By Sierra Filucci,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Rich police drama with strong characters. No kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Characters are richly drawn and often seriously flawed. Detectives often skirt the law during investigations, including using violence. Some characters have prejudices -- homophobia, racism, sexism -- it all pops up. Racially diverse cast throughout entire series run. A regular secondary character is gay.
Violence & Scariness
Overall, focuses more on the consequences of violence than violence itself. That said, crime scenes often include blood. One episode shows a man shot in the head with blood on his face. Police often use physical violence against suspects and others.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some episodes include realistic sex scenes with some partial nudity (including infamous bare-butt scenes). Characters often appear in their underwear or partially clothed.
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Plenty of cursing and other adult language, like "ass," "hard on," "humping," "bulls--t," etc. Purposely pushed the limits of acceptable prime-time language.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One main character struggles with alcoholism. Others drink often. Sometimes cases involve drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this outstanding police drama is for mature teens and adults only. With its occasional nudity (both male and female) and frequent crude language, the series' daring approach to network television made headlines when it debuted in the early '90s. Physical violence, including police brutality, is common, and viewers often see realistic crime scenes that include blood. Some episodes deal with bigotry, alcoholism, domestic violence, and other mature themes. All in all, it's tamer than just about everything running on pay cable these days, but it's still plenty edgy and definitely not for kids (even in edited-for-syndication versions).
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What's the Story?
Following in the footsteps of fellow acclaimed cop drama Hill Street Blues, NYPD BLUE revealed the gritty, personal, and sometimes mundane world of New York City police detectives. Most episodes follow several pairs of detectives as they investigate crimes, interrogate suspects (often violently), and weave their intimate relationships into their professional ones. While other detectives came and went over the course of the series (most famously characters played by David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, and Rick Schroeder), Det. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) remained from start to finish, and his character -- a grizzled, sour man marred by tragedy -- provides the heart of the show. The embodiment of blue-collar masculinity, Sipowicz makes viewers ache along with his grief while he remains stone-faced.
Is It Any Good?
Creators Steven Bochco and David Milch strived for accuracy in their depiction of a New York City police precinct. The set, the routines, and especially the lingo all ring true. Each episode is peppered with real-life street scenes -- people hailing cabs, loading trucks, crossing streets -- which adds to the show's realism and texture.
In its first season, NYPD Blue attracted controversy with its adult language and bits of nudity (including a famous shot of Smits' bare butt), and it proudly pushed the limits of prime-time acceptability throughout its run. The show's decidedly mature language, nudity, violence, and issues are all good reasons for kids to stay away (although TNT airs versions from which the roughest stuff has been excised), but adults will definitely enjoy Blue's edgy, dense drama.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about police culture as seen on the show. What are the relationships between the detectives like? How are these different or similar to other types of working relationships? The detectives often use violence while interrogating suspects. Do you think this is realistic? Necessary? How does it make you feel about the characters? How are masculinity and femininity depicted on the show? How do the show's gender roles comply or depart from traditional ones?
- Premiere date: September 21, 1993
- Cast: Dennis Franz, Jimmy Smits, Rick Schroder
- Networks: Syndicated, TNT
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: December 3, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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