The Rookies

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The Rookies
The Rookies cast 1973.JPG
Cast of The Rookies. Standing from left, Michael Ontkean, Sam Melville, Georg Stanford Brown. Seated, Gerald S. O'Loughlin.
Genre Police procedural
Created by Rita Lakin
Developed by William Blinn
Starring Georg Stanford Brown
Sam Melville
Michael Ontkean
Kate Jackson
Gerald S. O'Loughlin
Bruce Fairbairn
Theme music composer Elmer Bernstein
ComposersElmer Bernstein
Robert Drasnin
Jack Elliott
Allyn Ferguson
Paul Glass
Shorty Rogers
George Romanis
Laurence Rosenthal
Mark Snow
Pete Rugolo
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes94 (list of episodes)
Executive producers Aaron Spelling
Leonard Goldberg
Producers Paul Junger Witt
Hal Sitowitz
CinematographyArchie R. Dalzell
Dennis Dalzell
EditorsJames Baiotto
Leon Carrere
Richard Malek
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time45–48 minutes
Production company Spelling-Goldberg Productions
Original release
Network ABC
ReleaseMarch 7, 1972 (1972-03-07) 
March 30, 1976 (1976-03-30)

The Rookies is an American police procedural series that aired on ABC from 1972 until 1976. [1] It follows the exploits of three rookie police officers working in an unidentified city for the fictitious Southern California Police Department (SCPD).



The success of Joseph Wambaugh's book The New Centurions , as well as NBC's ratings success with Adam-12 , had sparked interest at the time in a more realistic depiction and storytelling of the typical uniformed police officer. Although various incidents during the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly in California, had sparked controversy and negative feelings toward police officers in general, The Rookies tried to better humanize the character of a police officer and show the struggles that new, younger men and women (who were often Vietnam-era military veterans or college graduates) faced in their lives as law enforcement persons sworn to serve and protect the public. [2] [3]

The pilot for the series began as an ABC Movie of the Week airing on March 7, 1972. [4] The TV movie features five rookies newly arrived at a police academy in southern California: cadets Jared Whitman (Robert F. Lyons), Kevin Lassiter (Jeff Pomerantz), Mike Danko (Sam Melville), William "Willie" Gillis (Michael Ontkean), and Terry Webster (Georg Stanford Brown), all coming from different backgrounds including the military, college and social work. The cadets' training sergeant was Eddie Ryker, played by Darren McGavin. In the later series, Sgt. Ryker was promoted to lieutenant and was played by Gerald S. O'Loughlin. The character of Jill Danko in the movie pilot was played by Jennifer Billingsley, but was recast for the series with Kate Jackson appearing as a registered nurse.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
Pilot movie March 7, 1972 (1972-03-07)
1 23September 11, 1972 (1972-09-11)March 19, 1973 (1973-03-19)
2 23September 10, 1973 (1973-09-10)March 18, 1974 (1974-03-18)
3 24September 9, 1974 (1974-09-09)March 17, 1975 (1975-03-17)
4 23September 9, 1975 (1975-09-09)March 30, 1976 (1976-03-30)

The Rookies centers around three rookie officers: Danko, Webster and Gillis, and their superior officer/mentor Lieutenant Ryker. The show was produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. Each episode showcased highly dramatized versions of police cases and activities, often intertwined with the off-duty lives of the officers and their wives. Danko was the only officer in the series who was married. Although filmed in and around Los Angeles, the "SCPD" badge the officers wore was said to stand for "Southern California Police Department."

After the second season, Gillis was replaced (Ontkean left the show over complaints in the story writing) with the character Chris Owens, played by Bruce Fairbairn.

During the series' third season, a two-part episode (titled "S.W.A.T.") aired on February 17, 1975 and served as the pilot for the spin-off series S.W.A.T. The SWAT two-part episode only aired on ABC in 1975 and was subsequently never part of the syndicated TV rerun package as Spelling-Goldberg decided it might confuse viewers as to which TV show it belonged. Both parts of the S.W.A.T. pilot are now considered "lost".[ who? ]


Georg Stanford Brown Officer Terry Webster
Sam Melville Officer Mike Danko
Michael Ontkean Officer Willie Gillis(seasons 1–2)
Kate Jackson Jill Danko
Gerald S. O'Loughlin Lieutenant Ed Ryker
Bruce Fairbairn Officer Chris Owens(seasons 3–4)

Notable guest stars


In September 1974, Spelling-Goldberg Productions and Worldvision Enterprises (who previously distributed programming produced by Spelling and ABC in the syndication market) signed a contract giving Worldvision exclusive distribution rights to the series for 25 years. However, Worldvision backed out of the contract in May 1975, and in 1976, Spelling-Goldberg sued Worldvision for more than $5.6 million in damages, plus "general damages for fraud to be ascertained". [5] Viacom Enterprises would then acquire distribution rights to The Rookies in the place of Worldvision, for broadcast beginning in 1977; as Viacom intended to sell the program for broadcast during Family Viewing Hour, they elected to edit out portions that they deemed too violent for family viewing. In addition, five episodes were excluded from the original syndicated run, due to their overt violent content. [5] Viacom also offered local stations the option to air either the condensed 30-minute episodes or the regular, full length 60-minute episodes.

The same year Viacom assumed distribution of The Rookies in 1977, Spelling-Goldberg sold their production company to Columbia Pictures Television, which would take over syndication of The Rookies following the expiration of Viacom's contract. Sony Pictures Television, who owns most of Spelling-Goldberg's output, is the current distributor.

The series was seen in reruns on TV Land in 2003. In 2014, the show aired on Grit weekday mornings (though sometimes preempted by movies). [6] In 2016, the show aired on FamilyNet six days a week.[ citation needed ]

The series began on Heroes & Icons network in March 2021, airing overnights on Saturdays.

The Rookies aired on May 29 and 30, 2021 on Decades TV Network as part of "The Decades Binge".

Home media

On July 17, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time. [7] The original pilot film was not included as part of this release. [8]

On August 7, 2012 Shout Factory released the complete second season on DVD in Region 1. [9]

DVD NameEp #Release Date
The Complete First Season24July 17, 2007
The Complete Second Season23August 7, 2012

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  6. "Programming Guide". Titan TV.
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