Plus, David Mamet tells EW Online why his earlier project for actor Dennis Franz never got made

By Josh Wolk
Updated May 11, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Dennis Franz
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”NYPD Blue”’s supporting characters have been tossed some meatier plots lately, what with Jill Kirkendall (Andrea Thompson) posing as a drug-addicted whore and Lieutenant Fancy (James McDaniel) tearfully breaking down as he recounted his Dad’s alcoholism. But even as the lesser-billed cops walk a more intriguing beat, make no mistake: It’s still Dennis Franz’s show. Tuesday he squares off against his old nemesis from ”Blue”’s early years, high-priced lawyer James Sinclair (Daniel Benzali). And in next week’s 90-minute episode, Andy Sipowicz’s relationship with his wife Sylvia (Sharon Lawrence) is tested: The producers aren’t saying if this means divorce for Andy (it has been reported that this may be Lawrence’s last appearance on the show), but any marital conflict can only mean the kind of teeth-gnashing and eye-darting that has won Franz two Emmys and a Golden Globe for ”Blue.”

Fans of great acting could have forseen that Franz would become the centerpiece of the show, but it’s easy to understand why TV execs would have their doubts: In their world, dramas should be carried by the dapper and dreamy, not the balding, paunchy, and perpetually scowling. In fact, that kind of thinking had nixed a previous Franz project, one created by David Mamet. In the late ’80s, CBS asked the Pulitzer Prize-winning playright — who had penned an episode of ”Hill Street Blues” in 1986 — to develop a new series for Franz, whose ”Blues” spin-off, ”Beverly Hills Buntz,” had failed in 1987.

”I wrote this (pilot) for him that I really loved,” Mamet tells EW Online. ”I handed it in and they didn’t call for a couple of weeks. So I called and said, ‘What’s the matter, you didn’t like the script?’ And (the exec) said, ‘No, (on second thought) we just don’t think Dennis Franz can carry a television show.”’ A friendly note to CBS: Next time, if it’s your opinion versus a Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer’s, listen to the Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer.

NYPD Blue

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