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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Andy Sipowicz and strange company

Apologies to Thrity for stealing the elephant I drew for her and putting him here. He has nothing to do with this post. But he's cute, isn't he?



“NYPD Blue” plays five nights a week in reruns on cable.  I was raising kids when the show originated (1993-2005), and it was all “Barney” and Nickelodeon back then. But now I sure am enjoying my cocktail-hour getaways with the men and women of the 15th precinct. Do NOT attempt to interfere with my 50 minutes of being virtually On the Job with my colleagues on the force.

Since I missed NYPD the first time around, it came as a late discovery to me how well written the show was. I’d lay odds that when James Gandolfini was preparing for his role as Tony Soprano, he studied Dennis Franz as Det. Andy Sipowicz, a man you could be furious with 10 times and love 11 in a single episode. He’s a strong cup of donut-shop coffee, that Sipowicz, and much of the time I’m silently asking, “Andy, do you have to be so rude to this witness? Would it kill you to be a little kinder?” But then he swears vengeance on some lowlife, and he delivers the guy’s metaphoric testicles on a platter, and I love him all over again.

Standing next to the decidedly unsexy, middle-aged Sipowicz is a litany of sexy cops in their prime, weight-room devotees we see naked several times season: Jimmy Smits (before he croaks over several wrenching episodes), Ricky Schroder (before he’s offed by some bad guys), Henry Simmons (still alive so far – I’m in the 10th season), and a series of women cast for how they look in sweaters. Though I did kind of have a girl crush on Det. Jill Kirkendall, and was sad when she got in trouble and had to leave town.
  
In designing his gritty New York fantasy, creator Steven Bochco strived for authenticity. He wanted to make sure we knew how cops actually got work done. Thus, we sometimes see the detectives slamming suspects around the poky, smacking them in the face, threatening their body parts or lives, and generally meeting the underworld on its own brutal terms. And — spoiler alert — not all of the abused are, strictly speaking, bad guys. Sometimes they're just collateral damage.

This element of "NYPD Blue" probably played differently a decade ago. Now, with a year and half of highly publicized police-related deaths making headlines regularly, I’m a little less entertained by the extreme rule-breaking than I might have been before. Before, it would all have seemed . . . theoretical.   

When I watch the show, and when I watch the news, I think about what it must take to be an urban cop, and also what it must be like to be in police crosshairs. The real world and a decade-old police drama are making strange company up there between my ears. 

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