NYPD Blue 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.
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.
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.)
Marge: 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?
Censorship Systems: the show was frequently rapped for its language and nudity, but rarely for the just as frequent 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.
When Simone replaces Kelly, Sipowicz gives him an extremely cold reception. This was actually 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.
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.
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).
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.
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 was 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.
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 would lower their guards when talking to a good-looking woman, and Baldwin Jones had the same effect on most female suspects and witnesses (sometimes he was too successful when a female witness would get so Distracted by the Sexy that they couldn'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 was frequently a double-edged sword.
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 was jealous to the point of paranoia, even asking Lt. Rodriguez to keep an eye on her (which Rodriguez refused to do).
Iconic Item: Sipowicz's famous short-sleeved shirt and tie combo.
More or less the entire female cast had one or more of these, often leading up to a sex scene.
A more gratuitous example: in one of Det. Connie McDowell's first episodes, she was investigating a crime at a bar when a patron spilled a drink over her. Of course she immediately had to go to the rest room, take off her shirt, and wash it in the sink. The scene itself was important to the plot as it led to her discovering important evidence; the shots of her in her lacy black bra were 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.
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.
Various characters wear typical nineties fashions such as flannel shirts and high-waisted jeans. Not to forget the women with push-up bras and tight shirts.
Most cars have the rounded, streamline shape that was popular before SUVs became predominant.
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.
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 have seemed like this in the beginning but turned into a subversion in that he is portrayed quite respectfully and seriously. Initially he had some difficulty being accepted by some of the detectives, most notably Sipowicz, but ended up being a good friend of everybody in the squad.
Pointy-Haired Boss: Blatantly unqualified Sgt. Gibson (though it was made clear that it was temporary and by default, due to a shortage of qualified Sergeants and Lieutenants)
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: Used not so much to recapitulate the previous episode, but to refresh the viewer's memory of what happened several months ago.
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.
Safe Harbor: One of the few shows on network TV to exploit this.