In its final episode (March 1, 2005), NYPD Blue managed to maintain its integrity in a way that's unusual for the last shebangs of popular TV series. We had a regular case to be solved and the detectives, now under the direction of Andy Sipowicz, solved it. And they had to do in the face of bureaucratic pressure to let it go. The best feature of the series always was to show how extremely difficult it is to be an honest and responsible cop within a huge metropolitan police department. And the main reason we were on the side of the detectives in this precinct is that they consistently tried to do good work. They were far from perfect people, but the squad itself came to have a spirit, which in its later stages was synonymous with the evolving spirit of Sipowicz. And, it was a spirit we would like to see pervade all police departments, and that we know doesn't. Critics often described the show as  gritty. In a way it was. But its distinguishing feature was an idealism -- about truth and justice -- which is rare in the world. That's why it will probably be remembered as the finest long-running television series America has produced.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

In the next to last (or "penultimate" as we used to say in my pretentious college program) episode of NYPD Blue (February 22, 2005), Medevoy retired and Andy was appointed to head the squad of detectives. From the previews aired at the end of the show I take it that Andy's new authority won't be exercised with perfect smoothness. We'll find out in the last episode which will be broadcast on March 1st. It's a little hard to image TV life without Sipowicz, but, then, as he said in the most recent show, these things happen all the time. People come. People go. That's the way it is. I was in a conversation with a group about a week ago where I was the only person who had heard of Sipowicz. When I said I thought he would become a genuine American cultural icon, somebody asked, "You mean like Ahab?"It was an interesting query, particularly since, right now, there are probably a thousand Americans who know Sipowicz for every one who knows Ahab. But, I guess the implication had to do with persistence. Ahab will still be functioning, to some degree, a century hence. But how about Andy? I don't know. But, if I had my preference, Andy would be there too, maybe not quite on par with Ahab, but, still, alive in the mind of the nation.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Now we've seen Sipowicz back in uniform (February 8, 2005). In an episode NYPD Blue advertised as "the first of the final four," Andy took over direction of the patrolmen in the precinct. But he couldn't divorce himself from the detectives upstairs and continued to offer shrewd tips about the cases being investigated. Probably the best segment of the program, though, was when Andy went out to counsel a young cop who had got carried away enforcing the law to its letter and losing the spirit of it in the process. The most educational feature of this series has been the lesson that police have to make judgments. They can't be automatons. That's why we need people with good judgment to enforce the laws. Andy wasn't always a man of good judgment but his consistent movement in that direction has probably been the best thing on TV in recent years.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Andy Sipowicz is going back in the bag, which means he's going to start wearing a uniform again. That's because he got promoted to sergeant. Sergeants, despite notions to the contrary, outrank detectives and make more money than they do. It seems a bit strange that Andy would want to give up being a detective, but he decided to take the exam because he wanted to get out from under the new lieutenant. And once he passed, there was no going back. So, for the final four shows of NYPD Blue, Andy will be working downstairs, directing the the policemen on the beat. The segment on February 1, 2005, when Andy came down the steps to go to his promotion ceremony and found all the precinct waiting to salute him was affecting. And it was wise to make it just a tiny part of a regular episode, where two crimes had been solved. I don't how it's going to be to have Andy out of the detective squad room upstairs. But, at least, it won't last long.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

ABC is making big noise about the next weeks being the countdown to the end of NYPD Blue. From the commercials, you'd think that every episode from now on is going to shock your pants off. So far, however, the program itself is wiser than the commercials and is sticking to its standard format. Last night (January 25, 2005) the detectives solved two murders in a fairly normal way. And that's all the show was about. The notable thing was that both murderers were fairly sympathetic characters and the guys they killed deserved, if not killing, at least some sort of drastic comeuppance. The good thing about the development of NYPD Blue is that it increasingly paints its cases in shades of gray and is less likely to see the world as a struggle between good and evil. That may not please some of its fans but it will certainly raise the series in the eyes of posterity. As I've said before, I think it's one of the few TV shows that has actually said something important about American culture. And I hope it holds out to the end.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Last night (January 11, 2005) we finally discovered that Andy Sipowicz passed the New York Police Department's sergeant's exam. This signals the beginning of the end for a dramatic series that has increasingly won my affection over the years. I can think of no other TV show, ever, that has done as much with a character as NYPD Blue has done with Andy. It's not too much to say that he has entered the American mythos. And what a gritty entry he is. That's what makes him wonderful. We hear too much lately from shallow preachers about the need for redemption. Most of them have no idea what redemption is. But if one wants an honest attempt to depict the condition, I can think of no better place to start than Andy.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Sipowitz on NYPD Blue is studying to take the sergeant's exam (November 23, 2004). I thought he already was a sergeant, which shows how much I keep up with rankings. The new captain, whom Sipowitz has regarded as a sanctimonious ass, has offered his manual, including his study notes, to help Sipowitz through the ordeal. I'm not sure I like this humanizing of the captain. He started off being such a bureaucratic prig that we have all been longing for his downfall. But, now, he seems to be winning a grudging acceptance among our heroes in the squad room. This may be realistic. But is realism what we want from our cop shows?

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~


Comment or Respond


©John R. Turner

All images and text on this page are the property of Word and Image of Vermont

This site is designed and managed by Neil Turner

Top of Page          Word and Image of Vermont Home
NYPD Blue

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~
Images Rising Archive...
Word and Image of Vermont