NYPD Blue: Season Six

NYPD Blue: Season Six
If NYPD Blue were around today, it would be a series on Netflix. Instead, from 1993-2005, this innovative cop show ran on ABC and pushed the boundaries of American primetime TV that we can't take for granted today. NYPD Blue showed more skin than any other series, uttered more naughty words than usual and explored touchy issues such as homosexuality (a rich man covering up his son's orientation), race relations among cops and alcoholism on the force. It did so with unrelenting realism and avoided the melodrama found in many cop shows before it.

Season six was pivotal in the show's arc. Detective Bobby Simone exited due to a bad heart (star Jimmy Smits clashed with the show's co-creator and head writer, David Milch) in the tearjerker "Hearts and Souls," which some consider the show's best-ever episode. Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroder) whose wholesome, all-American looks contrast with the tough-ass narcotics detective he plays, replaced him. Simone's departure also opened the rest of the season to Andy Sipowicz, an abrasive detective who wrestles with booze and ironically checks his ex-wife, Sylvia (Sharon Lawrence), into rehab.

Sipowicz was Dennis Franz's best role. In season six, Franz evoked pathos for this nasty, bigoted character. Also making tragic exits were the troubled Dolores Mayo (Lola Glaudini) and Sylvia. The series captured Emmy and Peabody awards for its outstanding acting and gritty writing.

So with all this praise, why not a higher rating? Since 1998, TV audiences have been gifted series like The Wire, which have injected a greater realism into TV, so while NYPD Blue raised the bar for cop series' in the '90s, audiences have matured and police shows have turned grittier since then. Still, though tamed in some ways by time, NYPD Blue remains a solid TV drama. (Fox)