin||Lieutenant Ed Ryker|
|Bruce Fairbairn||Officer Chris Owens|
In September 1974, Spelling-Goldberg Productions and Worldvision Enterprises signed a contract giving Worldvision exclusive distribution rights to the series for 25 years. However, Worldvision backed out of the contract in May 1975, and in 1976, Spelling-Goldberg sued Worldvision for more than $5.6 million in damages, plus "general damages for fraud to be ascertained".
In April 1976, Viacom bought the syndication rights to The Rookies; when the series entered syndication in 1977, local stations had the option to air either the condensed 30-minute episodes or the regular, full length 60-minute episodes. Viacom edited out violent content to make the series appropriate for airing in the Family Viewing Hour, and a few episodes were not syndicated by Viacom due to extreme violence. Spelling-Goldberg Productions's successor, Sony Pictures Television, restored the violent content for the series' airings on TV Land. TV LAND only aired The first 33 episodes on The Series . It never aired Season 3 or Season 4. One episode did NOT have its violent original content restored "Prayers Unawnswered Prayers Unheard" which originally showed a graphic beating of a Nun and a shooting of a priest. It was never restored to its original form. Two episodes of The TV series have not been available for broadcast since they originally aired in 1975. The SWAT two part Pilot shown on The Rookies was never put into Syndication. Spelling-Goldberg felt the episodes might CONFUSE viewers as to whether it is a SWAT episode or ROOKIES. They subsequently LOST those 2 original negatives and to my knowledge by 2019 they have still have not been located. Season 3 and Season 4 are not available on any streaming service or Home video market making uncut episodes of the final two season incredibly rare commodity!
On July 17, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time. The original pilot film was not included as part of this release.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The Complete First Season||24||July 17, 2007|
|The Complete Second Season||23||August 7, 2012|