A 19-year-old Philadelphia cop? Is that, like, even possible? The grizzled vet who answered a phone call placed to the Philly PD replied, “I’ve got guns that are older than 19. I haven’t seen too many teenagers walking the beat lately.” The point is not a moot one, since the shattered innocence of its lead protagonist forms the central plotline in the optimistically titled “Ryan Caulfield: Year One” (formerly “The Badland,” formerly just plain “Ryan Caulfield”). Sensitively wrought, “RC:Y1” unfortunately strings together so many coming-of-age cliches that it leaves you wondering how this drama managed to avoid winding up on the WB.
Evidently, the point in depicting a Philadelphia cop fresh out of high school who is suddenly thrust into patrolling one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods is that it allows us to feel his pink-cheeked angst. Watch him grimace at his first corpse. See him freak out while getting into more shoot-outs during his first week than most cops see in their first decade. Witness his schoolboy naivete as he gets hit on by an “older woman” on the force (she’s 24). Alas, we can’t watch him get drunk; he still has two more years before alcohol can salve his emotional wounds.
However, we can listen endlessly while rookie cop Ryan Caulfield (an earnest perf from newcomer Sean Maher) emotes over his exciting new gig in a series of gratingly solemn voiceovers that pepper the opening teleplay from exec producers James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox. He’s a boy; he’s a man; he’s the most idealistic, moralistic adolescent in the land. But once you tap into Ryan’s conflicted mind-set, there isn’t much else in “RC:Y1” to make the single-minded focus more compelling.
Premiere — directed with a deliberate sort of conviction by helmer F. Gary Gray (who also happens to be one of five exec producers) — serves to showcase Ryan as the only kid in his circle who hasn’t dedicated his life to college and beer and babes. Even on the night before his inexplicable cop post is skedded to begin, Ryan totes along his guns and badge to a party. Yet little is made of what has pushed the guy into police work at 19, aside from sketchy allusions to a deceased father who was apparently pretty demanding.
Ryan has the usual assortment of geek friends, including the creepy Vic (James Roday) and the wimpy “H” (Chad Lindberg). Once on the job, his veteran partner Susser (nice work from Michael Rispoli) wants only to be helpful, more or less unconcerned that his back is being covered by a kid who probably isn’t aware that Paul Newman once had a career outside of popcorn and salad dressing.
Opening stanza offers lots of blood and street chaos while laying the groundwork for an intriguing romance between Ryan and fellow rookie (yep, the 24-year-old) Kim Veras (Roselyn Sanchez). It would be a rare white male-Latina female love match in primetime. As a bonus, the two even appear to have some chemistry.
Yet any promise that “Caulfield” exhibits in the pilot dissipates in the second installment, which takes a bizarre, heavy-handed approach to Ryan’s dilemma when a friend (Roday) turns vigilante after a robbery-attack at his gas station job. Despite Maher’s best efforts, he is made to portray Ryan as a kid haunted by the persistent question of just what the hell he’s doing walking the thin blue line, anyway. It makes us kinda wonder, too. What he could really use more than anything is a scholarship.
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