Editor's note: Inquirer television critic Ellen Gray reviewed Bill Paxton's new CBS show Training Day back in January, before the actor's death.
Maybe there's a reason it has taken this long for the 2001 movie Training Day to become a TV show.
It can't really be done.
The 2001 movie for which Denzel Washington won his second Oscar was about a corrupt cop named Alonzo Harris (Washington) and the rookie (Ethan Hawke) he's supposed to be schooling. It ends (spoiler alert) in a way that precluded a sequel involving Washington's character.
The crime drama that premieres Thursday -- the same night broadcast networks introduce two new comedies, CBS's Superior Donuts and NBC's Powerless -- bears the title Training Day and takes place in the same city, Los Angeles. But the tone is lighter, the racial dynamics have flipped, and the main characters will be back next week, because that's how network TV generally works.
In the 15 years since FX unleashed The Shield, starring Michael Chiklis as a corrupt detective who in the show's first episode kills a member of his team who has been placed there to spy on him, CBS has honed its reputation as a place where you can count on that not to happen. No matter how high the tertiary-character body count gets.
And so Bill Paxton (Big Love) is playing Frank Rourke, a corrupt cop -- CBS prefers the description "morally ambiguous" -- with a well-guarded heart of gold, and Justin Cornwell is Kyle Craig, the detective trainee who has been sent by a deputy chief (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Blindspot) to keep an eye on Frank and to keep him from becoming "the next Alonzo Harris."
Frank, a transplanted Texan whose significant other is a Hollywood madam (Julie Benz, Dexter) and who travels with an arsenal that might not be all department-issue, is a colorful rule-breaker. He's also a baby boomer ("I've been hunting armed men through this city since O.J. was doing Hertz commercials," he boasts in a voiceover) who's more than holding his own in a world full of serious millennials like Kyle.
And by that I mean he's indestructible. Like Liam-Neeson-in-Taken indestructible.
The team Frank leads -- you knew there had to be a team -- includes officers played by Katrina Law (Arrow), who grew up in Deptford Township, and Drew Van Acker (Devious Maids), of Medford.
Though nothing in Training Day, including the partnership of Frank and Kyle, is quite as simple as it first seems, what I saw in three episodes wasn't intriguing enough to make me crave a fourth, or to understand exactly why CBS thought now was the time to glorify the kind of police officer who thinks laws are for other people.
CBS's fixation with generation gaps is evident Thursday night with the premiere of Superior Donuts, which briefly supplants The Great Indoors this week before moving to 9 p.m. Mondays.
Adapted from a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), Superior Donuts stars Judd Hirsch as Arthur Przybyszewski, the crusty proprietor of an old-fashioned doughnut shop in a gentrifying Chicago neighborhood. Comedian Jermaine Fowler, who also works with the writers as an executive producer, is Franco Wicks, a graffiti artist who talks Arthur into hiring him and immediately goes to work to liven up the place with some fresh paint, an Instagram feed, and some fake Yelp reviews.
People who come to The Great Indoors primarily for the millennial-bashing should stick around. There'll be some of that, along with acknowledgment of Chicago's crime rate and exchanges like this between Franco and beat cop Randy DeLuca (Katey Sagal):
Franco: I must really trust you. I just turned my back on a Chicago cop.
Randy: I'm not going to shoot you. I've got my body cam on.
Wincing aside, there's a lot to like in Superior Donuts, starting with the chemistry between Hirsch and Fowler, whose characters need each other more than they realize.
Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) is the seasoned veteran rolling her eyes at the by-the-book idealism of her young partner, James (Darien Sills-Evans). David Koechner plays a character named Tush, who's trying to make it in the gig economy while becoming the butt (sorry) of some of the show's more obvious jokes, and standup Maz Jobrani is Fawz, the Iraqi entrepreneur-next-door who has been angling to buy Arthur's shop for years. Anna Baryshnikov plays Maya, a student who frequents the shop for the very peace and quiet Franco's looking to end.
The Superior Donuts recipe is as old as doughnuts -- or Cheers, to which it's far from ready to be compared, but it's also just topical enough to feel fresh.
One week after the CW repurposed the characters from good old Archie for a murder-driven teen drama in Riverdale, NBC on Thursday attempts to restore the balance of the universe with Powerless, a sitcom set in the DC Comics world.
That world, and Batman in particular, have gotten a lot darker since Adam West's live-action Batman launched in 1966, but Powerless looks to lighten things up with a workplace show in which the workplace is a backwater subsidiary of Wayne Industries run by a cousin (Alan Tudyk) of Bruce "Batman" Wayne's.
Vanessa Hudgens plays Emily, who's hired as head of research and development just as the company faces the threat of closing, putting her and her new co-workers (Danny Pudi, Community, and Ron Funches, Undateable) out of work.
Can Emily, who was "sixth in [her] class at Wharton," motivate her morale-sapped team to find new ways to protect ordinary people -- the powerless -- from the collateral damage of superheroes and supervillains? What do you think?
I've seen only one episode, so it's hard to say where Powerless is headed. It has a good cast, though, and for all its comic-book trappings, its effort to find some fun in a fickle economy could make it a good fit with its lead-in, NBC's already terrific Superstore.