All right, so enough about the dead guy already. This show isn’t called “Code Blue,” after all, but “NYPD Blue.” Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) is gone forever, and a week later it’s already time to move on because in TV, you only get seven days to mourn. But no more stalling. You probably want to know how the new guy does in his first hour on the job. And the answer is: pretty darn swell. Rick Schroder looks like a keeper.
Don’t be surprised. He’s a man — a boyish-looking man, to be sure, but a man with a wife and three kids and a veteran actor to boot (with the mini “Lonesome Dove” and the feature “Crimson Tide” on his resume, among many others). So it shouldn’t come as a shock that this 28-year-old should be able to hold his own playing a street-ripened “dese and dose” detective.
Still, it’s to his credit that Schroder makes us forget that he’s the “Silver Spoons” kid as quickly and completely as he does in his maiden “NYPD Blue” seg, titled “Danny Boy.”
Schroder is Danny Sorenson, who gets transferred from Narcotics to the 15th Precinct’s Detective Squad to replace you know who. He is predictably greeted by a chorus of silence and tension, the nerves still plenty raw from Simone’s tragic passing. Andy (the incomparable Dennis Franz) greets his new partner warmly: “So that’s what 14-year-olds are wearing now.”
“Yeah, me and all my pals,” shoots back Danny without missing a beat. The kid’s got spunk, clearly having trouble with the concept of blending in slowly. Indeed, it doesn’t help that Danny is fairly clueless in the social graces. He tells Diane (Kim Delaney) that he’s sorry for her loss with all the sincerity of a street hustler. He does not walk on eggshells.
As the hour moves along, Danny will prove to be a glory-hogging, arrogant, overzealous thug of a loose cannon who initially draws Andy’s ire and the disdain of pretty much everyone. But an incident about halfway through shows that the guy is honorable and means well, earning Andy’s mild respect.
Schroder brings an edge to this character that could well send the aging series careening into unexplored dramatic corners.
Meredith Stiehm’s sharp and perceptive teleplay and helmer Mark Tinker’s evocative direction underscores the point that exec producer David Milch and company have gotten pretty good at this cast changeover thing by now. It almost sounds like a double-play combination: Caruso to Smits to Schroder. But early indications are that, at the very least, “NYPD Blue” hasn’t done itself much harm by taking on the kid, who hits the ground sprinting like a pro.
Of course, Schroder is fortunate to be working alongside the finest dramatic actor in TV in Franz — a master of his craft who, like Magic Johnson before him, tends to turn up the level of everyone in his orbit. Tech credits are right-on.