‘NYPD Blue’ loses its edge
What in heaven’s name has gotten into ”NYPD Blue”? The show had made the transition from Jimmy Smits to Rick Schroder so smoothly, so artfully, it looked as if nothing was going to prevent this new season from being a bang-up affair. But in recent weeks, ”Blue” has lost its way, meandering with as much loopy aimlessness as a crack-hit skell. What was that April 6 episode with Dennis Franz playing two roles — Sipowicz and, in garish flashback, Sipowicz’s abusive, eye-gouged father? You’d think the worldly-wise people behind this series would know that an iron rule of Quality Television is, ”Never stoop to the Dual-Role trick.” Getting one of your stars to play his or her own part as well as another reeks of gimmickry; it’s the kind of thing we’d expect of ”Diagnosis: Murder,” not ”NYPD Blue.” Franz fell into the trap; this usually excellent actor overacted like crazy; the result was a distracting mess.
The following week, Shroder got caught in the crosshairs of a deadly cliche: The old My Girlfriend’s Pregnant, What’ll We Do move. What made this a bad subplot to begin with was that Shroder’s Danny Sorenson — and, by extension, we — barely knew this girl, played with as much dignity as possible under the circumstances by Michelle Maika. From what we’d seen previously, she was Danny’s casual (if sexually active) date, glimpsed primarily in one of ”NYPD”’s patented Warning: Contains Nudity in-the-sack scenes.
So when this character came to Danny at the start of the April 13 episode and announced that she was ”late,” it led to a lot of instant soul-searching on Danny’s part, and just as he’d firmly decided to ”do the right thing” — i.e., take responsibility as the child’s father even though he wasn’t in love with the mother — the young woman reappeared to say she’d lost the baby. Again, this is the sort of tidy, easy-way-out twist we never expect from ”NYPD.”
I’m tellin’ ya, cop shows are starting to sink in quality these days — have you tried sitting through an entire episode of NBC’s ”Homicide: Life on the Street” lately? It’s gotten as soggy as a soap opera, down there in the Baltimore squad room. What’s happening? For the love of pete, please, you cops, as they used to say on ”Hill Street Blues,” let’s be careful out there. You’ve got some dignity to maintain.