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8.7/10 TV

Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons  12
Theme song  NYPD Blue Theme Song
7.5/10 IMDb

Starring  See: Main cast
Original language(s)  English
Final episode date  1 March 2005
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Genre  DramaPolice procedural
Created by  Steven BochcoDavid Milch
Network  American Broadcasting Company
Cast  Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel, Nicholas Turturro, Bill Brochtrup

NYPD Blue is an American police procedural drama television series set in New York City, exploring the struggles of the fictional 15th Precinct detective squad in Manhattan. Each episode typically intertwines several plots involving an ensemble cast.


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The show was created by Steven Bochco and David Milch, and was inspired by Milch's relationship with Bill Clark, a former member of the New York City Police Department who eventually became one of the show's producers. The series was originally broadcast on the ABC network, debuted on September 21, 1993‚ and aired its final episode on March 1, 2005. It was ABC's longest-running primetime one-hour drama series until Grey's Anatomy surpassed it in 2016.

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NYPD Blue was met with critical acclaim, praised for its grittiness and realistic portrayal of the cast's personal and professional lives, though the show garnered controversy for its depiction of nudity and alcoholism. In 1997, "True Confessions" (Season 1, Episode 4), written by Art Monterastelli and directed by Charles Haid, was ranked #36 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2009, TV Guide ranked "Hearts and Souls" (Season 6, Episode 5), Jimmy Smits' final episode written by Steven Bochco, David Milch, Bill Clark, and Nicholas Wootton, and directed by Paris Barclay, #30 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

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Production and crew

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Produced by 20th Century Fox and Steven Bochco Productions, film production primarily took place in the greater Los Angeles area. The show did film in New York but only for exterior shots that used New York landmarks. In the final season the show was filmed only in Los Angeles to save money.

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Exterior shots of the 15th Precinct used the former 9th Precinct building on Fifth Street in New York City, also used for Kojak. Once it was demolished, the façade was recreated on a Los Angeles lot.

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The show was initially a vehicle for David Caruso. John Kelly was the main character, and the first season revolved around him and his professional and personal lives. Promo shots for the show depicted Caruso in the foreground and other first-season characters set off behind him. Season 2 saw the departure of John Kelly, and the show was thereafter built around an ensemble cast.

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Dennis Franz, as Andy Sipowicz, a veteran New York City Police detective, evolved into the show's lead character, who increasingly assumed a mentorship role to other characters as the series progressed. His co-stars included (Season 2 and beyond) Jimmy Smits as Det. Bobby Simone (1994–1998), Rick Schroder as Det. Danny Sorenson (1998–2001), and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Det. John Clark, Jr. (2001–2005).

Season 1

John Kelly and Andy Sipowicz are detectives in the 15th squad. Sipowicz is the elder partner but is an alcoholic who drinks on the job as well as off-duty, and his behavior causes doubt that the partnership will last much longer. Kelly has a genuine affection for his partner but becomes increasingly exasperated by Sipowicz's behavior. In addition to his alcoholism, Sipowicz is a deeply negative, misogynist, homophobic bigot. In the pilot, Sipowicz is shot by a suspect he had attacked and humiliated earlier. This leads to his decision to sober up and save his job. While Sipowicz is recuperating, the squad's lieutenant, Arthur Fancy, teams Kelly with a young cop from Anti-Crime, James Martinez.

Kelly's personal life is as frenetic as his professional life. He is reluctantly going through a divorce from his wife, Laura, and is embarking on an affair with a uniformed cop, Janice Licalsi. To complicate matters further, Licalsi's police officer father is on the payroll of mob boss Angelo Marino. Licalsi, in an attempt to protect her father, has been ordered to do a "hit" on Kelly. Instead, Licalsi murders Marino, and the repercussions come back to haunt both her and Kelly.

Sipowicz, meanwhile, sobers up and begins a relationship with ADA Sylvia Costas. The other detective in the squad, Greg Medavoy, a married man, embarks on an affair with the squad's new administrative aide, Donna Abandando.

Season 2

Licalsi is found guilty of the manslaughter of Marino and his driver, and is given a two-year sentence. Because of Kelly's involvement with Licalsi, and the widely held belief that he withheld evidence that could have given her a longer sentence, he is transferred out of the 15th and chooses to leave the department altogether. He is replaced by Bobby Simone, a widower whose previous job was that of driver for the Police Commissioner. This does not sit well with Sipowicz, but after learning that Simone took the assignment in order to be present for his wife, who was suffering from cancer, Sipowicz learns to accept his new partner and eventually builds a strong friendship with him. When Sipowicz's relationship with Sylvia leads to marriage, he asks Simone to be his best man.

After an affair with a journalist whom he suspects has used information that he disclosed to her after an intimate moment to boost her career, Simone begins a relationship with another new member of the squad, Diane Russell. Sipowicz, as a recovering alcoholic, recognizes from Russell's behavior that she also has a drinking problem. After much prompting, she begins attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In another storyline, due to his low self-esteem and disbelief that a woman like Donna could love him, Medavoy's relationship with her breaks down, due in no small part to Donna's visiting sister.

Season 3

At the beginning of the season Sylvia becomes pregnant with Andy's child. A baby boy, Theo, is born towards the end of the season. This is contrasted with the fate that awaits Sipowicz's older son, Andy Jr., who announces that he plans to join the police force in nearby Hackensack, New Jersey after being discharged from the Air Force due to an injury. Sipowicz is finally bonding with his long-estranged son when Andy Jr. is gunned down trying to help people in a bar holdup. This causes the elder Sipowicz to fall off the wagon. Simone kills Andy Jr.'s murderers in an act of self-defense while attempting to arrest them.

Bobby and Diane, who had placed their relationship on hold while she attended AA, resume seeing each other. Diane begins drinking again when her abusive father beats her mother. Her father is eventually killed, and her mother becomes the prime suspect.

James Martinez and new detective Adrienne Lesniak begin an affair, but Lesniak later breaks it off and tells Medavoy (Martinez's partner and the squad gossip) that she is gay, because her last relationship with a fellow cop ended disastrously. After James is shot, recovers, and returns to work, and he and Lesniak get to know each other, she admits that the story she told Medavoy was a lie. Martinez later breaks up with her due to her controlling and unpleasant behavior, and Lesniak eventually leaves the squad. Medavoy leaves his wife, recognizing that she is holding him back, but it is too late to save his relationship with Donna, who leaves to take a job with Apple in California.

Seasons 4–5

During the next two seasons, there are a few minor cast changes: Donna is replaced by several PAA's, most notably by Gina Colon (played by Lourdes Benedicto), who eventually marries Martinez and is written out; and Det. Jill Kirkendall (played by Andrea Thompson) is partnered with Russell. Sipowicz's battle with prostate cancer and the up-and-down Simone/Russell relationship, which includes Russell's revelation that she had been sexually abused by her father, are prominent storylines. Also during this time, Franz won four Emmy Awards, and both Delaney and Clapp each won an Emmy for supporting roles.

Seasons 6–8

Season 6 is a major turning point for the series, as Smits decided not to renew his contract and left the show. In episode 5, "Heart and Souls", just episodes after marrying Russell, Simone dies due to an enlarged heart and a subsequent infection caused by complications from a heart transplant. Smits was replaced by Rick Schroder, as Det. Danny Sorenson.

Two additional critical incidents occur during Season 6: the heroin overdose death of PAA Dolores Mayo (played by Lola Glaudini), and the death of Costas, who is accidentally gunned down by Mayo's distraught father at the courthouse trial of the suspect accused in Mayo's death. Costas's final words, "Take care of the baby," to Sipowicz leads to his initial withdrawal from the squad. Yet, his keen perceptiveness allows him to gain a confession from the accused suspect, who tried to buy his way out of trouble. Furthermore, Sipowicz reaches a level of understanding with PAA John Irvin (portrayed by Bill Brochtrup), whose homosexuality had been a stumbling block for Sipowicz in their interactions to that point.

The next two seasons see the continuation of Sipowicz's relationship with Sorenson (in whom Sipowicz sees a resemblance to his late son), along with more changes in the squad. Departing during this time were Kirkendall (due to her unknowing involvement in her ex-husband's dirty dealings), Martinez (following his Sergeant promotion), Fancy as squad leader (through a promotion to Captain), and Russell (for a leave of absence to grieve the loss of Simone). Arriving to replace them are: Det. Baldwin Jones (played by Henry Simmons), Det. Connie McDowell (played by Charlotte Ross), and Lt. Tony Rodriguez (played by Esai Morales). Also arriving in Season 8 was new full-time ADA Valerie Haywood (played by Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon).

At the end of Season 8, Sorenson is approached by the owners of a strip club to work for them providing information. Still reeling from Russell's abruptly ending their brief affair, he accepts the offer. After reporting to Lt. Rodriguez, Sorenson goes undercover but then turns up missing, after a stripper he was seeing turns up dead in his apartment (though not by his doing). The Sorenson character was written out at the start of Season 9, at Schroder's request; he wanted to spend more time with his family in Montana.

Seasons 9–12

The fourth and final phase of the show took place over the final four seasons. In addition to the "Sorenson missing" storyline, Season 9 initially tied-in with the September 11 terrorist attacks. A suspect trades immunity for a robbery and shooting in exchange for information on a buried rug in Brooklyn that turns out to include Sorenson's dead body. Filling the void as partner for Sipowicz, who is finally awarded his promotion to Detective First Grade, which had been given to Simone several years before for a case he had worked with Sipowicz, but had been withheld from Sipowicz due to the negative incidents in his past, is newly promoted Det. John Clark, Jr., played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. As with Simone and Sorenson, there is initial tension between Clark and Sipowicz, largely due to an old feud from years earlier involving Sipowicz and Clark's father, John Clark, Sr. (played in guest spots by Joe Spano). Season 9 also sees the introduction of Det. Rita Ortiz (played by Jacqueline Obradors).

The remaining four years saw a continuing focus on Sipowicz as the main character, as had been the case since Simone's death. Another unlikely romance developed between Sipowicz and Connie McDowell. This came about due to her ability to stand up to Sipowicz's gruffness, and her tender relationship with Theo (played by Austin Majors). They eventually married, and after adopting McDowell's sister's baby daughter (following the sister's murder by her husband, Connie's brother-in-law), and had a child of their own, as well. The McDowell character would eventually become an off-screen character in the second half of the eleventh season and throughout the final season due to issues between Ross and show executives. Other departures and arrivals that occurred during this time: Rodriguez would be written out halfway through the eleventh season following a dispute with an IAB captain who shot him in a drunken rage; replacing him initially as head of the squad was Sgt. Eddie Gibson, played by former actual NYPD officer John F. O'Donohue, who had previously served in the squad both on night watch and briefly on the "day tour"; Haywood, after failing to convict Rodriguez's shooter, would appear in fewer episodes and then leave at the end of the eleventh season; Gibson would be replaced at the start of Season 12 by Lt. Thomas Bale, played by Currie Graham; and replacing McDowell was Det. Laura Murphy, played by Bonnie Somerville. The final few episodes involve the impending retirement of Det. Medavoy, and Sipowicz's promotion to Sergeant, and later assumption of command over the 15th.


The series included more nudity than was common on broadcast television, which prompted Rev. Donald Wildmon and his American Family Association (AFA) to call it a "soft-core porn" series and take out full page ads in major newspapers, asking viewers to boycott the show. Fifty-seven of ABC's 225 affiliates preempted the first episode, mostly in smaller markets comprising 10–15% of potential viewers, forcing the network to recruit independent stations or Fox affiliates to air the first season in a few cases. The show's ratings success led most affiliates (and advertisers) to end their opposition. By the end of the first season the show was a Top 20 hit, and protests by the AFA were countered by support from Viewers For Quality Television.

In 2005, L. Brent Bozell III told TIME that the nudity on the series influenced him to establish the Parents Television Council, for which he served as president from 1995 to 2006. The PTC has directly criticized several episodes of the show for perceived vulgarity and filed complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the use of obscene language in several episodes aired in early 2003, at the last half of the 10th season of the show, associating the series with a perceived increase in profanity and violence on prime-time television from the late 1990s to early 2000s. The FCC ruled that the language in the episodes was indecent but decided not to fine ABC, because the episodes aired before a 2004 ruling that obscenities would lead to an automatic fine. However, on January 25, 2008, the FCC fined ABC $1.4 million for the episode "Nude Awakening" (airdate February 25, 2003), due to scenes of "adult sexual nudity". The fine was ultimately rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on January 6, 2011.

According to NYPD Blue: A Final Tribute, a retrospective broadcast aired the same night as the last episode, the controversy was not limited to what was on the screen. David Milch, the show's co-creator and head writer, was a controversial figure on the set during the seven years he was with the show. His working style and tendency to procrastinate or make last-minute, on-set changes contributed to a frustrating working environment for some of the cast and crew. Smits left the show when his contract ended because of it, as did Andrea Thompson. Milch cites his own alcoholism and other addictions as factors contributing to the difficult environment. In spite of the controversy, Milch is usually credited as a major creative force during the years he worked on the show; he won two Emmy Awards for his writing, shared another as executive producer, and shared in a further 10 nominations for his writing and production.

Final episode

The show's 261st and final episode, "Moving Day", aired on March 1, 2005, bringing an end to the show's 12-year run. The final episode depicted just another day on the job, with Sipowicz as the new squad room leader. In the final scene, previous squad leader Lieutenant Bale wishes Sipowicz good luck with his new position, looks around his old office, and says: "It's yours." After all the detectives come in, one by one, to wish Sipowicz goodnight, the last to say goodbye is John Clark, who says: "Good night, Boss." Sipowicz surveys his new office, puts his reading glasses on, and begins to go through the paperwork on his desk. The camera then moves out through the 15th precinct squad room and out the door. The final shot is the squad room sign over the door.

Awards and nominations

NYPD Blue has won 84 out of 285 award nominations. The series has garnered 84 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning 20 of them. Out the 20 wins, the series won the award for Outstanding Drama Series; Dennis Franz won four times for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; Kim Delaney won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series; Gordon Clapp won for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series; Shirley Knight and Debra Monk each won for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series and Paris Barclay won twice for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. It has received thirteen Golden Globe Award nominations, with David Caruso, Franz and Jimmy Smits each winning for Best Actor - Television Series Drama and the series winning Best Television Series – Drama. The series received 23 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, with Franz winning twice for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and the cast winning for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. NYPD Blue received 13 TCA Award nominations, winning once for Outstanding Achievement in Drama. Additional accolades include 2 Peabody Awards, the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama, the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Drama, and the Satellite Award for Best Television Series – Drama.

Critical reception

NYPD Blue has generally received rave reviews from leading television critics. Variety even went as far as to say that broadcast television had lost its edge after NYPD Blue was cancelled. In 2013, TV Guide the series #44 on its list of the 60 best television shows of all time, and ranked it as the eighth best television drama of all time.

DVD releases

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the first 4 seasons of NYPD Blue on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4. All of the sets contain the original master recordings, the original ABC broadcasts, and custom-made credits. After the release of the fourth season in 2006, Fox announced that they would be reviewing the possibility of further releases, citing the lack of sales.

On October 3, 2013, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1. They have subsequently released seasons 5-12 on DVD.

In Region 2, Mediumrare acquired the rights to release the remaining eight seasons of the show on DVD in the United Kingdom. All seasons have now been released.


TV reviewer and author Alan Sepinwall informally began his career by blogging recaps and analyses of NYPD Blue episodes.


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