Tuesday night, NYPD Blue aired its final episode. And even though my alarm was set for 4:00 a.m., I decided to keep the VCR company and watch it live.
When NYPD Blue first came on the air, I was deeply resentful. I had been a huge fan of “Civil Wars,” and ABC was dumping it (along with my dearly-lusted-after Mariel Hemingway) for this stupid cop show. But on the other hand, it promised naughty words and nekkid people, so I figured it might be worth a shot.
But while the sensationalism got me to watch, the compelling nature of the show got me to stay. For 12 years I never missed an episode. And it was almost entirely due to Dennis Franz.
Franz has literally made a career out of playing cops. Andy Sipowicz is, I think, the 29th cop Franz has played. And with his success, he may never have to play that 30th cop for the rest of his life.
One ironic twist is that Sipowicz, the only character from the pilot still with the show (Medavoy showed up in the second episode), was originally intended to be killed off as a shocker to the audience. But the creators were so impressed with Franz’ performance, they kept him around. And they are still patting themselves on the back over that decision.
Andy Sipowicz has developed into a television icon. He has grown from a violent, bitter, vulgar, homophobic, drunken cop on the road to firing into a calm, mature, tolerant, loving father and teacher — who will still “tune up a skell” when called for. (Sorry — NYPD Blue developed its own language that’s hard to avoid when discussing the show.)
In that infamous pilot, Sipowicz tells off a prosecutor who’s just ripped him a new one by grabbing his crotch and shouting “ipsa this, you pissy little bitch!” and later gets shot in the ass while drunkenly boffing a hooker.
Over the course of the next twelve years, he goes sober (with a couple of slips), marries said prosecutor, has a son, sees both his older son and wife murdered, survives “prostrate” cancer, marries again, loses three partners (one to scandal, two to death), and ends up running the squad he was nearly drummed out of and helps guide some rookie detectives after they very nearly blow a case and cost him his job.
Tuesday nights will never be the same for me. For 12 years, I’d watched the show go through highs and lows (and some of those lows were truly wretched.) I watched it take a former child TV star pretty-boy and turn him into a believable, compelling adult actor with Ricky Schroeder. And when he left, they did it AGAIN with Mark Paul Gosselaar. I watched the characters come and go, with the unshakable core of Andy Sipowicz remaining the steady rock.
I’m going to miss NYPD Blue. It broke many boundaries, but the main ones were in quality. And I’m going to miss Andy Sipowicz, a tragically flawed man who nonetheless struggles to survive and make right.
Dennis Franz gave hope to all us overweight, balding white men. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.