NYPD Blue is an American police procedural drama television series set in New York City, exploring the struggles of the fictional 15th Precinct detective squad in Manhattan. Each episode typically intertwines several plots involving an ensemble cast.
The show was created by Steven Bochco and David Milch, and was inspired by Milch's relationship with Bill Clark, a former member of the New York City Police Department who eventually became one of the show's producers. The series was originally broadcast on the ABC network, debuted on September 21, 1993‚ and aired its final episode on March 1, 2005. It was ABC's longest-running primetime one-hour drama series until Grey's Anatomy surpassed it in 2016.
NYPD Blue was met with critical acclaim, praised for its grittiness and realistic portrayal of the cast's personal and professional lives, though the show garnered controversy for its depiction of nudity and alcoholism. In 1997, "True Confessions" (Season 1, Episode 4), written by Art Monterastelli and directed by Charles Haid, was ranked #36 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2009, TV Guide ranked "Hearts and Souls" (Season 6, Episode 5), Jimmy Smits' final episode as a main cast member, #30 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.
|John Kelly||David Caruso||Detective|
|Andy Sipowicz||Dennis Franz||Detective/Sergeant|
|Arthur Fancy||James McDaniel||Lieutenant/Captain|
|Laura Michaels||Sherry Stringfield||A.D.A.|
|Janice Licalsi||Amy Brenneman||Officer/Detective|
|James Martinez||Nicholas Turturro||Officer/Detective/Sergeant|
|Sylvia Costas||Sharon Lawrence||A.D.A.|
|Greg Medavoy||Gordon Clapp||Detective|
|Donna Abandando||Gail O'Grady||P.A.A.|
|Bobby Simone||Jimmy Smits||Detective|
|Adrienne Lesniak||Justine Miceli||Detective|
|Diane Russell||Kim Delaney||Detective|
|Jill Kirkendall||Andrea Thompson||Detective|
|John Irvin||Bill Brochtrup||P.A.A.|
|Danny Sorenson||Rick Schroder||Detective|
|Baldwin Jones||Henry Simmons||Detective|
|Valerie Haywood||Garcelle Beauvais||A.D.A.|
|Connie McDowell||Charlotte Ross||Detective|
|Tony Rodriguez||Esai Morales||Lieutenant|
|John Clark, Jr.||Mark-Paul Gosselaar||Detective|
|Rita Ortiz||Jacqueline Obradors||Detective|
|Eddie Gibson||John F. O'Donohue||Detective/Sergeant|
|Thomas Bale||Currie Graham||Lieutenant|
|Laura Murphy||Bonnie Somerville||Detective|
Produced by 20th Century Fox and Steven Bochco Productions, film production primarily took place in the greater Los Angeles area. The show did film in New York, but only for exterior shots that used New York landmarks. In the final season, the show was filmed only in Los Angeles to save money.
The show was initially a vehicle for David Caruso. John Kelly was the main character, and the first season revolved around him and his professional and personal lives. Promotional shots for the show depicted Caruso in the foreground and other first-season characters set off behind him. Season two had the departure of John Kelly, and the show was thereafter built around an ensemble cast.
Dennis Franz, as Andy Sipowicz, a veteran New York City Police detective, evolved into the show's lead character, who increasingly assumed a mentorship role to other characters as the series progressed. His co-stars included (season two and beyond) Jimmy Smits as Det. Bobby Simone (1994–1998), Rick Schroder as Det. Danny Sorenson (1998–2001), and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Det. John Clark, Jr. (2001–2005).
John Kelly and Andy Sipowicz are detectives in the 15th squad. Sipowicz is the elder partner, but is an alcoholic who drinks on the job, as well as off duty, and his behavior causes doubt that the partnership will last much longer. Kelly has a genuine affection for his partner, but becomes increasingly exasperated by Sipowicz's behavior. In addition to his alcoholism, Sipowicz is a deeply negative, misogynist, homophobic bigot. In the pilot, Sipowicz is shot by a suspect he had attacked and humiliated earlier. This leads to his decision to sober up and save his job. While Sipowicz is recuperating, the squad's lieutenant, Arthur Fancy, teams Kelly with a young cop from Anticrime, James Martinez.
Kelly's personal life is as frenetic as his professional life. He is reluctantly going through a divorce from his wife, Laura, and is embarking on an affair with a uniformed cop, Janice Licalsi. To complicate matters further, Licalsi's police-officer father is on the payroll of mob boss Angelo Marino. Licalsi, in an attempt to protect her father, has been ordered to do a "hit" on Kelly. Instead, Licalsi murders Marino, and the repercussions come back to haunt both Kelly and her.
Sipowicz, meanwhile, sobers up and begins a relationship with ADA Sylvia Costas. The other detective in the squad, Greg Medavoy, a married man, embarks on an affair with the squad's new administrative aide, Donna Abandando.
Licalsi is found guilty of the manslaughter of Marino and his driver, and is given a two-year sentence. Because of Kelly's involvement with Licalsi, and the widely held belief that he withheld evidence that could have given her a longer sentence, he is transferred out of the 15th and chooses to leave the department altogether. He is replaced by Bobby Simone, a widower whose previous job was that of driver for the police commissioner. This does not sit well with Sipowicz, but after learning that Simone took the assignment to be present for his wife, who was suffering from cancer, Sipowicz learns to accept his new partner and eventually builds a strong friendship with him. When Sipowicz's relationship with Sylvia leads to marriage, he asks Simone to be his best man.
After an affair with a journalist whom he suspects has used information that he disclosed to her after an intimate moment to boost her career, Simone begins a relationship with another new member of the squad, Diane Russell. Sipowicz, as a recovering alcoholic, recognizes from Russell's behavior that she also has a drinking problem. After much prompting, she begins attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In another storyline, due to his low self-esteem and disbelief that a woman like Donna could love him, Medavoy's relationship with her breaks down, due in no small part to Donna's visiting sister.
At the beginning of the season, Sylvia becomes pregnant with Andy's child. A baby boy, Theo, is born towards the end of the season. This is contrasted with the fate that awaits Sipowicz's older son, Andy Jr., who announces that he plans to join the police force in nearby Hackensack, New Jersey, after being discharged from the Air Force due to an injury. Sipowicz is finally bonding with his long-estranged son when Andy Jr. is gunned down trying to help people in a bar holdup. This causes the elder Sipowicz to fall off the wagon. Simone kills Andy Jr.'s murderers in an act of self-defense while attempting to arrest them.
Bobby and Diane, who had placed their relationship on hold while she attended AA, resume seeing each other. Diane begins drinking again when her abusive father beats her mother. Her father is eventually killed, and her mother becomes the prime suspect.
James Martinez and new detective Adrienne Lesniak begin an affair, but Lesniak later breaks it off and tells Medavoy (Martinez's partner and the squad gossip) that she is gay, because her last relationship with a fellow cop ended disastrously. After James is shot, recovers, and returns to work, and Lesniak and he get to know each other, she admits that the story she told Medavoy was a lie. Martinez later breaks up with her due to her controlling and unpleasant behavior, and Lesniak eventually leaves the squad. Medavoy leaves his wife, recognizing that she is holding him back, but it is too late to save his relationship with Donna, who leaves to take a job with Apple in California.
During the next two seasons, a few minor cast changes are made: Donna is replaced by several PAAs, most notably by Gina Colon (played by Lourdes Benedicto), who eventually marries Martinez and is written out; and Det. Jill Kirkendall (played by Andrea Thompson) is partnered with Russell. Sipowicz's battle with prostate cancer and the up-and-down Simone/Russell relationship, which includes Russell's revelation that she had been sexually abused by her father, are prominent storylines. Also during this time, Franz won four Emmy Awards, and both Delaney and Clapp each won an Emmy for supporting roles.
Season six is a major turning point for the series, as Smits decided not to renew his contract and left the show. In episode five, "Heart and Souls", just episodes after marrying Russell, Simone dies due to an enlarged heart and a subsequent infection caused by complications from a heart transplant. Smits was replaced by Rick Schroder, as Det. Danny Sorenson.
Two additional critical incidents occur during season six, the heroin overdose death of PAA Dolores Mayo (played by Lola Glaudini), and the death of Costas, who is accidentally gunned down by Mayo's distraught father at the trial of the suspect accused in Mayo's death. Costas's final words to Sipowicz, "Take care of the baby", lead to his initial withdrawal from the squad. Yet, his keen perceptiveness allows him to gain a confession from the suspect in Mayo's death, who had tried to buy his way out of trouble. Furthermore, Sipowicz reaches a level of understanding with PAA John Irvin (portrayed by Bill Brochtrup), whose homosexuality had been a stumbling block for Sipowicz in their interactions to that point.
The next two seasons had the continuation of Sipowicz's relationship with Sorenson (in whom Sipowicz sees a resemblance to his late son), along with more changes in the squad. Departing during this time were Kirkendall (due to her unknowing involvement in her ex-husband's dirty dealings), Martinez (following his promotion to uniformed sergeant), Fancy as squad leader (following his promotion to captain), and Russell (for a leave of absence to grieve the loss of Simone). Arriving to replace them are Det. Baldwin Jones (played by Henry Simmons), Det. Connie McDowell (played by Charlotte Ross), and Lt. Tony Rodriguez (played by Esai Morales). Also arriving in season eight was new full-time ADA Valerie Haywood (played by Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon).
At the end of season eight, Sorenson is approached by the owners of a strip club to work for them providing information. Still reeling from Russell's abruptly ending their brief affair, he accepts the offer. After reporting to Lt. Rodriguez, Sorenson goes undercover, but then turns up missing, after a stripper he was seeing turns up dead in his apartment (though not by his doing). The Sorenson character was written out at the start of season nine, at Schroder's request; he wanted to spend more time with his family in Montana.
The fourth and final phase of the show took place over the final four seasons. Season nine initially tied-in with the September 11 terrorist attacks. In the "Sorenson missing" storyline, continuing from the previous season, a suspect trades immunity for a robbery and shooting in exchange for information on a buried rug in Brooklyn that turns out to include Sorenson's dead body.
Assisting on the investigation is Officer John Clark, Jr., played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He is promoted to detective third grade for his heroic actions in the shootout that ended with the death of the hitman who had murdered Danny and an undercover Federal agent; Sipowicz is promoted to detective first grade at the same time. Fancy had previously recommended Sipowicz for first grade at the same time as Simone for a high-profile case they both worked several years earlier; while Simone was promoted, the negative incidents in his past caused the department to disapprove Sipowicz's promotion.
The newly minted Det. Clark becomes Sipowicz's newest (and greenest) partner. As had occurred with Simone and Sorenson, initially tension exists between Clark and Sipowicz, largely due to an old feud from years earlier involving Sipowicz and Clark's father, John Clark, Sr. (Joe Spano), an average, by-the-book detective from a low crime precinct, who is enraged that his son chose to join the 15th Precinct to work with Andy. Season nine also has the introduction of Det. Rita Ortiz (played by Jacqueline Obradors). Two other actresses were first cast in roles as young, Latina detectives who were intended to be regular cast members; one was dropped in the pre-filming process over creative differences, and Vanessa Marcil's made an appearance as Det. Carmen Olivera in the Season 9 premiere, with the possibility of becoming a regular cast member. Producers were not convinced about Marcil, and made her character a one-time guest role, then continued casting until they hired Obradors. (Marcil did come back for another one-episode guest spot in Season 11).
The remaining four years had a continuing focus on Sipowicz as the main character, as had been the case since Simone's death. Another unlikely romance developed between Sipowicz and Connie McDowell. This came about due to her ability to stand up to Sipowicz's gruffness, and her tender relationship with Theo (played by Austin Majors). They eventually married, and after adopting McDowell's sister's baby daughter (following the sister's murder by her husband, Connie's brother-in-law), had a child of their own. The McDowell character eventually became an off-screen character in the second half of the 11th season and throughout the final season due to issues between Ross and show executives.
Other departures and arrivals that occurred during this time:
In the final few episodes, the storylines revolved around the impending retirement of Det. Medavoy and Sipowicz's promotion to Sergeant and later assumption of command of the 15th Detective Squad. The series finale introduced two newly minted young detectives named Quinn and Slovak, who sort of echoed the first days of Irish-American Det. John Kelly and Polish-American Det. Andy Sipowicz.
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The series included more nudity than was common on broadcast television, which prompted Rev. Donald Wildmon and his American Family Association (AFA) to call it a "soft-core porn" series and take out full-page ads in major newspapers, asking viewers to boycott the show. Fifty-seven of ABC's 225 affiliates pre-empted the first episode, mostly in smaller markets comprising 10–15% of potential viewers, forcing the network to recruit independent stations or Fox affiliates to air the first season in a few cases. The show's ratings success led most affiliates (and advertisers) to end their opposition. By the end of the first season, the show was a top-20 hit, and protests by the AFA were countered by support from Viewers For Quality Television.
In 2005, L. Brent Bozell III told TIME that the nudity on the series influenced him to establish the Parents Television Council, for which he served as president from 1995 to 2006. The PTC has directly criticized several episodes of the show for perceived vulgarity and filed complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the use of obscene language in several episodes aired in early 2003, at the last half of the 10th season of the show, associating the series with a perceived increase in profanity and violence on prime-time television from the late 1990s to early 2000s. The FCC ruled that the language in the episodes was indecent but decided not to fine ABC, because the episodes aired before a 2004 ruling that obscenities would lead to an automatic fine. However, on January 25, 2008, the FCC fined ABC $1.4 million for the episode "Nude Awakening" (airdate February 25, 2003), due to scenes of "adult sexual nudity". The fine was ultimately rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on January 6, 2011.
According to NYPD Blue: A Final Tribute, a retrospective broadcast aired the same night as the last episode, the controversy was not limited to what was on the screen. David Milch, the show's co-creator and head writer, was a controversial figure on the set during the seven years he was with the show. His working style and tendency to procrastinate or make last-minute, on-set changes contributed to a frustrating working environment for some of the cast and crew. Smits left the show when his contract ended because of it, as did Andrea Thompson. Milch cites his own alcoholism and other addictions as factors contributing to the difficult environment.[not in citation given] In spite of the controversy, Milch is usually credited as a major creative force during the years he worked on the show; he won two Emmy Awards for his writing, shared another as executive producer, and shared in a further 10 nominations for his writing and production.
NYPD Blue has won 84 out of 285 award nominations. The series has garnered 84 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning 20 of them. Of the 20 wins, the series won the award for Outstanding Drama Series; Dennis Franz won four times for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; Kim Delaney won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series; Gordon Clapp won for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series; Shirley Knight and Debra Monk each won for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series and Paris Barclay won twice for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. It has received thirteen Golden Globe Award nominations, with David Caruso, Franz and Jimmy Smits each winning for Best Actor - Television Series Drama and the series winning Best Television Series – Drama. The series received 23 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, with Franz winning twice for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and the cast winning for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. NYPD Blue received 13 TCA Award nominations, winning once for Outstanding Achievement in Drama. Additional accolades include two Peabody Awards, the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama, the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Drama, and the Satellite Award for Best Television Series – Drama.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating|
|1||22||September 21, 1993||May 17, 1994||18||13.9[a]|
|2||22||October 11, 1994||May 23, 1995||7||16.5|
|3||22||October 24, 1995||May 21, 1996||10||14.1|
|4||22||October 15, 1996||May 20, 1997||13||12.5|
|5||22||September 30, 1997||May 19, 1998||17||10.8[b]|
|6||22||October 20, 1998||May 25, 1999||12||10.5|
|7||22||January 11, 2000||May 23, 2000||15||10.7[c]|
|8||20||January 9, 2001||May 22, 2001||22||9.7[d]|
|9||23||November 6, 2001||May 21, 2002||23||8.3[e]|
|10||22||September 24, 2002||May 20, 2003||29||7.8|
|11||22||September 23, 2003||May 11, 2004||N/A||N/A|
|12||20||September 21, 2004||March 1, 2005||N/A||N/A|
NYPD Blue has generally received rave reviews from leading television critics. Variety even went as far as to say that broadcast television had lost its edge after NYPD Blue was cancelled. In 2013, TV Guide placed the series at number 44 on its list of the 60 best television shows of all time, and complex.com ranked it as the eighth best television drama of all time.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the first four seasons of NYPD Blue on DVD in Regions 1, 2, and 4. All of the sets contain the original master recordings, the original ABC broadcasts, and custom-made credits. After the release of the fourth season in 2006, Fox announced that they would be reviewing the possibility of further releases, citing the lack of sales.
In Region 2, Mediumrare acquired the rights to release the remaining eight seasons of the show on DVD in the United Kingdom. All seasons have now been released.
|DVD Name||Ep #||DVD Release dates||Extra features|
|Region 1||Region 2 (UK)||Region 4|
|The Complete 1st Season||22||March 18, 2003||May 19, 2003||June 17, 2003||
|The Complete 2nd Season||22||August 19, 2003||October 6, 2003||February 17, 2004||
|The Complete 3rd Season||22||February 21, 2006||April 17, 2006||May 29, 2006||
|The Complete 4th Season||22||June 20, 2006||August 14, 2006||August 21, 2006||
|The Complete 5th Season||22||January 21, 2014||December 10, 2012||N/A|
|The Complete 6th Season||22||June 24, 2014||December 10, 2012||N/A|
|The Complete 7th Season||22||September 30, 2014||February 25, 2013||N/A|
|The Complete 8th Season||20||January 13, 2015||February 25, 2013||N/A|
|The Complete 9th Season||23||April 5, 2016||March 25, 2013||N/A|
|The Complete 10th Season||22||August 23, 2016||April 1, 2013||N/A|
|The Complete 11th Season||22||November 15, 2016||April 29, 2013||N/A|
|The Complete 12th Season||20||January 17, 2017||April 29, 2013||N/A|
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