is a Cop Show
with Soap Opera elements
that ran on ABC from 1993 to 2005. Originally a star vehicle for David Caruso (who left after the first season to pursue a movie career), the show evolved into an ensemble
, with Det. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) as the focus character.
The show courted controversy from the start with its liberal use of nudity
(mostly sideboob and butts, with the occasional steamy love scene) and salty language (one of Sipowicz's first lines is calling A.D.A. Sylvia Costas a "pissy little bitch", and it was one of the first shows to use the word "shit" on network television). The Parents Television Council
was formed primarily because of this show. It was also noted for resurrecting the careers of those (besides Caruso) who played Andy's partners (Jimmy Smits
, and former child stars Rick Schroder
and Mark-Paul Gosselaar
The show was created by producer Steven Bochco
, and is considered the Spiritual Successor
to his earlier, similarly ground-breaking ensemble cop show, Hill Street Blues
This show contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic:
- From the first episode, Sipowicz is established as an alcoholic, who goes to AA meetings and mostly manages to stay sober (though he does fall Off The Wagon two times). He also helps various colleagues with their drinking problems.
- Detective Russell is later revealed also to have problems with alcohol; she was driven to drink by traumatic events in her past. She is always shown ordering soft drinks when others drink, but does not want to discuss the reason, which causes resentment with some people.
- Amoral Attorney: James Sinclair is a brilliant lawyer who often defends high-profile criminals and mob bosses, and tends to get them acquitted. This doesn't make him too popular among the detectives, and he is a special nemesis to Sipowicz who sees him as not just amoral, but positively evil, and doesn't hesitate to tell him so to his face. Despite this, Det. Kelly hires him to defend one of their colleagues when she is on trial for murder.
- Anyone Can Die: Especially if they're connected to Sipowicz. 2 partners, his elder son, and a wife. And his boss, almost.
- Ashes to Crashes: a detective who used to work in the squad died and his widow wants the squad to store half of his ashes there, because that was the man's last wish. "Just put the urn in the back of a file cabinet or something, it wouldn't be any trouble." But the Lieutenant refuses on the grounds that it isn't regulation. Sipowitz manages to get the ashes stirred into the plaster being used to repair the bathroom, so he'll be there forever.
- Bald of Awesome: Sipowicz.
- Berserk Button
- Andy Sipowicz was a veteran of The Vietnam War. So please, do not lie to him about having fought in that war if you weren't actually there.
- Amoral Attorney James Sinclair acts as a living Berserk Button to Sipowicz.
- Sipowicz and John Clark, Sr. tend to press each other's berserk buttons a lot. When Clark finds out that his son is partnering up with Sipowicz, he packs his son's bags and throws him out of their apartment.
- The Boxing Episode: In season nine, Det. Clarke agrees to settle a personal quarrel with one of the uniformed cops, Laughlin, by boxing against him at a precinct charity event. When rumour gets out that it is a grudge match, the captain stops the match. Laughlin puts intense pressure on Clark, pointing him out as a coward. Finally both combatants agree to hide their enmity and pretend the match is just for fun, which leads the captain to reinstate it.
- Breakout Character: Sipowicz, who started out second banana to John Kelly and ended up as one of the most famous TV detectives of all time. (Dennis Franz's four Emmys for the role certainly didn't hurt.)
Homer, I don't think you should wear a short-sleeved shirt with a tie.
Homer: But Sipowicz does it.
Marge: If Detective Sipowicz jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?
Homer: Ohh... wish I was Sipowicz.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Connie's Season 11 pregnancy
- Butt Monkey: Medavoy
- Medavoy usually gets the "odd" case of the week. He doesn't usually suffer any major setbacks, but has a lot of bad luck, sometimes falls for scams, and tends to end up in situations where he's slightly out of his water.
- He sometimes makes a rather naive impression and has a talent for stating the obvious, which often elicits snide comments from Sipowicz.
- Subverted in the episode where he's fueled by disgust for the sexually motivated murder case he catches, does a great job investigating it and interrogating the perpetrator, and gets a commendation.
- Also subverted by the circumstances of his retirement at the end of the series: when he takes romantic interest in a beautiful woman who is a successful real-estate agent, and she offers him work helping her with sales, Medavoy seems set up for another disappointment. However, everything turns out absolutely perfect this time around, and Medavoy can retire a happy man.
- By-the-Book Cop:
- Lt. Thomas Bale, who takes over command of the squad in the first episode of season 12, has been transferred from Internal Affairs with orders to bring what some superiors apparently perceive as a Cowboy Cop precinct into line. He insists that all official procedures be followed to the letter, even when the detectives (especially Sipowicz) don't think this is the optimal course of action.
- John Clarke, Sr., is one as well. He adamantly believes in never beating suspects and always reading them Miranda. He's not wild about his son working with Sipowicz because he knows Sipowicz is not a by-the-book cop and doesn't want his son learning the wrong lessons.
- Captain Obvious: Medavoy, who sometimes gets snide comments from Sipowicz for stating what Sipowicz thinks is the obvious.
- Censorship Systems: the show was frequently rapped for its language and nudity, but rarely for the much more frequently occuring violence.
- Characterization Marches On: It can be a little strange, after watching the later seasons, to look back at season one and behold a Sipowicz who frequents prostitutes and strip joints. He even smiles, which later on seems to nearly break his face.
- Chilly Reception
- When Simone replaces Kelly, Sipowicz gives him an extremely cold reception. This was intentionally engineered by the writers — they figured that if Sipowicz took an immediate, irrational dislike to Simone, it would leave the audience saying "Come on, Andy, give the guy a chance." It worked.
- And when Simone in turn is replaced by Sorenson, Russel's initial reaction to him is outright hostile. Justified since Russel is in grief over Simone's death, and Sorenson is a bit less than diplomatic his first day on the job. Their relationship improves considerably with time.
- After serving under Lt. Fancy for over seven years, Sipowicz is extremely suspicious of Lt. Rodriguez, interpreting everything he says or does in the worst possible light and even taking an irrational dislike of his non-regulation beard. After Sipowicz confronts Rodriguez about interfering with his interrogation, and Rodriguez backs off and agrees to let him do things his way, Sipowicz starts warming up to him.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
- Detective Lesniak just stopped appearing after season 3, with no explanation given.
- The same thing happens with Detective Kelly Ronson, who replaces McDowell when she goes on maternity leave towards the end of season 11. In the first episode of season 12 she is not there anymore and no mention is ever made of her leaving the precinct.
- Clothing Damage: Connie McDowell gets her shirt almost torn off during a struggle to arrest a criminal, showing off her black bra.
- Creepy Crossdresser: In the season 11 episode "Andy Appleseed", the detectives go to the apartment of a murdered woman because they think the suspected murderer may be there. They find him in her closet, trying on her bras and panties.
- Crime and Punishment Series: As a Police Procedural with a good mixture of relationship drama it fits into the genre.
- Deadpan Snarker: Det. Sipowicz — when he's in a good mood.
- Dead Person Conversation: In one season 12 episode, Sipowicz is experiencing a crisis after being forcefully reminded of his mortality (in the previous episode, he's shot in the shoulder, and then he narrowly escapes being shot by a perp whose gun misfires). In his agitated state he first thinks he sees his late ex-partner Simone lying in a hospital bed that then turns out to be empty; a bit later Simone again appears to Sipowitz, and now carries out a whole conversation, talking about life and death and encouraging him to be a father figure to his new partner.
- Death Is Dramatic - Bobby Simone's death
- Deus Angst Machina: Sipowicz has had a dead wife, a dead son, two dead partners (and a third resigning in disgrace), and TWO cancer scares (his own and his youngest son's).
- Diplomatic Impunity: A particularly egregious case of legal inaccuracy occured in the series final (s 12 ep 20), when a Japanese diplomat is bribed to sign a statement where he admits to the murder of a call girl, and then leaves the country. This admission is taken at face value by the FBI and the top brass of the NYPD (but not by Sipowicz). Even though the police officials have reasons to be happy to close the case, nobody even has a thought of requesting the help from the Japanese authorities to remove his diplomatic immunity, or even have him interrogated by Japanese police, and it is quietly assumed that self-confessed murderer will face no investigation when returning home.
- Dirty Cop: Harry Denby, who is first seen as the detective investigating Jill Kirkendall's ex-husband for drug-running. He comes across as a Jerk Ass with a drinking problem who comes on to Russell and tries to use her loyalty to Kirkendall as leverage. Later he is discovered actually to be working with the criminals he is investigating. After he is suspended and waiting for indictment he tries to take over the drug operation himself. Like all his endeavours, it fails tragically. He more or less forces Jill to shoot him.
- Dirty Harriet:
- In the sixth-season epsiode Mister Roberts, Jill Kirkendall goes undercover as a callgirl to get evidence against a suspected murderer. The operation is pictured as unusual and highly dangerous.
- McDowell impersonates a prostitute in order to get past a drug dealer's henchmen and into his apartment. This is not a real underconver operation, since as soon as she is inside, the other detectives burst in and make the arrest. Doubly played for Fanservice: not only is she wearing quite revealing clothes, but her shirt gets ripped off during the fight that follows.
- Discussed by Det. Rita Ortiz in the ninth season: one of the reasons she transferred from Vice into the squad is that she was tired of the clothes she had to wear while undercover. We later learn that her jealous husband was very frustrated about this.
- In the season 10 premiere, McDowell and Ortiz pretend to be prostitutes to get into a heavily guarded drug stash house. They drop the pretense as soon as the guard has opened the door.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Det. Sorenson is murdered off-screen by his stripper girlfriend's ex.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Whilst the final episode makes it very clear that life and work will go on as usual for Andy Sipowicz, he is not only far better off at the end than he was at the beginning (both professionally and in his personal life), but also a better person.
- Fair Cop:
- All the female detectives on the squad are very good-looking and often wear tight clothes. Most of them have at least one scene in the nude or in their underwear.
- Most other female cops are as well, such as Mary Franco (who was dating Sorenson in season 7).
- Baldwin Jones is the main male example (though Sipowicz's partners were generally good-looking, too). He is also very tall, athletic and well-toned. He has many shirtless scenes to show off his abs.
- Sometimes used to their advantage by the detecives: many male suspects will lower their guards when talking to a good-looking woman, and Baldwin Jones has the same effect on most female suspects and witnesses (sometimes he was too successful when a female witness gets so Distracted by the Sexy that they can't concentrate on their statement).
- Fanservice: The show often pushed the boundaries of how much skin (or sexuality) you could show on network TV.
- Fan Disservice: The nudity and sex is frequently a double-edged sword, especially in the early seasons where it seems to be used for shock value. The later seasons tone down the nudity and tend to use it more for straight Fanservice than for disservice.
- Gayngster: Jimmy Del Marco in "A Tushful of Dollars."
- Geodesic Cast: Andy and his current partner, Medavoy and his, often a third female duo.
- The Green Eyed Monster: Rita Ortiz's husband is jealous to the point of paranoia, even asking Lt. Rodriguez to keep an eye on her (which Rodriguez refuses to do).
- Iconic Item: Sipowicz's famous short-sleeved shirt and tie combo.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Sipowicz. He can be very abrasive even to people he respect and like, but he is a loyal friend and willing to help people in need.
- ADA Leo Cohen is presented as perhaps an even bigger Jerk Ass than Sipowicz, and seems to constantly look for opportunities to show how much smarter than the detectives he is. But there are occasional glimpses of his honesty and integrity, he does care about justice as much as anyone else, and his behaviour seems to be caused more by poor social skills than real meanness. He also displays his softer side when he starts dating det. Kirkendall; unfortunately for him, his social skills aren't enough to make the relationship last.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Any time the FBI shows up, expect Sipowicz to hate them. He seems to have good reason, as they are generally portrayed as useless at handling street crime.
- Lingerie Scene:
- More or less the entire female cast has one or more of these, sometimes leading up to a sex scene, sometimes as a result of Clothing Damage.
- A more gratuitous example: in one of Det. Connie McDowell's first episodes, she is investigating a crime at a bar when a patron spills a drink over her. Of course she immediately has to go to the rest room, take off her shirt, and wash it in the sink. The scene itself is important to the plot as it leads to her discovering important evidence; the shots of her in her lacy black bra are less so.
- Lying to the Perp: A technique often used by the detectives when interviewing suspects.
- Long Bus Trip: Though it was never followed up, David Caruso's departure from the series was certainly open-ended enough that for a couple of seasons afterwards it wouldn't have been unexpected to have seen Detective Kelly walk right back through those doors.
- Particularly strange was his complete non-appearance at Sipowicz's wedding. Apparently the writing staff were tempted to put John Kelly on a bus to hell following the way Caruso had treated them, as a Take That to the actor. But ultimately they felt that whatever problems they had to deal with as far as the actor was concerned, the character of Detective John Kelly deserved more respect than that, so they allowed him to have a dignified departure with no repercusions.
- Media Watchdog: one of their go-to targets.
- The Mob Boss Is Scarier: Police Procedural shows like this one utilize this trope a lot when dealing with organized crime. Russian mobsters are portrayed as being especially intimidating, with a willingness to wipe out employees, witnesses, and families of same.
- New York City Cops
- The Nineties: in the first six seasons. These examples obviously don't apply to the seasons that were filmed in the 2000's.
- In the first seasons, the detectives don't have cellphones but have to look for payphones if they are not carrying a walkie-talkie. The squad later gets one cellphone that has to be checked out if a detective needs it.
- People wear typical nineties fashions such as flannel shirts and high-waisted jeans. Not to forget the women with their push-up bras and tight shirts.
- Most cars have the rounded, streamline shape that was popular before SUVs became predominant.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: Sipowicz, though this is toned down in the later seasons. This is shown as character development: he comes to realize that his dislike of African-Americans is based on a traumatic incident in his past and manages to re-direct his anger at the actual bad guy rather than into general racism.
- No Ending: Done deliberately. Though Medavoy ends his police career on a happy note by moving on to a new job and a new relationship, and Sipowicz gets promoted to command the squad, the last episode ends just as any other episode. It is obvious that life in the precinct will continue just as usual the next morning.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Dennis Franz's Chicago accent coming from Brooklyn boy Sipowicz.
- Not in Front of the Parrot: Sgt. Gibson's obnoxious parrot. (Made more obnoxious by Andy secretly training it to say nothing but "douchebag")
- Off The Wagon: This happens twice to Sipowicz. Russel also has an episode. Both times they get back on the wagon, with some help from friends and colleagues.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-Universe with civilian aide Naomi Reynolds, who claims to be from South Carolina but is actually Australian (as was her actress, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick).
- Pet Homosexual: John, the Camp Gay civilian aide, may seem like this in the beginning, but this turns into a subversion in that he is portrayed quite respectfully and seriously. Initially he has some difficulty being accepted by some of the detectives, most notably Sipowicz, but ends up being a good friend of everybody in the squad.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Blatantly unqualified Sgt. Gibson, though it is made clear that his appointment is a stop-gap measure, due to a shortage of qualified lieutenants. And perhaps his being golf buddies with the Chief of Detectives played a small part in it as well.
- Police Brutality:
- There's rarely an episode that passes without a suspect getting "tuned up". Sometimes it's as minor as a slap upside the head. Sometimes it gets pretty bad (and the suspect gets off because of it), especially early in the series.
- Even when he doesn't actually use physical force, Sipowicz often threaten suspects with violence to intimidate them.
- Sorenson is suspended after beating up a murder suspect during interrogation, making his confession inadmissible in court.
- Previously On: Often used not so much to recapitulate the previous episode, but to refresh the viewer's memory of what happened several months ago. Played more straight in the later seasons.
- Pun-Based Title: Most of the individual episodes.
- Rabid Cop: Sipowicz. He learns to control his aggressiveness over the course of the series, but woe those suspects who talk back at him.
- Rape as Backstory:
- Sylvia, though it's not really an ongoing trauma.
- Diane's undercover operation with Jimmy Liery (see below) sends her into a serious mental tailspin, causing her to finally confront the fact that her father molested her when she was twelve.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: When Diane goes undercover to investigate violent psychopath Jimmy Liery, he slips a pill into her drink. She gets dizzy and he carries her out of the bar, after which she wakes up naked in bed with him with no memory of how she got there. When she confronts him (armed), he admits he drugged her with the intention of raping her, but he couldn't go through with the latter part.
- Recovered Addict: Andy Sipowicz, who as of the first episode is a rude, racist alcoholic and borderline drug addict. Early in the first season he stops drinking, but later falls off the wagon. After he joins AA he remains sober - even going so far as to initially refuse pain medication during a surgery - and generally becomes a much nicer person. He even helps a few others stop drinking.
- Safe Harbor: One of the few shows on network TV to exploit this.
- Seven Dirty Words: Used four or five of them regularly.
- Sexy Secretary (though they're actually civilian aides, performing clerical and secretarial duties in the squad):
- Sweater Girl Donna.
- Dolores, who has a second job as a stripper.
- Soap Opera Disease: Bobby Simone had a a terminal case.
- Sweater Girl:
- Donna's and Adrienne's usual look, with tight sweaters and push-up bras.
- Connie, Dianne and Rita also often wear tight sweaters, though Dianne's tops are usually sleeveless, and Connie and Rita alternate with different outfits.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife:
- Sipowicz. Twice, with Sylvia and Connie. His first wife (ex-wife already when the series starts), while not bad-looking, looks more like you'd expect the wife of a middle-aged detective to look like.
- Sylvia's actress, Sharon Lawrence, was seventeen years younger than Dennis Franz, though the age difference didn't appear as obvious in the show.
- Which goes to show how egregious the case with the second wife, Connie (played by Charlotte Ross) was, that Sylvia is the one considered Sipowicz's age.
- Greg's relationship with Donna is the beginning of this, though they break up before marriage is discussed.