In its first year NYPD Blue succeeded through controversy. Language and partial nudity was pretty much all the critics were talking about. Season two brought “the test”. Could the show survive a major cast loss with David Caruso’s well publicized split from the show? Season three, however, is when it all came together. It’s so much fun watching a quality series hit its stride, that season when everything falls into place and we see for the first time that we could be in for a sweet ride.
The cop show …as back in the 1990’s resurrected by the man who performed CPR on the genre in the 1980’s. With NYPD Blue we realize that Hill Street Blues wasn’t a fluke. Jimmy Smits was far more compelling than Caruso could be on his best day. The writers were beginning to find deep emotional material here. The season’s many rich themes included alcoholism, with not only Sipowitz but the newly formed Russell character. This seems to be a common theme for Steven Bochco. Every one of his shows have featured at least one alcoholic. Andy gets a fresh shot at fatherhood. One of the most compelling arcs has been the Andy/Andy Jr. arc. The tragic death of his son and the birth of a new son were huge stories in this season. Overall the characters are challenged both professionally and personally. The show’s documentary-like filming remains. This is the point when NYPD Blue finally took shape. We haven’t looked back yet, until now.
Each episode of NYPD Blue is presented in its original full frame broadcast ratio. Yeah, it’s still grainy. Colors, however, stand out in stark contrast to the dark stories being told. The streets of New York (OK, mostly it’s not really New York) look crisp and sharply defined. Black levels are very nicely done. The art is in the details, and this transfer has it..
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track delivers everything you’d expect it to. I must admit that percussive theme song wears on me, but there’s no question its very nicely done here. Dialogue is everything in cop shows, and you won’t be disappointed here. You’ll hear every word all of the time. Musical cues are bright, perhaps too bright at times.
There are two commentary tracks which include mostly production staff. Gordon Clapp is a notable exception and is very interesting to listen to. He sounds quite a contrast to his character.
“Life In The 15th Precinct” is a 10 minute piece that has all of the actors but mostly features Steven Bochco talking about how his confidence level increased in season 3. He points out that the crew cut back on some of the excessive camera moves for this season. Good idea, Steven.
“Father and Son” is a 15 minute look at the relationship between Andy and the son he has had a reconciliation with. It’s a good talk with Franz and Michael Deluise, who plays Andy Jr. The relationship went a long way to soften the Andy character, providing him with some emotional depth on the good side.
“Women Of NYPD Blue” This one is pretty much self explanatory. Strong female characters have been a trademark of the show, and this feature explores the characters and actors that bring them to life.
Fox has sure been taking its time with these releases. It’s been more than a year since the second season was released. I’m not sure what the delay is, as I expect these sets are selling well. There are a ton of TV shows on DVD, and this is undoubtedly the best. Fox is joining the double-sided disc bandwagon with this release. That means more fragile discs that are harder to handle and which will last not nearly as long. I can see they are attempting to improve the overall release with better menus and pretty good sight and sound. Next up? The packaging. All I can say is, “Try harder”.
Special Features List
- Commentary on 2 episodes
- “Life in the 15th Precinct” featurette
- “Father and Son” featurette
- “Women of NYPD Blue” featurette