See ya, Blue!

‘NYPD Blue’ turns in badge
Would there be a Sopranos without NYPD Blue? Faggedaboutit.
NYPD Blue, the gritty, award-winning ABC drama, goes quietly into the sunset tonight with its final episode, Moving On (CH, ABC, 9 p.m. ET).
Ratings for the 12-year-old series slumped the past few seasons to the point that only a partial season was ordered. ABC isn’t even bothering to end the series during a February or May sweeps.
As a result, NYPD Blue isn’t getting enough credit for putting a realistic, adult spin on prime-time network drama.
Last month, executive producer Steven Bochco met the press on the Fox lot in Los Angeles. With him were fellow producer Mark Tinker and cast members Dennis Franz (Det. Andy Sipowicz), Gordon Clapp (Det. Greg Medavoy), Bill Brochtrup (John Irvin), Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Det. John Clark), Henry Simmons (Det. Baldwin Jones), Bonnie Somerville (Det. Laura Murphy), Jacqueline Obradors (Det. Rita Ortiz) and Canadian-born addition Currie Graham (squad boss Lt. Bale).
Bochco, who created the series with David Milch (Deadwood), wanted to turn Blue blue with language and nudity to stem the adult audience flow to HBO. ABC nervously agreed and, suddenly, there were bare butts on TV.
Bochco downplayed the notion that NYPD Blue broke the mold, although he agreed that you “couldn’t launch it today.” Fines following Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl fiasco have sent a chill throughout Hollywood still being felt today.
Just this season, scenes of partial nudity (including Clapp’s bare butt debut) were blurred after the fact.
When the show debuted in 1993, Bochco gave it a month. ABC was skittish about the language and nudity. Some affiliates and advertisers bailed on the edgy pilot.
The buzz, of course, helped turn the show into an instant hit. Then came the bombshell: After a year in the spotlight, original co-star David Caruso (Det. John Kelly) thought he was a movie star and abruptly quit the series. Caruso predicted that the series would tank. Instead, Blue soared with replacement Jimmy Smits (Det. Bobby Simone) and Caruso was laughed out of Hollywood after two flop films. (CSI: Miami brought him back from the dead.)
While Bochco didn’t rub it in, he didn’t mince words about Caruso, either. He blames the actor for creating a hostile environment on the set. “Life’s too short for that,” he said. “We learned we could pretty much survive the loss of anyone.”
As a result, Blue had one of the busier revolving doors in television, with Nicholas Turturro, James McDaniel, Kim Delaney, Sharon Lawrence, Amy Brenneman, Sherry Stringfield, Gail O’Grady, Rick Schroder and Esai Morales all coming and going.
The series won 20 Emmy Awards (scoring 27 nominations in its first season alone), including four to Franz for his portrayal of seen-it-all detective Andy Sipowicz.
When he read the first script, Franz, a carryover from Bochco’s Hill Street Blues, feared no one would ever “give a damn” about squad screw-up Sipowicz. “You will find a way to make him likable,” Bochco predicted.
Don’t look for Sipowicz or any of the other regulars to exit on a slab in tonight’s finale. Bochco wanted it to feel like “a well-earned end to the show.”
None of the stars from years past are back (although Charlotte Ross, who plays Sipowicz’s cop wife Connie, was invited). “This is our core group,” Bochco said, pointing to the cast on stage. “I’m happy to dance off into the sunset with these folks.”
The finale will be preceded at 9 p.m. by the one-hour special — hosted by Smits — NYPD Blue: Final Tribute.