Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Antoine Fuqua’s 2001 Training Day is a cop movie classic. Fuelled by the jaw-dropping (and Oscar-winning) tour-de-force performance of Denzel Washington as increasingly loopy LAPD Detective Alonzo Harris, the film wallowed in the fuzzy ambiguity between cops and robbers and raised troubling questions about the limits of police behaviour and their authority – questions that feel increasingly relevant in 2017.
“So,” thought a CBS executive (probably while chomping on a cigar), “the property’s cheap – let’s turn it into a hot n’ sexy police procedural! It’s so easy! We’ll get couple of hot young actors, some A-lister to play a rogue cop in the mould of Denzel Washington and bing bang boom we’ll be polishing a rack of gleaming Emmys before we know it. What’s that? The A-Listers are busy? Well, who the hell is free? …Bill Paxton? Echhh. Okay fine, whatever.”
Now look, I’ve got absolutely nothing against Bill Paxton (one of only two actors to have been killed by a Terminator, a Predator and an Alien – can you name the other, fact fans?). He’s an entertaining, charismatic actor who consistently brightens up a film or TV show whenever he shows up as a supporting character. But Denzel Washington he is not.
Then again, he doesn’t have much of a chance being saddled with the entirely thankless role of Detective Frank Rourke, a renegade cop with a heart of gold that reminded me less of Det. Alonzo Harris and more of The Simpsons’ McGarnagle. Sure, his methods are questionable – but he gets results you stupid chief!
Detective Rourke is a less a character and more an ambulatory cliche dispenser, constantly growling cringeworthy lines like: “It’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six…,” “Honor’s just a name they give girl babies in Westwood” and “Never shoot a large caliber man with a small caliber weapon.” He’s the kind of guy who, when offered some drugs (a ludicrous ‘super MDMA’ called Sphinx) responds “Keep it, my blood’s immune. I’m eight parts whisky and I date a hooker.”
If the show were a conscious parody of bad cop shows, Rourke might be hilarious. But Training Day is played excruciatingly straight, apparently convinced that Rourke not only offers a seductive power fantasy but maybe, just maybe, functions as a valid critique of the red tape that prevents good cops catching the bad guys. This, from a show that by its second episode has Rourke squaring off against a katana wielding Yakuza boss. Five minutes later, he’s engaged in emotional conversation with an honest-to-god ghost.
You might think the adventures of a sword fightin’, ghost-talkin’ renegade cop sounds pretty fun, but please disabuse yourself of that notion, as Training Day‘s default mode is sludgy low-effort boredom. Swathes of each episode are given over to a season-long arc about rookie partner Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell), who’s secretly undercover in an attempt to catch Rourke doing stuff he shouldn’t.
Kyle is also the son of Rourke’s ex-partner Billy, killed in the line of duty, and the pair (together with sassy Det. Rebecca Lee (Katrina Law) and slacker cop Tommy Campbell (Drew Van Acker)) gradually unravel the conspiracy that led to his Dad’s as yet unsolved murder. Granted, I only saw the first two episodes, but I’m not exactly on the edge of my seat about this whodunnit.
Not helping matters is that, even at this early stage, the show feels deeply formulaic. Both episodes available for review concluded with a dusty showdown gunfight – our hero cops gunning down wave after wave of anonymous gangsters. Both contain an interrogation-by-exotic-animal sequence – the first by baboon and the second by shark (the show comes perilously close to literally jumping the shark), and both feature Bill Paxton’s Rourke peacocking around delivering absolutely atrocious dialogue.
But the biggest headache isn’t just that Training Day is both ludicrous and dull, but that it’s a very Trump-tinged TV show, and I’m not just talking about the omnipresent heavy orange filter. There’s something very President Trump in the way it advocates ‘common sense’ simple solutions to incredibly complex issues: like if you need information from someone why not torture it out of them, y’know, like in the good old days! And that political correctness – hoo boy what a laugh, let’s crack some racist jokes with a wry grin. Given the current political climate, regressive rubbish like this lands on screens with a gracelessly leaden bellyflop.
The only consoling factor is that Training Day is so obviously terrible it feels destined to vanish without a trace, its sole legacy an occasional “didn’t they once try to make this into a TV show…?” pondering while watching Fuqua’s far superior movie.
Training Day is a crushingly dreadful police procedural that does a disservice to the excellent film it's based on.