Fandom History Tours

You Had to Be There: A Chenford Fandom History Tour

Because shipping The Rookie's Tim & Lucy has been "worth the risk" since 2018.

Welcome to the Chenford Exhibit at the National Museum of Fandom History, established in February 2023. We invite you to take a self-guided tour through the five-year evolution of the fandom devoted to shipping The Rookie‘s Lucy Chen and Tim Bradford, a.k.a Chenford.

No flash photography, please. Enjoy your visit!

Season 1 – Ice Age Chenford (circa 2018-2019)

First identified in the wild by intrepid shippers in 2018, “Chenford” can be found exclusively in the ABC television drama The Rookie. It’s the product of intense and unexpected chemistry between the hard-nosed police officer Tim Bradford (portrayed by charismatic actor Eric Winter) and his hotshot trainee, Lucy Chen (portrayed by the uber-talented actress Melissa O’Neil). Perceptive early fans, while few in number, were quick to notice that the antagonism between Chen and Bradford could easily be mistaken for a growing attraction and repressed passion. A battle ensued over whether the pairing would be known as “Tucy” or “Chenford,” with the latter portmanteau eventually emerging victorious (RIP, Tucy). Modern-day Chenford shippers owe much to this trailblazing group.

Artifacts of the era:

Season 2 – Bronze Age Chenford (c. 2019-2020)

By the fall of 2019, a marked shift in the onscreen dynamic between officers Chen and Bradford was observable to the naked eye. Playful ribbing frequently replaced harsh lectures; “Tim Tests” became as much a love language as a series of training exercises; a certain adorable pitbull* found his forever home; and audiobooks were recorded. A crucial turning point occurred when Officer Bradford helped Officer Chen rescue herself from a kidnapping in the watershed episode “Day of the Death.” The small but growing Chenford fandom, emboldened by such a trope-y storyline, responded with a noticeable increase of video edits, gifsets, fanfic, and hyperbolic listicles.

The Rookie co-stars Melissa O’Neil and Eric Winter cheerfully acknowledged enthusiasm around the pairing on social media (including memorable Instagram Lives during the early days of the pandemic) and in interviews. At the same time, the cast and producers urged caution, noting major obstacles to any future romance. Survivors of past will-they-or-won’t-they shipwrecks took notice, yet forged ahead, bullish about their chances of seeing a Chenford ship sail someday. Many of the fandom’s seminal works come from this period.

Artifacts of the era:

Season 3 – Iron Age Chenford (c. 2021)

Effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests are evident in this abbreviated season of The Rookie and in Chenford fandom history. Consisting of only 13 episodes due to a production shutdown in the first few months of the pandemic, season 3 of the series nevertheless addresses important topics of police brutality and racism head-on, with mixed results. Officers Bradford and Chen grew increasingly comfortable with each other in the final phase of her rookie year, to the point where Chen found herself jealous of his instant camaraderie with his next “boot.”

Even after their transition to friends and coworkers, however, Tim and Lucy’s simmering attraction remained firmly on the back-burner in canon, in line with showrunner Alexi Hawley remaining cagey about Chenford’s future. Undeterred, shippers zeroed in on Tim’s concern over Lucy’s exploration of undercover work and took heart at how the pair checked each other out in their wedding-guest finery during the season 3 finale. 

Artifacts of the era:

Season 4 – Dark Ages Chenford (c. 2021-2022)

Another rapid expansion of a now robust fanbase accompanied a season of highs and lows for longtime shippers. Onscreen, Lucy and Tim grieved a devastating loss together, shared highly personal confidences, went on a hilariously ill-advised double-date, and bantered A LOT. But they also dated other people for most of the season, seeming no closer to acknowledging romantic feelings than they had in any year prior. Tim’s promotion to sergeant and Lucy’s decision to serve as his gopher (for the experience, and to ride with him again) further complicated the rising UST between them. It was an alternately confusing, thrilling, and frustrating time for fans, whose works from this era reflect a deepening desire to see Chenford just make out already, or to admit they’re basically married. The Rookie writers seemed prepared at last to respond to the audience’s fervor in the season 4 finale, which found Lucy Chen getting caught kissing Tim Bradford in preparation for an undercover assignment.

Artifacts of the era:

Season 5 – Renaissance Chenford (c. 2022-2023)

The Chenford fandom ascended to a new plane of existence on December 4, 2022, when Timothy Bradford decided it was “worth the risk” to ask Lucy Chen out on a date–twice. After years of painstaking character development and buildup to this moment, Chenford–now beloved by viewers, the actors, the writers, and the show’s social media team alike–finally became canon. It’s likely no coincidence The Rookie emerged as ABC’s highest-rated scripted series around the same time Lucy and Tim went undercover as a couple, confessed to feeling some real feelings, pined after one another, secretly dated, coached a little league baseball team together, and took their relationship to the next level (but only after Tim switched jobs). Within the fandom, creative output surged, “Lucy Lessons” and the pretzel emoji entered the lexicon, and the songs “First to Love” and “G O O D” played on repeat. 

Artifacts of the era:

This concludes today’s tour! Thanks for visiting the Chenford Exhibit. Please exit through the gift shop, where you’ll find a tastefully curated collection of fanworks to browse. Come again soon!

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*Thanks to @AwellieT on Twitter for the correction on Kojo’s breed!

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