The Good: Good character development, Some truly engaging stories/plots, Great acting
The Bad: Showrunners are clearly unsure how to keep balance for the whole cast
The Basics: After years since the last NYPD Blue DVD set release, NYPD Blue The Complete Fifth Season was released by Shout! Factory and finally resolves one of the few cliffhangers of the series!
With longrunning television shows, it is hard for those who release such series' on permanent mediums, like DVD and Blu-Ray, to know what will sell. After all, television series's inevitably get cancelled when they lose relevance with their audience; a show that runs for twelve seasons is bound to disconnect from its original audience and, in the case of something like NYPD Blue, that usually means that those who would release it on a permanent medium have to remind the fans why they fell in love with the show in the first place . . . without giving them a chance to tire of the series a second time. Unfortunately, ABC seemed to hit a wall in releasing NYPD Blue on DVD when it dropped NYPD Blue Season Four (reviewed here!) and the season did not do as well in the marketplace as they hoped it would. So, ABC scrapped its plan to keep releasing seasons of NYPD Blue on DVD. Last year, Shout! Factory picked up the license and started releasing seasons of NYPD Blue on DVD again.
It's a good thing, too; the fourth season of NYPD Blue was one of the few seasons of the show that ended on a legitimate cliffhanger. So, when Shout! Factory released the fifth season of NYPD Blue, not only were they taking a bit of a financial risk in reinvigorating the love many fans had for NYPD Blue, they were ending a years-long storytelling stalemate that most fans had in their DVD collection! And NYPD Blue Season Five is a decent season of television, though it does illustrate a number of the long-term fractures in the series. By this point in NYPD Blue, there are a significant number of regular cast/characters (along with a few significant recurring characters who were downgraded out of the main cast, most notably Sharon Lawrence) and the challenge the writers and executive producers had was in keeping all of them relevant, interesting, and integral to the ongoing narrative. Far too often, characters like Medavoy and Kirkendall are relegated to very distant b-plots that placehold in the story so time can reasonably pass in the a-plot.
But, even so, there is a lot to recommend NYPD Blue Season Five. Opening months after Bobby Simone was relieved of duty under suspicion of working with a local criminal, while the Internal Affairs Bureau attempts to root out a mole in their ranks, the 15th Squad continues to solve cases involving violent crimes in New York City. While suspicions surround Andy Sipowicz, Bobby manages to clear his name and return to active duty as the squad's lead police detective.
Cases in the fourth season involve things like a mute who witnesses a murder and tries to communicate what he saw through bible passages, a uniform officer who may have murdered his first girlfriend after trying to pin the murder on her new, mentally ill boyfriend, and a gun deal that went horribly awry and resulted in one of the people being thrown off the roof of a building! This season finds James Martinez marrying Gina (whom he has gotten pregnant) and Sipowicz dealing with his urination problems straight on (as he is diagnosed with cancer), as well as Simone and Russell dancing around marriage and crushed by a miscarriage. The detectives investigate a case wherein a maid donated a precious diamond from one of her employers (because it was hidden in a soup can) and a weird case that involves a man who is either suffering from a multiple personality disorder or is impersonating his own twin! The season climaxes with the long-awaited marriage of Simone and Russell!
Season five of NYPD Blue continues to have and introduce great characters. Despite the Gina plot leading to a number of Administrative Assistants swapping in and out, the show remains generally well-focused on the main members of the 15th Squad. In the fifth season of NYPD Blue, the characters are:
Bobby Simone - Finally able to exonerate himself, he and Diane get closer and he gets back into the swing of things as the lead detective in the 15th Precinct. He remains calm and measured and is saddened and hurt when Diane gets pregnant and loses the fetus. He is very protective of Russell, but tries to give her the space to succeed (and not blow their cover about their relationship). Andy relies upon him when he is diagnosed with cancer,
Andy Sipowicz - Investigated heavily following the death of Joey Salvo, he manages to keep things together while Bobby is away from the Squad. He hides his medical condition from Sylvia long enough for it to get bad. He reluctantly goes in for prostate surgery after his doctor outs him to Sylvia. He and Fancy go a few rounds over a racism case where a white father raised his son to be racist and it got him killed. He continues to be sarcastic and quick-witted,
Arthur Fancy - Captivated by being on a case again when he takes a complaint while the other detectives are out, he generally remains focused on keeping the Squad running properly. That keeps him behind his desk most of the time, though he comes out when a racist comes in screaming racial epitaphs and messing up Sipowicz and Bobby's case. He avoids the flirtatious interest of two PAAs who replace Gina,
Greg Medavoy - Becomes deeply involved in Abby's life when her girlfriend is murdered while Abby is still pregnant. He investigates odd cases, like one involving a man who seems to be impersonating his own twin and the murder of a good Samaritan who tried to help a bike messenger during a bad drug deal. His stutter is virtually gone now,
James Martinez - After knocking Gina up, he eagerly agrees to marry her. As her pregnancy progresses, he hurts his back and is put on medical leave for months. When he returns, his joyful fatherhood news is eclipsed by Greg sharing Abby's birthing video,
Sylvia - Absent most of the season, she returns to work right around the time that Andy's health problem forces him to deal with it. She shows genuine love and support for Andy through his prostate problem,
Jill Kirkendall - Supporting Diane (when Diane is around) through her pregnancy and miscarriage concerns, she is partnered with Medavoy while James is out. She is straightlaced to his wacky and helps move his unproductive interviews forward,
Naomi - A new P.A.A. who has a little secret that she eventually shares with Simone . . . before she has to go on the run,
Dolores - Naomi's replacement, she is flirtatious and interested in Fancy (and either ballet or erotic literature). She is oddly cold to John Irvin when they meet,
and Diane Russell - Stressed while Bobby is forced to do odd jobs to get by during his time as a suspect, she sticks by him. She and Jill investigate some terrible cases involving women before she gets pregnant and then loses the baby. She disagrees with Bobby's assessment that she is engaged in risk behaviors while pregnant and they are slow to come back together after her miscarriage.
NYPD Blue Season Five features the same high level of acting quality that viewers came to expect from the show. Jimmy Smits, Dennis Franz and James McDaniel lead the cast with powerful performances, most notably in "Weaver Of Hate" where they deliver emotionally complicated performances as a racially-motivated crime raises tensions in the squad. While Kim Delaney gives a solid performance throughout, her most impressive role in the season essentially mimics the Russell sobriety arc from earlier seasons.
Still, there is enough going on and the writing remains sharp enough to make returning to the 15th Squad a welcome reunion for fans of NYPD Blue. With the release of season five of NYPD Blue on DVD, Shout! Factory effectively proves that absence makes the heart grow fonder! Fortunately, they aren't keeping us waiting as long for more . . .
For other seasons of NYPD Blue, please visit my reviews of:
For other television reviews, please be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized list of all my television and movie reviews!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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