003797Reviews & Counting
NYPD Blue (S1)
DVD disk
10.06.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
NYPD Blue (S1) order

David Caruso
Dennis Franz
James McDaniels


star Printer-Friendly version
A great 6-disc set of the 1993 blast-off season of one of the most critically acclaimed police dramas ever. Tracking the lives, on and off "The Job" of the cops of New York City's 15th precinct, NYPD Blue's first season offered viewers a refreshingly shocking look into the potential of well-written television.
Aaaaahh, the nineties. Back then, there was still something to be shocked about when a bare ass appeared on screen and when someone called someone else an asshole on network TV. In current times, it's more astonishing to see a show that doesn't blatantly attempt to shock than one that does. The precursor to much of this decadence was NYPD Blue. One of the first shows to feature the words "asshole", "dickhead", "douche bag" and so many more colors of the rainbow, Blue was nonetheless done with a level of artistic integrity and a high level of writing that the swearing and nudity paled in comparison to the pure, gritty entertainment value of it all.

Before his disappearance onto the drift beaches of Hollywood, David Caruso first made a name for himself as a small-time character actor, but with the quick success of NYPD Blue, largely due to him, he became the toast of the town and deservedly received accolades as one of the brightest new stars on television. As the intense detective John Kelly, Caruso's character became the pivot both of the police force, where he was supported by Dennis Franz (who successfully took on the burden of the "main guy" once Caruso bolted), and of the many love stories on the show, in which he played the separated husband of Sherry Stringfield's character and the lover of a tormented beat cop played by Amy Brenneman. Season One was a great intro to this fantastic (and fantastically acted) character.

Franz, on the other hand began as more of a secondary character playing the recovering drunk, loose-cannon veteran detective. His relationship with Assistant District Attorney Sylvia Costas (Sharon Lawrence) became another linchpin of the season and added great depth to a character that had been stereotyped in both TV and film a thousand times before. His success in giving him another dimension became a tribute to both himself and the show's creators, TV legends David Milch and Steven Bochco. Overall, NYPD Blue's first season went deeper than most launches and definitely made up one of the greatest TV shows of that decade and the only cop show to hold its own against the LAW & ORDER juggernaut.

The most memorable arcs in the season were the one which pitted Sipowicz against twisted mobster Alfonse Giardella and the dilemma Officer Licalsi (Brenneman) had with her dad getting into some hot water and her bailing him out. On the romance side, Kelly's raucous love life and Franz's difficult relationships with both women and his own son made for some kick-ass entertainment.

* Episode contains optional audio commentary track
To begin with, some of the individual episodes, which I've marked in the episode list above, contain audio commentary tracks by various crew members. While Commentary tracks are often interesting for movies, they usually are a bit unnecessary for TV shows. Why? Well, movies are the products of one long continuous project while a TV series is basically something ongoing. Commentaries for TV shows usually end up just being repetitive and these are no different. They're not horrible in any way, just pretty standard.

Two prominent featurettes are made available to Blue fans on the DVD as well. The first one is a 58-minute long ditty on “The Making of Season One”. In it, series creators Bob Milch and Steven Bochco discuss the difficulties of getting the concept of NYPD Blue, along with the accompanying profanity and nudity, on network television. It’s especially humorous considering that ten years ago, there were still restrictions on profanity and nudity on television. Whatever you’ll find on the show is extremely tame by today’s eroded standards which says a lot more about the networks and their viewers than about NYPD Blue.... Milch and Bochco also get into some of the story lines of the season and some of the characters who happen to be much deeper than on most TV shows. Some scenes from the season are intertwined in the documentary to emphasis some points as well.

The second featurette clocks in at about 15 minutes in length and focuses on the many love stories in NYPD Blue. Those love stories eventually dragged on and lost much of their luster in later seasons, but at the beginning, they were extremely engaging if only because of the characters they involved. “Love on NYPD Blue” is a decent recap for fans who remember vaguely what drew them to the show at its beginnings.

“Cast Blotter” follows that with casting director Junie Lowry-Johnson providing us with a 15-minute recap of some of the casting decisions that were made for the show. Among them you’ll find the mechanics of the decision that led to a pre-Friends David Schwimmer getting a bit part in what became one of the most famous Blue episodes (4B or not 4B).

To close the loop, you’ll be treated to a script-to-screen comparison set as well as to some cast bios. It’s to note that throughout all the features above, many of the shows' stars during that inaugural season appear and give their comments on the whole experience, but notable by his absence is one David Caruso (who incidentally, is now running a Florida furniture store...).
Well, there you have it. Season One is out on DVD and you're probably (not) waiting for my advice on what to do. NYPD Blue may, at times, have become a little heavy and pretentious, but it's a truly groundbreaking series that packs a lot of punch and this set is decently priced in most outlets compared to some other box sets. It also has above average rewatch value for a TV show. All of that combines into a strong recommendation in favor of this DVD set. Not really that easy to rent and watch in a few days so if you're at all a fan, this is some pretty good stuff in which to sink your teeth.
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