Published On: Sat, Oct 6th, 2018

What we can learn from TV cops and doctors

It’s network TV fall launch time and you know what that means: Cops and doctors!

Classic programmers love these genres so much, I’m amazed they haven’t yet combined them in a one-hour drama:

Cops handle shootings and accidents in the first half; doctors stitch victims and perps back together in the second.

Call it Law and Orderly.

You’re welcome.

But why are these series so beloved, besides their immediate stakes and open-and-shut storylines?

Because, dear reader, they teach us about ourselves. The series that succeed are snapshots of our cultural concerns.

The new hospital drama New Amsterdam (Global, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.), for example, set in “America’s oldest public hospital,” reassures us that though North America’s medical system is broken, it’s not irreparable.

Its hero, Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), wants to do Maximum Good (get it?).

He spends his days asking, “How can I help?” and saying things like, “Let’s be doctors again.”

It’s a “Let’s feel bad so we can feel good again” kind of show.

But in case watching doctors and hospitals fight against their own desire to earn a lot of money isn’t dramatic enough for you, Episode 1 also features an Ebola scare and a cancer surprise.

OK now, what are the new cop shows telling us? Well, according to FBI (also on Global, Tuesdays at 9 p.m.), from TV overlord Dick Wolf — he created the Law & Order franchise, as well as the Chicago franchise (Med, Fire, Justice, P.D.) — it’s that cops, even federal ones, really care.

Its hero, Maggie (Missy Peregrym, graduating from Rookie Blue), is an FBI agent in the New York office who sure seems to cry a lot.

She says things like, “He’s young and he’s scared — I know how to handle him.”

Unfortunately for viewers who don’t like their dialogue spoon-fed to them, she also says things like, “Isn’t that place the crème de la crème of the white supremacy movement?”

I suppose FBI is also telling us this: Networks are banking that there are still enough viewers who are too tired at the end of their work days for cable/streaming series and want TV comfort food.

Plus, FBI is a really good training ground for actors looking to perfect their “staring intently at computer screen” expressions.

Finally, what does The Rookie (which arrives on CTV Oct. 16 at 10 p.m.) teach us?

Its hero, John Nolan (Nathan Fillion, Castle), joins the Los Angeles Police Department at age 40 to combat his mid-life crisis.

Many in the department are against him — “The LAPD isn’t a place for you to find yourself,” his commanding officer sneers.

But hey, he turns out to be pretty good at this cop stuff, if he does say so himself. Which he does: “I thought I had to become someone else to do this job, that who I was wasn’t good enough. I was wrong.”

The lesson of The Rookie, then, is twofold.

One, it’s never too late to find out what you’re made of, which is very reassuring to those who are old school enough to watch weekly network series.

And two, as long as you have an actor like Nathan Fillion, who is so charming that he could turn a series about internet use agreements into a hit, the adage about TV — that it’s about inviting a friend into your living room — still holds.

Johanna Schneller is a Toronto-based pop culture writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @JoSchneller

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What we can learn from TV cops and doctors