In the years since the release of 2001’s Training Day, there have been some amazing cop dramas that echo the film’s intensity. From the critically acclaimed The Wire to BBC’s troubled detective masterpiece Luther, cop dramas have stepped up a notch, so CBS’s Training Day series will have a lot to live up to when it airs on Feb 2. Thankfully, the series will also have the success of each of these shows to draw on and learn from.
One of the biggest hurdles Training Day faces is its cast and crew. The film had David Ayer’s script, Antoine Fuqua’s directing, and Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke’s performances to make it great. There were also tons of great cameos and bit roles for recognizable faces. The movie had Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. The series, on the other hand, stars the always great Bill Paxton and the relative unknown Justin Cornwell as his partner. Audiences like familiar faces, and a lack of them may hurt Training Day‘s chances at success. Behind the scenes, Fuqua is an executive producer, but that may not be enough.
Focus on Intensity and Complex Story Arcs
What Training Day needs to do is somehow keep the intensity of the original film despite the constraints of network television. It needs to avoid procedural pitfalls and have a larger, complex story arc that keeps audiences tuned in. Paxton and Cornwell need the same kind of on-screen chemistry as Washington and Ethan Hawke, or at least something close. Training Day will be a hard sell in a world with a Lethal Weapon TV series and a rebooted MacGyver. Hopefully, it can set itself apart, and draw from the other amazing cop dramas that have come before.
Evolve the Characters
Training Day has some high expectations to beat. The film it’s based on is something of a modern-day cop drama masterpiece centered around Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning performance. So the show, which will have to cater to standards and practices as well as commercials, has its work cut out for it.
As Danielle said, the show needs to try and match the intensity of the film while being reeled in by the confinements of TV. Of course you can’t get away with as much language and violence as the film, but the Training Day series needs to do what it can to match that same ferocity of the film. The lead performances need to compare to the movie as well. The great thing about working on television is that performers are given much more time to refine and evolve their characters. In many ways, it’s a better deal for actors and actresses. Bill Paxton and Justin Cornwell can do some incredible and different things as the episodes roll on. They can set themselves apart from Washington and Hawke while still maintaining aspects that fans loved.
Most importantly, Training Day needs to avoid the many cop drama pitfalls. So many shows get lost in the boring crime-of-the-week minutia. They become routine, generic, and forgettable. Training Day is based on great source material and needs to not lose sight of that. We don’t need just another police show. We need a different and aggressive one.
Unique Take on the Material
The main thing is that the Training Day “brand” is past its sell date. It doesn’t carry much pedigree, but then again, neither did Lethal Weapon. The hope is that someone had a really interesting take on the material. Bill Paxton needs neither the work nor the money, so his involvement means a lot. The most interesting thing about the TV version (provided it doesn’t twist Paxton into the good guy) is that it loses the vital race dynamic of the film. While Paxton is a fantastic actor, he cannot assimilate into Los Angeles gang culture. He’s a white corrupt cop. Those are a dime a dozen in media. If the show takes the safe road, even a little, audiences are going to smell it a mile away.