Don't tell me you weren't thinking it. At a glance, "NYC 22" is a copycat of "Rookie Blue." Both police dramas focus on rookies adjusting to their new lives -- but instead of working the streets of Toronto, TV's latest recruits are part of Manhattan's 22nd precinct.
As far as I'm concerned, however, that's where the similarities end. Where the men and women of 15 Division fumbled and bumbled on their first day three seasons ago, CBS's new "kids" showed a little more confidence.
The most familiar faces of the series are Adam Goldberg, who plays Ray "Lazarus" Harper, a former crime-beat reporter, Terry Kinney, as Daniel "Yoda" Dean, the rookies' field training officer, and Leelee Sobieski as Jennifer "White House" Perry, a former Marine MP in Iraq. Harold House Moore (as Jayson "Jackpot" Toney ), Stark Sands (as Kenny McLaren), Judy Marte (as Tonya Sanchez), Tom Reed (as Ahmad Khan) and Felix Solis (as Terry Howard) round out the cast. Oops, but there's one big name I'm forgetting: Robert De Niro.
He and longtime producing partner Jane Rosenthal executive-produce the drama (created by Richard Price) and the name "De Niro" will be the show's biggest draw. Those wary of the series' resemblance to "Rookie Blue" will at least have sampled the debut, simply because of the pedigree behind it.
In the pilot, we got a glimpse of how the six rookies got there, and none of them are just average Joes and Janes who figured it would be fun to play cop. Surprisingly, none of them are doing it because of 9/11 (though many probably expected it) -- though the closest might be Ahmad, whose Afghani heritage brings questions and ridicule. McLaren is a fourth-generation cop, Jackpot is a former NBAer who blew his knee, and perhaps the most fascinating, Sanchez (one of many in the 22nd) is trying to right her family's name and reputation.
The hour plays out pretty predictably -- not so much the story, which goes back and forth between gang warfare and a domestic violence situation/hostage-taking; rather, none of the newbies shot themselves in the foot or got killed by a gang-banger. There were no boss-giving-them-a-stern-talking-to moments, either. But that doesn't make "NYC 22" any better or any worse than "Rookie Blue" -- they're just different. "Rookie Blue" has a soapier quality to it and focuses more on the relationships within; "NYC 22" equally balances that fine line between its characters and the crimes they're trying to prevent.
Personally, I've always had a special place in my heart for "Rookie Blue." I've been on the set and spoken with each of the cast members numerous times. Missy Peregrym and Gregory Smith -- LOVE. But there's no reason why they both can't work. "Rookie Blue" doesn't return to airwaves until the summer, so it's not survival of the fittest here -- just two decent shows that can co-exist.
Hopefully next week's "NYC 22" episode, "Firebomb," improves on its soft start (8.9 million tuned in to its debut -- less than what "CSI: Miami" averaged) and gives us further insight into the six rookies while balancing grittier cases. That, indeed, might be the only way for the comparisons to end. Though a guest-star appearance by Mr. De Niro wouldn't hurt.
Follow Denette Wilford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DenetteWilford