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There’s Nothing Charming About This Charmed Reboot

Nathan Fillion, however, brings his easy-going charisma to The Rookie.

  • Charmed. The CW. Sunday, October 14, 9 p.m.'Charmed''Charmed,' CW
  • The Kids Are Alright. ABC. Tuesday, October 16, 8:30 p.m.
  • The Rookie. ABC. Tuesday, October 16, 10 p.m.

The newest TV programming axiom seems to be, "Save the weirdest for the last." In the final gasp of the fall broadcast rollout—only a couple of new shows remain to be seen when the upcoming week is over—we have a rookie cop who is also deep in the throes of middle-aged angst; three hyper-woke young witches; and an oddball sitcom about working-class Catholic families that's either sweetly nostalgic or witheringly contemptuous. It's hard to tell.

In a fall filled with remakes, reboots and rip-offs, it's only natural to assume that ABC's The Rookie is a modern version of the same network's The Rookies, a 1972-76 cop drama that's mostly remembered as the show Kate Jackson did before she, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith invented the concept of not wearing underwear on Charlie's Angels.

Surprisingly, that turns out not to be true. The Rookie is not only not a retread, it's a wholly original take on the cop genre. Nathan Fillion (Castle) is a middle-aged guy named John Nolan who, nearly two decades earlier, knocked up his teenage girlfriend and grabbed a construction job to support his quickie marriage.

From there he lived a life he never chose. But now, with his child going off the college and the hollow marriage imploding, the 40-year-old Nolan has a second chance. Looking for a new job, his two youthful ambitions—the NFL and Chippendales—seem out of reach. But a chance encounter as he's putting his divorce decree and wedding ring in a safe deposit box suggest a third: cop.

Now, a freshly minted and slightly pot-bellied police academy grad, he's trying to claw his way through probation with the LAPD. On the street, he huffs and puffs chasing homies half his age; at shift-change meetings, he endures endless taunts from his watch commander (Richard T. Jones, Santa Clarita Diet), who introduces him as "John Noland, who was born before disco died."

But the ragging is by no means good-natured boot camp guff. "I hate what you represent," the commander reveals in a private moment. "A walking mid-life crisis." Further complicating things are two intense training officers pursuing their own agendas (Alyssa Diaz of Ray Donovan and Afton Williamson of Shades Of Blue).

And then there are the two other rookies who are both companions and rivals to Nolan: the son (Titus Makin, Pretty Little Liars) of a well-known internal-affairs officer, and an Asian tiger kid (Melissa O'Neil, Condor) who makes an arrest even before her first shift.

The Rookie has an ample supply of the usual cop-drama bang-bang, all of it very well staged. But what really makes The Rookie interesting is watching Fillion maneuver among all these sharp elbows while balancing the shortage of adrenaline with the bonus supply of experience that both come with middle age. He does it all with the same let's-have-a-beer amiability he's displayed in shows as diverse as Firefly and Castle. He'll make you forget Kate Jackson is missing.

The Rookie's weirdness—a middle-aged man trying to make it as a cop, two decades too late—is calculated and results in a new way to look at cop shows. The Kids Are Alright's weirdness is just weird. It's a period sitcom trying to work up a lather of fake nostalgia for an exhausted milieu—a working-class Catholic family with little money and wayyy too many kids.

The Clearys are headed up by mom Peggy (Mary McCormack, House Of Lies) and dad Mike (Michael Cudlitz, The Walking Dead), who have eight sons, money for four, beds for two and a bathroom for one.

This produces a plethora of jokes like Peggy shouting at the kids, "We do not have the wherewithal in this family for any of you kids to be special!" Okay, that one's not so bad, right? Except it's quickly followed by Peggy shouting a sick kid, "We can't afford asthma!" and, well, you see where this is headed.

The kids are a ratty little mob of thieves, snitches, and dissemblers, which can be sporadically amusing. But the plot of the pilot seems likely to be repeated even more often than the money jokes.

One of the boys is trying desperately to get attention and maybe a little money for an acting class that he really wants to take, but in a family wound stretched this tight, everything is a zero-sum game; anything extra for one kid means something less for the rest of them. This isn't funny; it's woundingly sad—as Elvis Presley's favorite punchline went, about as funny as a stop sign in a polio ward.

And it doesn't help that The Kids Are Alright often feels like it's being staged in a funhouse hall of mirrors where everything is just a little bit distorted. Series creator Tim Doyle seems strikingly unfamiliar with the time period in which he's chosen to set The Kids Are Alright—it starts in 1972, a year when, according to Doyle's voice-over, "Bike helmets hadn't been invented yet, or car seatbelts."

Actually, 1972 was the most nightmarish year in the whole existence of seatbelts; if you cranked the ignition of a new model that year and didn't fasten your belt, it would buzz until you did. (A long driving trip that year with my libertarian-but-didn't-know-it father adamantly refusing to buckle up has seared the year ineluctably in my brain.) There are similar calendar misplacements of jokes about Vietnam, the draft, and the Generation Gap, possibly the result of brain-softening due to growing up in a house full of eight misanthropic brothers, which ABC's bio of Doyle says he did.

Putting aside The Kids Are Alright—please, let us do so—means the subject must inevitably slide to Charmed, a remake of a TBS show about young witches that originally aired 20 years ago. Like the original, Charmed concerns three girls on the outer cusp of their teens who learn they are witches.

But the similarity fades after that. This Charmed has its sights set on the Emmy for "Most PC Cliches Packed Into One Oppressively Long Drama Ever," and I think it might even win the lifetime achievement award the first season.

Photo Credit: 'Charmed,' CW

Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin is the author of Everybody Had His Own Gringo: The CIA and the Contras and (with Ana Rodriguez) Diary of a Survivor: Nineteen Years in a Cuban Women's Prison. He writes about television for the Miami Herald.

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  • Woody Chip Hurrrrr?||

    Nathan Fillion (Castle)

    What's Firefly, chopped liver?!?

  • Red Tony||

    Yes.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    You're dead to me.

  • Red Tony||

    And Firefly has been dead to the world for 16 years, so I guess we're even.

  • Trollificus||

    Firefly lives on as a fine example of how a committed ensemble cast can inspire some terrific episodic Sci-fi television, even from a relatively lame premise ("The Old West in outer space? Duh." which is how I missed it on the first run.)

  • Red Tony||

    Dammit Trollificus, I was trying to rile up some nerd rage on these boards.

    Admittedly it was unsuccessful whether or not you chimed in, but I was trying to make nerds angry about Firefly's cancellation (15 years on).

  • ||

    Each of the girls is a differently ethnicity, which in another era of television might have suggested that their mom was what the characters of The Kids Are Alright would have described as "loose" but now simply establishes her awesome multiculturalism.

    They shouldn't have put a cis-gendered white male in charge of reviewing this show. The original series had 3.5 sisters and just rounded up. I don't recall how witching powers followed bloodlines, but it's not a phenomenal leap of logic to reach the conclusion that these three siblings each could've had a mom who was entirely faithful to her spouse/partner.

    *blinks repeatedly, shakes head*

    Where am I? What just happened?

  • Ken Shultz||

    In related news, no one gives a shit about Murphy Brown

    "Airing at 9:30 p.m., "Murphy Brown" averaged a 1.1 rating in adults 18-49 and 7.4 million viewers. By comparison, the revival of "Roseanne" on ABC stunned Hollywood with a 5.2 rating and 18.4 million viewers earlier this year."

    ----Variety

    http://variety.com/2018/tv/new.....202960511/

  • Cynical Asshole||

    This Charmed has its sights set on the Emmy for "Most PC Cliches Packed Into One Oppressively Long Drama Ever," and I think it might even win the lifetime achievement award the first season.

    So... watch it with the sound muted?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Wood not. Even muted.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    They're not that hot either. I'm going omwatch the pilot to see how bad it is.

    This show will likely be more proof that progressives belong in landfills, face down.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Oh, and one of the girls is a chem major

    Wokeness fail! Chemistry is a STEM field, which all properly woke people know promotes PATRIARCHY and WHITE SUPREMACY.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Charmed should have been rebooted on Cinemax with way hotter leads. Also, their magic should be powered by lesbian sister in sister incest, preferably in bubble baths.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Just what I needed. Three more reasons not to watch commercial TV. OK, The Rookie may have some redeeming humor value but didn't Paul Sorvino do this like 30 years ago in "The Oldest Rookie"? Oh, right. I forgot. In TV everything old is new again.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    After castigating the creator of "The Kids Are Alright" for anachronisms in that show's jokes, Garvin commits his own error: Charmed's original network was the WB, which was later subsumed, along with UPN into what we now know as The CW. TBS and other historically Turner properties are also owned by the same umbrella corporation, Warner Media. I don't know whether Charmed ever aired on TBS, but the original series episodes are now running on sister channel TNT. Technically, Charmed was rebooted and resurrected by its original network, at least insofar as we honor the line of business succession.

  • TangoDelta||

    It will be interesting to see how long the wokeness of 'Charmed' hangs on, assuming this is an accurate portrayal. My guess is that if it makes two years it will easily hand Trump a reelection and a red team majority, perhaps even both houses again. Sure, it will attract a few at the left edge but it's certain to turn off the middle.

  • Red Tony||

    That assumes that anyone watches it. I doubt they will.

    Unless, of course, you're going to say that Lena Dunham's show (which despite seeing mentioned plenty, I haven't seen a second of) is what brought on Trump's election.

  • TangoDelta||

    I did say "if it makes two years". In reality I wonder if it will last through the world series.

    I'm looking forward to the inevitable parody where three magic talking female dogs, a brindle boxer, a harlequin great dane, and a tri-color rat terrier, fight injustice after their mother, a Dalmatian of course, is killed while chasing a car. Their fight mostly consists of ignoring property rights and defecating on the lawns and porches of houses inhabited by Samoyed, Pomeranian, Bichon Frise, etc. The parody will probably last a few episodes longer than the reboot.

  • Finchster||

    CORRECTION: The original "Charmed" was on the defunct WB network, not TBS. TNT has the reruns.

    Do not judge me.

  • Eddy||

    Glenn's Internet access is limited on that satellite where he's imprisoned.

  • Eddy||

    They let him watch TV, they let him send reviews for the editors to approve, but if they gave him full Internet access he'd just send "HELP ME I'M IMPRISONED ON A SPACE SATELLITE" messages all over.

  • XM||

    CW is a ratings graveyard. Supergirl mildly annoyed conservatives with its hyper PC / feminist propaganda but its so invisible now that no one bothers with it anymore.

    That showed debuted on CBS and drew 12-14 million viewers. Now it gets 1-2 million viewers on night on CW. I hardly watch anything on free tv anymore, the content is specifically designed to turn off half the country.

    "They're shooting at us with AR-15S!" Well, I suppose AR-15s can be modified to be automatic weapons.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Gotta cleanse Hollywood of all the progtards so we can get better shows.

  • Finchster||

    When it moved to the CW, the budget was cut, Calista Flockhart left, and the producers decided it would be a great story arc for Supergirl's stepsister to come to terms with her recently discovered lesbianism. And there was an obvious need to throw in some allegorical attacks on Trump. Get woke, go broke.

    Meanwhile Supernatural's been doing fine for 14 years.

  • TangoDelta||

    AR-15S? Is that a slightly bigger version of the AR-15 in something like modernized .25 Remington? You know, like the iPhone XS is a slightly bigger version of the iPhone X.

    Hmm, a modern high pressure version of the .25 Remington might be a near ideal cartridge for something smack in between 5.56 and 7.62 Nato. Perhaps to keep the numbering scheme complicated we should call it an AR-12.5 because that would be between an AR-15 and an AR-10. Of course I think since the iPhone XS is between the iPhone X and the iPad Apple should have called it the iPhad X.

  • Longtobefree||

    Wait. Does this mean that there are still actual TV networks, and that they still make new shows that look like old shows about old shows?
    Meanwhile, back to the DVDs of 24 and Firefly.

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