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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

DVD Review: NYPD Blue Season 6

NYPD Blue is one of the best police dramas to ever air on television, due to its good cast, interesting stories which are often allowed to develop over several episodes, and especially its characters and their relationships. Through Shout! Factory, NYPD Blue Season 6 was released for the first time on DVD, with six discs containing all twenty-two episodes. The sixth season saw some changes, mainly in the departure of Jimmy Smits as Bobby Simone and the arrival of Rick Schroder as Danny Sorenson.

Bobby begins having health issues in the first episode of the season, “Top Gum.” In the season’s second episode, “Cop In A Bottle,” Bobby collapses at a crime scene and is taken to the hospital. One thing that makes this show so good is the relationships between characters, and how each character is affected by what happens to the others. It isn’t just about the crime of the week. As Bobby’s condition worsens in “Number And Number,” Andy Sipowicz takes it out on those around him. And then in “Brother’s Keeper,” Bobby’s condition worsens still, while the detectives work on a brutal murder case. The fact that the doctors are still unsure what caused Bobby’s infection affects Andy’s reaction when a suspect vomits on him (leading to a good scene in the station bathroom).

Andy Sipowicz is at the heart of what makes this show so good and enjoyable. He is such an interesting character, with serious strengths and serious flaws, and is played fearlessly by Dennis Franz. He is able to do so much with just a look or a reaction. And the way he relates to each of the other detectives is interesting, and always feels real.

In the sixth episode of the season, he gets a new partner, Danny Sorenson, played by Rick Schroder. It is really interesting to see how this character is developed. I love that nothing is rushed in that regard. In “The Big Bang Theory” we see him dealing with a friend who is becoming unhinged, and we see that Danny himself has some anger issues. (D.B. Sweeney is really good as his friend Joey.) And we get more hints of Danny’s past when his sister shows up in a later episode.

I like that many of the characters, even those in the supporting roles, are believable and feel like fully formed people rather than simply a few characteristics fitting an immediate story purpose. The show can even make you feel for the criminals on occasion, as in “Numb And Number,” when a father stabs a man who was with his daughter. And one of the criminals in “Czech Bouncer” is someone you end up really feeling for. And Danny’s reaction to him is equally moving.

This season features some excellent guest star performances. In “Raging Bulls,” Kevin Dillon plays a rookie cop who gets into trouble. This is one of the season’s most interesting episodes, involving cops shooting other cops during a foot chase. It also brings up some personal stuff involving members of the precinct. (Kevin Dillon reprises the role in a later episode.) And “The Big Bang Theory” features a fantastic guest star performance by Caroline Aaron (an actor I’ve loved in several Woody Allen films). Terrence Howard (here credited as Terrence Dashon Howard) gives a great performance as AJ in “What’s Up, Chuck?” Though I can’t help but laugh when after admitting to a murder he says, “I don’t even deserve that juice,” referring to a drink Diane had taken from him at the beginning of the scene. Dick Miller (an actor I am always happy to see) has a small role in “I’ll Draw You A Map,” and is excellent.

This show is also good at providing details that indicate character without immediately explaining precisely what those details mean. For example, when Danny is agitated about certain things, he tends to grab pens and paperclips and such, and stuff them in his pockets. We see it fairly early in the season, and then again in the penultimate episode. We get a feel for what he’s doing without knowing the specifics, and that’s rather unusual for a television program.

The only major weakness of the series is the music. Usually it’s obnoxious and loud only in the establishing shots. But every once in a while, it intrudes on what would otherwise be a good moment. The most egregious example is at the end of the episode titled “Grime Scene,” when Diane buys a bottle of alcohol. The dramatic music that plays as she makes her purchase is awful. Usually the show is good about not punching a point, but here it fails. And there is one surprisingly weak episode, “Tain’t Misbehavin’” (and no, the incredibly stupid title isn’t all that’s wrong with this one).

Those minor points don’t detract all that much from what is an excellent season, with some exciting storylines that continue through many episodes. And I am looking forward to revisiting Season 7.

NYPD Blue stars Dennis Franz, Rick Schroder, James McDaniel, Kim Delaney, Gordon Clapp, Nicholas Turturro, Andrea Thompson, Bill Brochtrup, Jimmy Smits and Sharon Lawrence.

NYPD Blue Season 6 was released on June 24, 2014 through Shout! Factory. The six-disc set contains no special features.

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