NYPD Blue: Season 3
March 13, 2006
Mark Tinker, Perry Lang, Michael M. Robin, Elodie Keene,
Starring: Dennis Franz, Jimmy Smits, Kim Delaney, Nicholas Turturro, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel, Sharon Lawrence, Gail O’Grady, Justine Miceli,
NYPD Blue was seen as the successor to that other venerable television cop show, Hill Street Blues. However, NYPD Blue took the gritty realism to a whole other level with busy, hand-held camerawork, racy sex scenes and profanity not seen on network T.V. before (it paved the way for shows like The Shield and Rescue Me). NYPD Blue focuses on the detectives of the 15th precinct deep in the heart of New York City.
Sipowicz (Franz) is the gruff, old school cop. His partner, Simone (Smits) is much more even tempered and diplomatic. Medavoy (Clapp) is the nice guy while Russell (Delaney), who is going out with Simone, is a recovering alcoholic. Martinez (Turturro) is the youngest, most inexperienced in the squad. The Lieutenant (McDaniel) is a man of few words, a tough but fair boss. NYPD Blue shows how these people really bond and look out for each other, especially on the street.
The hustle and bustle of the busy squad room is captured through restless camerawork and quick editing. It also lends to the proceedings a feeling of intimacy. Unlike a show like Law and Order, NYPD Blue also deals with the detectives’ personal lives, like Russell dealing with her parents’ domestic abuse problems. Seeing into their lives allows us to get to know and sympathize with them. We get to see them outside of the daily grind of the job and how it impacts their personal lives and vice versa. For example, Russell’s alcoholism comes to a head in this season, careening out of control and this is exacerbated by her family problems.
NYPD Blue excels at showing the nitty gritty details of police-work: analyzing evidence at the scene of a crime, interviewing witnesses and interrogating suspects before getting enough to bust the guilty. For example, “One Big Happy Family” shows how the squad track down and set-up a serial rapist. We get to see the give and take between two detectives when they interrogate a suspect, like when Sipowicz and Simone grill a rapist and apply intense pressure on the man. They know just how far to push someone to get what they want. A large part of what makes them so good is their natural gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right then they need to make sure the suspect is guilty.
Often an episode juggles several cases at once, following them to their resolutions and sometimes this takes a couple of episodes. This holds true for their personal lives as evident with the relationship between Sipowicz and his son (Michael DeLuise) or the on again/off again romance between Martinez and Detective Lesniak (Miceli).
One thing that you really notice on these discs is the excellent colours that bring out their vibrancy as opposed to the washed out prints that are shown on T.V. These transfers show off the subtle tones, the shadows and so on. The show has never looked better.
The detectives on NYPD Blue talk like you would imagine the real deal does. There’s an authenticity to the way they carry themselves and their mannerisms. No one character embodies this sentiment more than Andy Sipowicz, the heart and soul of the show. The most compelling arc is the one with him and his son in which they rekindle their estranged relationship. Sadly, its resolution at the end of the season is a tragic one. Season three is seen by many as the beginning of the golden era of the show, when Simone and Sipowicz really clicked as a team and the writers and directors were firing on all cylinders. Cop shows don’t get much better than this.
Disc two features an audio commentary on “Sorry, Wrong Suspect” by director Michael M. Robin. He touches upon some of the various character arcs that play out over this season. He wanted the show to examine different cultures in New York City and how they interact with the police as is the case with this episode.
On disc three is an audio commentary on “Head Case” by director Randall Zisk and actor Gordon Clapp. They comment on and praise David Mills’ dialogue in this episode. They also talk about how all of the material in the show came from actual cop Bill Clark and his buddies. Zisk and Clapp recount their experiences making this episode.
The rest of the extras appear on the fourth disc. “Life in the 15th Precinct” features co-creator Steven Bochco talking about how hit shows hit their stride in the third season. The character arcs are fresh and the writers still have plenty of material. He talks about how the show’s style matured and he consciously toned it down because he felt it was a little too excessive, too showy. This looks like it was done at the time of that season.
“Father and Son” features new interviews with Dennis Franz and Michael DeLuise talking about the relationship between their characters as they give their impressions of working with each other as actors.
Finally, there is “Women of NYPD Blue” which examines the complex, fully realized female characters on the show. Sharon Lawrence speaks candidly about the arc of her character and how she lost a sense of mystery once she became a mother.