Nash Leads a Solid Cast In The Rookie: Feds
Over the past decade, I have fallen under the unwavering charms and boisterous behavior of the gifted Niecy Nash, one of the superb, usually overlooked talents in Peak TV. I first became aware of her in the underrated HBO hospice set comedy series Getting On, which ran three delightful seasons and earned Nash two Emmy nominations for Supporting Actress. Scream Queens, her next major gig, never gelled with me but it was hard not to love her work as a clueless law enforcement officer. I marveled at her work the last few years in one of TNT’s better (and most likely among the last) dramas, a series where she played the head of a nail salon who brings her fellow polishers deeper and deeper into the Miami underworld. So when it was announced that she was getting the lead role in The Rookie: Feds this fall, even though I given up on the original series after the first season, I decided to give it a chance because I’ve always liked Nash’s work. And it is much, much better than it has any right to be.
Because I don’t watch The Rookie anymore (its parked-on Sundays, which is cable’s Peak Time) I didn’t see her original appearance as Simone, a school guidance counselor who becomes involved in a police investigation. And I admit, the idea of a forty-ish African American female joining the Feds is far less plausible than the idea of a forty-ish white male contractor joining the LAPD. But just as millions were willing to suspend their disbelief because they would follow lead Nathan Fillion anywhere, I was willing to do the same because of my admiration for Nash, who I consider far more versatile a talent. To the credit of the writers, they have done a far better job putting Simone in this scenario than I think they did with the LAPD in the Pilot. There’s far less realism, I’ll admit, but the talent assembled is so good at their work I have less trouble suspending disbelief. Simone is partnered with Carter (James Lesure) a by the book agent who is trying to figure out his place in a troubled marriage. There’s profiler Laura Stensen (Britt Robertson) who is working with an ex-actor named Brendon Acres (Kevin Zegers) who has left a fairly successful career on a drama to pursue a career as an agent. The team is headed by Garza (Felix Soles), who is under fire for creating the task force in the first place. Carter has already been bribed, then blackmailed by a superior agent who wants to bring Garza down and that’s before we learn that he’s dealing with a heart condition.
One of the commonalities to all of Nash’s series is that either as a lead or supporting she has a way of making her co-stars look good. It helps that she’s invariably surrounded by a solid cast. In Getting On, it was the legendary Alex Borstein and Laurie Metcalf. In Scream Queens, Emma Roberts, Abigail Breslin and Jamie Lee Curtis were just part of the talent. In Claws, she was backed up by Carrie Preston, Judy Reyes, Dean Norris, and Harold Perrineau. All her co-stars in The Rookie: Feds have a similarly good reputation for doing good, almost unnoticed work in often undervalued shows. Robertson was superb as a rookie public defender in For The People (the rare Shondaland series that was cancelled too soon ) and both Zegers and Lesure had family ties to Katey Segal’s title character in Rebel (which bore a similar fate). Throw in the presence of the incredible Frankie Faison as Simone’s activist father, who she’s currently living with, and you have one of the better casts on a network series this year.
Some might doubt the plausibility of a guidance counselor to be a good police officer, much less a Fed. I’d say: a) it’s just as believable that a contractor could become a cop and, b) given how much psychology is needed to be a good counselor and how important understanding the psychology to being a good law enforcement officer, I actually think it might be more useful than some people are actually wearing badges these days. It is true that there have been a few occasions that Nash has overplayed things but she has also proven that she has a certain level of insight into how people think that I think some cops might overlook.
Right now, I like Nash and the cast more than I liked The Rookie at this same point. I realize the crossover potential is built in (one begins on the parent show on Sunday) but I’m not certain how much that will convince me to watch the original. Some spinoffs can often work even if you don’t know the original source. I think Nash and the cast of the series may be enough to carry a cliched procedural over the top.
My Score: 3.5 stars.