I have recently been watching the TV show “The Rookie” on Now TV. Now entering its sixth season, the show is about officer John Nolan (Nathan Fillion), a 45 year old construction contractor from Pennsylvania who becomes the oldest rookie in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department.
It’s a very entertaining police procedural with a light sprinkling of humour, and also, as one binge watches, an interesting insight into how America sees itself on TV.
One of the constant themes of the show is the need for people to be “held accountable”, or the attribution of blame, a theme which the show is very self aware about.
Episode after episode is about working people who end up breaking laws which they simply do not have the financial capacity to obey. Whether it is affording motor tax, or leaving an elderly relative unattended so that you can attend the job interview that will help pay for her care, the show often focusses on how Americans set themselves levels of rigidity and personal responsibility that their social and economic model conspires to prevent them reaching.
Another constant theme which will strike an Irish viewer is the lack of pragmatic approaches by the police officers in the show to problems compared to say, how an Irish Garda would approach it.
One episode sees a single father who has recently lost his wife commit an opportunistic crime (he steals money from bank robbers) to help alleviate his son’s situation. The episode ends with the father being arrested, and the son handed over to social services, an outcome which satisfies no one and results in huge taxpayer cost and the breakup of a struggling family with the social costs that will entail. Yet the officers have no choice: everything is measured by arrest and conviction, with a sprinkling of puritan judgementalism.
I’m aware, in writing this, that I’m an advocate of more robust policing in Ireland. But I still support the need for police officers, as members of society, to be able to exercise judgement and pursue the path of least harm, a policy that the characters of “The Rookie” often yearn for in their daily policing.
The other striking aspect, and I’ve no idea how realistic this is, or whether it is just Hollywood hype, is how nearly every episode has a normalised gun battle on public streets involving the use of military grade fully automatic weapons, with civilians fleeing streets as thousands of rounds of ammunition are expended.
Have a look: it’s a good show.