The Rookies

The Rookies

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
Starring Georg Stanford Brown
Sam Melville
Michael Ontkean
Kate Jackson
Gerald S. O'Loughlin
Theme music composer Elmer Bernstein
Composer(s) Elmer Bernstein
Robert Drasnin
Jack Elliott
Allyn Ferguson
Paul Glass
Shorty Rogers
George Romanis
Laurence Rosenthal
Mark Snow
Pete Rugolo
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 94 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Leonard Goldberg
Aaron Spelling
Producer(s) Paul Junger Witt
Hal Sitowitz
Cinematography Archie R. Dalzell
Dennis Dalzell
Editor(s) James Baiotto
Leon Carrere
Richard Malek
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 4548 minutes
Production company(s) Spelling-Goldberg Productions
Distributor Viacom Enterprises (original)
Sony Pictures Television (current)
Original network ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original release March 7, 1972 (1972-03-07) – March 30, 1976 (1976-03-30)
Related shows S.W.A.T.

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 series began as an ABC Movie of the Week airing on March 7, 1972, which also served as the pilot for the series.[2]

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 and/or college graduates) faced in their lives as law enforcement persons sworn to serve and protect the public.[3][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 series, Sgt. Ryker had been recently promoted to lieutenant and was played by Gerald S. O'Loughlin.) The character of Jill Danko also appeared in the movie pilot, but was played by another actress, Jennifer Billingsley, and the part was recast for the series with Kate Jackson as Jill Danko, a registered nurse.


Season Episodes First aired Last aired
1 24 March 7, 1972 (1972-03-07) March 19, 1973 (1973-03-19)
2 23 September 10, 1973 (1973-09-10) March 18, 1974 (1974-03-18)
3 24 September 9, 1974 (1974-09-09) March 17, 1975 (1975-03-17)
4 23 September 9, 1975 (1975-09-09) March 30, 1976 (1976-03-30)

The Rookies TV series 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 significant others. Mike Danko was the only rookie in the series who was married. Although filmed in and around Los Angeles, the actual setting of the show was kept deliberately vague, and, in a TV Guide article about the show, "SCPD" was said to stand for "Southern California Police Department."

After the second season, the character of Willie Gillis was replaced (Ontkean left the show over complaints in the story writing) with a new rookie, Chris Owens, played by Bruce Fairbairn. During the series' third season, a two-part episode (entitled "S.W.A.T.") aired on February 17, 1975 and served as the pilot for the spin-off series S.W.A.T.


Actor Role
Georg Stanford Brown Officer Terry Webster
Sam Melville Officer Mike Danko
Michael Ontkean Officer Willie Gillis
Kate Jackson Jill Danko
Gerald S. O'Loughlin Lieutenant Ed Ryker
Bruce Fairbairn Officer Chris Owens

Notable guest stars


The series was seen in reruns on TV Land in 2003, In 2014, the show can be seen on Grit weekday mornings (though sometimes preempted by movies).[5] When the series entered syndication, local stations had the option to air either the condensed 30-minute episodes or the regular, full length 60-minute episodes. Original syndicator Viacom distributed both the 30-minute and the 60-minute episode packages to local stations. In 2016, the show can be seen on Family Net coming on six days weekly.

DVD releases

On July 17, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.[6]

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

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 24 July 17, 2007
The Complete Second Season 23 August 7, 2012


  1. "The Rookies". The New York Times.
  2. "The Rookies". The New York Times.
  5. WUAB listings - Titan
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