TRAINING DAY: Thursday 10PM on CBS – Change the Channel
If the idea that CBS, of all networks, could turn the dark, ruthless police drama TRAINING DAY into a TV series seemed counterintuitive–well, they haven’t. There’s a show with that title on the network schedule, and the general outlines of the character dynamic and setting may seem vaguely familiar, but this Training Day has been contorted into a CBS procedural, and a terrible one at that.
Series creator Will Beall, working with showrunner Barry Schindel (original movie screenwriter David Ayer gets a “story by” credit) have retained the notion of an older, rule-breaking LAPD detective (here named Frank Roarke and played by Bill Paxton) teamed with a younger, more idealistic and increasingly wary one (renamed Kyle Craig, played by Justin Cornwell)–the film versions of which gave Denzel Washington (who won an Oscar) and Ethan Hawke two of their most indelible roles. But aside from flipping the races of the characters, Beall’s reboot has removed all of their teeth. Paxton’s character may be having a romance with a madam, somewhat analogous to Washington and Eva Mendes’s relationship in the movie, but like everything else in the TV version, it’s lost its danger. Roarke may seem corrupt, but in an “awww” tag to the pilot, it’s revealed that he’s turned over most of the drug money he stole to build a college fund for the cute little boy he met earlier in the episode.
At every turn, this Training Day has been made conventional and flat. Kyle has been given a by-the-numbers backstory in which he’s going to work with Frank to solve the murder of his cop father–which, it’s already been made clear, will involve a top-of-the-force conspiracy. Frank is no longer a lone wolf; he’s got a TV standard team of Rebecca Lee (Katrina Law) and Tommy Campbell (Drew Van Acker), who are apparently assigned to shoot anyone Frank tells them to. Needless to say, Frank doesn’t say anything as incendiary or shocking as Washington’s character does throughout the movie, and he’s no more offensive than any other network TV cop.
All this is bad enough, but even on its CBS procedural terms, the Training Day pilot is strictly subpar. Beall’s script is routine nonsense about Frank pitting two druglords against each other, one of whom has had his face surgically altered, and director Danny Cannon, a veteran of the CBS brand, doesn’t do much more than give the imagery a smoggy smear of beige so that we’ll know we’re in LA.
Paxton does what he can with what material he has left, but Cornwell is bland, and none of the other regulars get to do more than bark out cliched dialogue. Training Day is as misbegotten a show as network TV has offered this season. It makes FOX’s Lethal Weapon look like The Wire.