When Alan was working in an office, I would get dinner ready to fire, then wait around for whenever he got home. Often I’d watch one TV show as I waited; it’s how I got through “The Americans” and a rewatch of two of “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos.”
Lately it’s “NYPD Blue,” only I watch it as Alan cleans up the kitchen after dinner. Because it was on a commercial network, it’s only about 43 minutes, so Alan can join me for the second, third and fourth act, and rarely misses anything. (Something I learned on my journalism fellowship: One-hour TV dramas have four acts, movies three.)
We watched “NYPD Blue” together when it dropped, in the early ’90s. Everybody who was paying attention to American TV probably remembers it was a pioneer in showing material previously forbidden on prime time (butts, side boob), and using spicier language. Some affiliates refused to run it, and I’m pretty sure everybody ran it at 10 p.m.
Anyway, “NYPD Blue” was a cop show, a collaboration between Steven Bochco and David Milch, and probably the only reason it got on the air was Bochco’s status as a cop-show hit machine. It’s interesting mainly as an artifact of Hollywood entertainment, as well as society’s attitudes about police.
The Hollywood stuff first: The casting precedes the era of wokeness. A transgender woman — treated by the retrograde Detective Sipowicz the way the monkeys in “2001” treated the monolith — is played by a biological one. An adult described as “retarded” is clearly an actor who is not disabled in any way. As the seasons pile up, it’s like “Law & Order” reruns, where you can always tell who the bad guy is, no matter how fleeting his or her introduction, because if it’s an actor you’ve come to recognize, yep, that’s the guy. Also, it was so obviously shot in Los Angeles. (The sunshine gives it away.)
As for the police, well. I’ve lost track of how many times one of the detectives threatens to beat the shit out of a suspect. And then gets the confession! In fact, the willingness of a “skell” to take the beating is seen as evidence he’s telling the truth. And it’s always a he, although female skells swing through the 15th Squad station house often. They don’t get beaten (although they’re often killed by the third act) and sometimes someone will peel off a few $20 bills and tell them to go straight to the Port Authority and buy a bus ticket to their sister’s place in Florida. Where is all this petty cash coming from? We don’t know.
Of the NYC apartments we will say nothing, as we all know how those are.
This is how Hollywood did Gritty Realism, once upon a time. And we wonder why cop worship is so widespread.
“We Own This City” — now there’s a realistic police show. (David Simon and George Pelecanos, HBO.) The Baltimore police beat people, steal like kleptomaniacs, abuse every regulation in the book and basically act like an occupying force. In other words, like cops we all know.
Memorial Day weekend, and when people say, “Let’s remember all those who gave their lives for freedom,” all I could think about were the kids in Uvalde. But I kept my mouth shut. Bike ride, stop at a friend’s swimming pool, then ribs on the grill. A quiet day. Hope yours was good.