Why Broadcast TV Lost Its Edge After ‘NYPD Blue’

TVWriter™’s answer: Cuz it could.

Variety.Com, however, sees it a little differently. But only a little:

nypd-blue

by Brian Lowry

When “NYPD Blue” made its debut 20 years ago, some of the predictions were nothing short of apocalyptic. The New York Times wondered whether the boundary-pushing police drama would put network standards-and-practices execs out of business under the headline, “What’s a network TV censor to do?”

Flash forward, however, and producers Steven Bochco and David Milch’s creation didn’t revolutionize television — at least, not in the way many foresaw. And while the program’s history and success over 12 seasons merit analysis and even celebration, the real revelation is that two decades later, the groundbreaking series remains an outlier for broadcast TV — where almost nothing, even now, is bluer than “Blue.”

That’s not to say “NYPD Blue” didn’t contribute to changes in television. It did, from perceptions regarding audience tastes to the way in which advocacy groups orchestrated lobbying campaigns targeting sponsors and stations.

In many ways, though, the crystal ball pertaining to the show proved fuzzier than the carefully framed images of cast members grappling. And if the series was conceived, as Bochco recalls, to provide a broadcast response to the greater creative latitude available on cable, then just like efforts to prevent more explicit fare from becoming widely accepted, its impact didn’t play out in the way many envisioned.

“I suppose I was naive,” Bochco says. “I thought ‘NYPD Blue’ would open a door to more adult, mainstream programming.” Yet the series remains an exception, and broadcast standards didn’t appreciably change.

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