"NYPD Blue" is ending a 12-year run with a barely heard whimper. Once one of ABC's cornerstones, many people don't even seem to realize the show is still on. Still, NYPD Blue won many awards, had many fans, and pushed a few limits.
My favorite cop show for much of the 90's was "Homicide: Life on the Street". The first 3 seasons of Homicide contained some of TV's all-time greatest moments. NYPD premiered a few months after Homicide and garnered all the attention. Homicide fans jeeringly referred to the show as "NYPD Butt" since so much emphasis was placed on the exposed backsides of various cast members. When Homicide began to turn into just another cop show, I took another look and was impressed by most of the performances, and the diverse cast, even if the writing left me cold.
To me, NYPD Blue was a show that claimed to take bold risks but in reality took baby steps. The center of the show was (for the first few seasons at least) a bigot but he was usually presented as a good guy underneath. The show danced around racial and homosexual themes but the homosexual characters were usually very stereotypical (although a huge step up from that "Hill Street Blues" character who couldn't stop himself from hustling in public toilets even after Belker gave him a job). Some of the racial episodes seemed to end with variations on "can't we all just get along" or if a black man and a white men punch each other a few times, all the tensions wash away. Whereas the anchor characters on HSB (Lucy Bates, Frank Furillo) were normal people who were made interesting because their inherent sense of goodness and kindness overcame their insecurities, NYPD's central figure, Andy Sipowicz, always came across as little more than a blank canvas for a series of star turns, and later a Job who would lose another wife or son or second cousin if the show needed buzz. Everything came across as very scripted, stagey, and eventually, the writers clearly ran out of ideas.
One thing I always admired about NYPD Blue was its continued portrayal of cops as human beings, as being seriously flawed yet still committed to protecting the public and catching bad guys. All of the melodrama may have bordered on bad soap opera, but I prefer human beings to slaves of the assembly line ("Law & Order") or characters who are supposed to be so cool that even seeing one of their own gunned down rarely brings more than a tilt of the head and a change of sunglasses ("CSI"). In a post 9/11 world, people seem to prefer their TV authority figures as flawless and inhuman. "NYPD Blue", to its credit, never attempted to pander to a police state and instead reminded us that humanity does not start or stop when you put on a badge. They showed us the best and the worst of all aspects of life, and I can respect that, regardless of my other feelings on the show.
It's ironic that a show which was credited with breaking down barriers wrapped up its run when the networks are more gutless and childish than ever. In only a few short years all that progress, real or imagined, washed away, and Bochco had to remove scenes which never would have raised an eyebrow 5, 10 years earlier. All the work Bochco has done for the past 25 years, washed away by Janet Jackson's titty and desperate politicians looking for anything to hide their trail of blood, death, and lies.I can't help wondering when this new era of repression will end and in the meantime how many quality shows are going to be butchered or driven off the airwaves.
What are your thoughts on NYPD Blue? Who were your favorite characters? Least favorites? Moments? Stories? Will you miss the show?