Hit or Sh**: CBS’s TRAINING DAY
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
I honestly love watching adaptations without first watching the source material, partially because it’s easy to tell which parts of the show are meant for me. Since remakes and adaptations became commonplace, writers often paint bright yellow lines around their references, treating their inside jokes as the glowing gems of the script. These references receive their due time in the sun, and are immediately immortalized online in the form of four .GIFs with subtitles. This might seem annoying, but I see it as a necessary element of the modern day remake and appreciate the efficiency of the process. It leaves more room for original material within the adaptation’s world.
So when I jumped into the TRAINING DAY pilot without first seeing the Denzel Washington film, I immediately noticed how few shits this show gave about its source material. While Denzel’s character Alonzo is mentioned as the cause of the Los Angeles crime wave that serves as the show’s premise, that’s about all we get in terms of ‘member berries. Instead, TRAINING DAY embraces the cheesiest elements of crime shows and blends them with fleeting references to serious issues. This plan amounts to an extraordinarily incoherent mess that elicits mostly schadenfreude-based laughter, but also a degree of actual curiosity.
Me after using “schadenfreude” in a sentence
The curiosity stems from TRAINING DAY’s infuriatingly inconsistent script. The dialogue is either so benign that it barely warrants the viewers attention, or so egregiously corny, random, and unsettling that it feels like the characters are catcalling me. This dichotomy provides an excitingly chaotic structure for the first half of the show; we’re lulled into a false sense of security for a couple minutes, then completely blindsided by a ludicrous line or melodramatic event with such utter lack of regard for our expectations that it feels like visual dubstep, a constant toggling of calm and intensity with nothing in between.
The show begins with Officer Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell), who took up his father’s badge after he was slain in the line of duty. After heroically saving a baby from an exploding redneck, he’s given the special task of monitoring the crooked cop who runs the LAPD’s Special Investigation Section. This cop, Frank Roarke (Bill Paxton), immediately tries to endear himself to us by burning down a drug dealer’s house for punching a kid he ran into at the police station. When the dealers run out of the house, he shoots them with rubber bullets and steals their money, because any and all violence committed against someone who has been violent themselves is completely justified. While this may sound somewhat novel or exciting, it still boils down to “the straight laced one and the loose cannon one disagree.”
Admittedly, that same narrative held our attention for two years
TRAINING DAY stands out amongst its peers to me because of how willfully ignorant it is. The script is unapologetically dumb. The characters remain rigidly within their expected arcs. The action scenes are loud, sloppy orgies of red hues and explosion sounds. In many ways, this show succeeds as the weightless crime drama that it tries so hard not to be. Were it not for the misguided attempts at reaching a deeper meaning, this show might have earned my respect as a KUNG FURY-esque tribute to cheese. But because every television show has to swing for the emotional fences nowadays, TRAINING DAY oversteps its bounds and fails to meet its own standards.
TRAINING DAY airs on CBS on Thursdays