Sure, there had been tons of cop shows prior to “NYPD Blue,” but nowhere in those earlier incarnations could an alcoholic detective be found telling the district attorney, “Listen to this, you pissy little bitch.”
That Dennis Franz’s hard-edged alter ego, Det. Andy Sipowicz, eventually married the above ADA (Sharon Lawrence) tells something not only about the emotional growth of Sipowicz over the years but how much the skein has sunk into the public’s consciousness.
Remember the pilot, which debuted Sept. 21, 1993? Consider yourself lucky then, since several affiliates (nearly 20% of the country) decided the content — which also included David Caruso and Amy Brenneman naked in a shower scene — was too risque and refused to air the first episode.
“The trouble in the beginning was the result of innovative camera work and strong language, while pushing the envelope with nudity that some labeled gratuitous,” says exec producer and former NYPD cop Bill Clark.
With the Rev. Donald Wildmon behind a campaign to pull “Blue” off the air, series creator Steven Bochco worried that viewers wouldn’t have an opportunity to see the show and that ABC would crumble under the pressure.
“Bob Iger was terrified, and I was stunned,” Bochco recalls. “It wasn’t just the religious right. It was the advertising community and the station groups.”
The skein survived, but Caruso left after season one (a move he now considers a grave mistake). Bochco and Jimmy Smits had worked together on “L.A. Law” and the actor, who originally turned down the role that went to Caruso, came aboard and was a mainstay for four years.
After surviving a tumultuous first year, Smits’ presence on “Blue” cemented an aud that has kept the series a mainstay of the Alphabet web’s sked.
“He was going to be a movie star,” Bochco says, sarcastically, on bringing Smits aboard. “I tracked him down in Morocco where he was making a goofy movie. I said, ‘Do you want to keep making movies where you’ve got to wear a dress and ride a horse or do you want to come back and do this show?’ God bless him, he came back. And the second he said yes, I knew I was going to be fine.”