ABC’s ‘Rookie Blue’ Is a Hit, But Why?

Ever since NYPD Blue went off the air in 2005, ABC has been trying to replicate its success. Ranging from the 13-episode flop Blind Justice to the recently canceled The Unusuals, the network has been trying one cop show after another in its search for a hit. Now NBC may have unexpectedly found it.

Canadian police drama Rookie Blue had only aired four episodes before ABC announced that its picking it up for a second season. While 6.4 million viewers is usually nothing to cheer about, it’s special for a show with relatively little promotion, nowadays. ABC’s heavily hyped original dramas The Gates and Scoundrels have been languishing in its Sunday night summer spots, while Rookie Blue is the highest rated non-reality, non-repeat show on network TV that isn’t a news program or a sporting event. Again, this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is.

The question now is, why is this doing so well? A quick look at the show’s own IMDB page shows a mixture of praise and insults from its audience. While some viewers point out its unoriginal concept and soap-opera syrupy storylines, others focus on the likability of its photogenic cast and how the main focus is on the characters’ personal lives instead of fast-paced action.

Over the last couple of years, the trend of putting cases first, which started with Law & Order and CSI, has all but disappeared. Whether it’s because of a changing audience or TV writers running out of ideas, most procedurals have gone further and further into the private lives of their characters. Rookie Blue definitely fits into this category, with its debut episode revolving not around a specific case, but the first day on the job for all the new recruits.

Another TV trend, which seemed to go as quickly as it came, was to set shows in other decades. Perhaps the best example of this was ABC’s own two-season wonder, Life On Mars, which featured a modern-day police detective who finds himself in the year 1973. While Rookie Blue is presumably set in modern-day Canada, its cases and characters could have easily been set in the ’70s. In one episode, Officer “Dov” Epstein tells a suspect, “My parents were hippies. They hated cops.” In another episode, female cop Andy tries to protect a battered woman, only to see her go back to her abuser.

However, Rookie Blue may only be doing well because it’s summertime, and expectations for TV show are low. Whether or not ABC plans to air the show’s second season this fall remains to be seen.