No Silver Spoons Here
by Erik Arneson
Sept. 1993 - present
Dennis Franz as Det. Andy Sipowicz
Rick Schroder as Det. Danny Sorenson
Jimmy Smits as Det. Bobby Simone
David Caruso as Det. John Kelley
Kim Delaney as Det. Diane Russell
Sharon Lawrence as ADA Sylvia Costas
NYPD Blue first grabbed headlines for breaking new ground:
it pushed the envelop for prime-time network dramas in terms of
both nudity and language. Five years since its first debut, the
show is a regular winner when Emmy night rolls around and a
solid ratings performer for ABC. Dennis Franz, an Emmy
winner and veteran of numerous cop shows including "Hill Street
Blues," is the steadiest and most visible cast member. As
recovering alcoholic Det. Andy Sipowicz, Franz has won two
Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and been
nominated for two others. Sipowicz has had three partners
over the course of the show's run, David Caruso's Det. John
Kelley, Jimmy Smits' Det. Bobby Simone, and most recently
former child star Rick Schroder's character, scheduled to debut
on Oct. 20, 1998. Although some mocked the decision by producer
Stephen Bochco and executive producer David Milch to hire
Schroder (Mr. Showbiz called it "the worst idea since New
Coke."), others pointed to the former child star's roles in
projects like the 1989 mini-series "Lonesome Dove" as evidence
that he could pull it off.
Caruso's tumultuous stint on "Blue" lasted little more
than one season before the would-be big-screen star left to
pursue movie projects. He received some critical praise for his
first film, "Kiss of Death," but nonetheless soon found himself
asking Bochco to let him out of an agreement not to do another
television show until his original "Blue" contract expired. The
resulting CBS drama, "Michael Hayes," was canceled after one
Smits, a veteran of "L.A. Law" and also an Emmy winner,
enjoyed a lengthier run as Franz's on-screen partner. According
to one report, he had been the first choice to play opposite
Franz anyway. His addition to the cast gave the show's ratings
a noticeable boost. As assistant District Attorney Sylvia
Costas, Sharon Lawrence plays Sipowicz's love interest. She
works to keep him sober while putting her confidence to good
use as a prosecutor. Costas was raped in law school, causing
her to be especially sensitive to sexual assault cases.
Although Lawrence's role diminished to some degree when she was
offered her own NBC sitcom, "Fired Up," she made time for
"Blue" whenever her character was needed.
Former teen model and soap star Kim Delaney -- another
Emmy winner -- originally was cast for a four-episode guest
spot. Her presence and chemistry with Smits were such that the
producers made the role a regular character.
Physical chemistry between actors and actresses on "Blue"
is crucial to the show's quality, because unlike contemporaries
"Homicide: Life on the Street" and "Law & Order," "NYPD Blue"
delights in detailing the personal lives of its characters.
Sipowicz fell off the wagon near the end of season three when
his adult son was killed trying to prevent a robbery. The
finale of season five, "Honeymoon at Viagra Falls," tackles
Andy's battle with impotence.
Simone's troubled relationship with Russell (another
recovering alcoholic) affected more than one case before they
were married at the end of season five. Russell also is dealing
with the psychological repercussions of her mother killing her
In fact, Caruso's departure from the show was facilitated
by a twisted relationship. Milch, whose autobiography blames
Caruso for a couple of his heart attacks, may have taken some
pleasure in having Caruso's character forced to quit the force
in disgrace after an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation
uncovers highly-suspect behavior. Despite the focus on
personal lives, "NYPD Blue" is at its core a down-and-dirty cop
show, and there are plenty of crimes to solve in the Big Apple.
The first four episodes, which featured David Schwimmer of
"Friends" in a key role, revolved around a mugging and the
victim's subsequent vigilantism.
In addition to Schwimmer, notable guest stars include
Kyle Secor ("Homicide: Life on the Streets"), Vanessa Williams
("Chicago Hope"), Jenna Elfman ("Dharma and Greg"), Dan
Castellaneta ("The Simpsons"), K Callan ("Lois and Clark: The
New Adventures of Superman") and Anthony Michael Hall ("The
Other cases handled by the detectives of the fictional
15th Precinct included a drive-by shooting that killed an
infant, the slaying of five Ecuadorians, numerous sexual
assaults and countless other murders. Dozens of episodes
include Mafia-related crimes. To be sure, the detectives
investigate some unconventional cases. In one episode, a man
claiming to be a werewolf demanded to be locked in a cell
before he killed someone. On another occasion, Sipowicz and
Det. Greg Medavoy pose as Hasidic Jews to recover a stolen
Torah. One murder victim was killed with a typewriter. In yet
another episode, a bus was hijacked and subsequently wrecked by
a drunk cop with medical problems. And these detectives
are hardly superheros. In one case, the night watch fell asleep
during a stakeout, ruining a chance to nab the prime suspect in
a murder-arson. Sipowicz and the others tend to take
significant liberties when interviewing suspects and have been
known to bend a rule or two on the street, as well.
During its run, "NYPD Blue" has won numerous awards.
Among the most notable: the 1994 "Best TV Series - Drama"
Golden Globe Award, the 1994 "Best Quality Drama Series" Q
Award from Viewers for Quality Television, the 1995 Emmy Award
for "Outstanding Drama Series," and the 1995 "Outstanding
Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series" Screen Actors
Guild Award. Actors on the show have been nominated for more
than a dozen Emmys.
If Schroder works out in his new role, chances are the
detectives of the 15th Precinct will be investigating cases --
routine and bizarre -- and winning awards for years to come.