One last hurrah

'Raymond' and cop stalwart 'Blue' bow out with quality final seasons

New York’s finest and funniest have exited stage right — but not before scoring some of the all-time biggest Emmy hauls.

“NYPD Blue,” winner of drama in 1995, and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which took home the comedy trophy in 2003, are coming off strong final seasons. This year’s Emmycast would allow each a chance to take one final bow.

“Blue” has won 20 Emmys out of 84 noms, although it has been shut out altogether the last two seasons. “Raymond” picked up 12 Emmys in 56 bids despite getting blanked its first two years.

While it would be a surprise if “NYPD Blue” rebounded with a bushel for its final year (lead Dennis Franz is perhaps its best shot), “Everybody Loves Raymond” is expected to be well represented. After all, it’s exiting on top as TV’s No. 1 comedy.

Matt Roush, senior critic for TV Guide, says “Blue” and “Raymond” couldn’t have traveled more different paths to Emmy and ratings glory. ” ‘Blue’ was an instant smash and packed heat from the beginning, while ‘Raymond’ is the classic example of a show that slowly builds to become a monster hit. One was quite clearly something new, and upfront about pushing the envelope, the other more from a classic era.”

Even before it premiered in the fall of 1993, Steven Bochco’s cop drama “NYPD Blue” was making headlines for its boundary-pushing intentions, which included salty language and occasional snippets of nudity.

It drew the attention of the Rev. Donald Wildmon, whose relentless crusade against the show, according to Bochco, “put us on the map.”

“The attack was sadly not only assaultive but completely false, and nobody had even seen it,” Bochco says. “Our feeling was that the hour drama was kind of moribund and that the cable networks were having us for lunch.

“The specific intent was to raise the bar in terms of those aspects of content, and it worked. I’m sure some people, knowing it was a racier show, came to check it out from the start.”

Indeed, “Blue” became an instant hit, ranking 18th among all programs its first season. But it’s what happened in the months after its rookie campaign that catapulted it to the upper echelon of television dramas.

The skein received a record 27 Emmy nominations that summer and would go on to win six awards, including for writing and for Franz.

“It was awesome,” Bochco recalls. “It was a kind of validation that what we were doing didn’t have to do with T&A. It had to do with all the old-fashioned virtues of Emmy-winning dramas.”

The Emmy recognition also brought a broader audience to a show that some might have considered too gritty or raw. “Blue” moved into the top 10 in its second year and remained a top-15 fixture four more years.

If there was one disappointment that first year for Bochco, whose “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law” also won the drama Emmy, is that “NYPD Blue” did not win the big award.

Bochco chalked it up to the generally older makeup of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, but was pleased the following year when the Academy changed its judging system. Instead of one episode, voters screened six of each series to more accurately reflect a season’s worth of work — something that helped “Blue” walk away the big winner in 1995.

As for recognition this fall, though, Bochco’s not holding out much hope. “It’s happened to other shows, but unfortunately ‘NYPD Blue’ has fallen way off Emmy favor,” he says. “I’m afraid that ship has sailed.”

For “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Emmy glory didn’t come until its third season, when Patricia Heaton captured the actress trophy. It continued to add Emmys the next two years and then had a breakthrough year in 2003, winning five awards including the comedy laurel.

Series creator Phil Rosenthal says the show likely would have remained “on a low flame” if CBS hadn’t had the confidence to shift it from Friday to Monday. Show took off immediately in the 8:30 time period, eventually landing the hallowed CBS 9 o’clock slot that has been home to the likes of “I Love Lucy,” “MASH” and “Murphy Brown.”

One year later, it was a top-10 hit, a status it enjoyed in its final season as well. “Popularity and higher ratings helps the critics, too, because your peers are noticing the show more, which helps with Emmy recognition,” Rosenthal says.

“But the whole thing is gravy, really. I’ll look back at the night we won as a memento of an evening I spent with my greatest friends.”

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