When last we left Detective Sipowicz, his world had collapsed. His wife, Sylvia, had been shot and killed in the halls of justice, and he was operating on autopilot. After all, it had only been a few months since his partner, Bobby Simone, had died.
Sipowicz hadn't told his young son, Theo, the truth about his mother, nor had he returned to the 15th Precinct. But Sipowicz is back on the job and all that bluespeak -- tune-ups (and we're not talking points and plugs here) and squeezing someone's shoes -- is, too.
While tonight's "NYPD Blue" breaks no new ground, it's good to see Sipowicz back on track -- looking thinner, being a tender and attentive father to Theo, announcing he has to go home to cook dinner -- even if his life will never be the same.
"NYPD Blue" had been scheduled to begin its seventh season Nov. 9, but the success of "Once and Again" prompted ABC to delay the return. The hit Sela Ward-Billy Campbell romantic drama is moving to 10 p.m. Mondays later this month. (The switch probably means WTAE will quit promoting stories of interest to women for its 11 p.m. news on Tuesdays and go back to prostate troubles, Viagra and other reports targeted mainly at men.)
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When: Tonight at 10 on ABC.
Starring: Dennis Franz and Rick Schroder.
In tonight's episode, titled "Loogie Nights," Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) and Detective Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroder) have caught "a stinker of a case." They find themselves investigating a deadly assault that may have been committed by fellow cops, one of whom is Officer Baker (Kevin Dillon), who figured prominently in an episode last season, which admittedly seems like a long, long time ago.
The cops acknowledge delivering a "minor tune-up" after the suspect spit in one of their faces, but informants paint a different picture. And if cops might be criminals, that means Internal Affairs can't be far behind.
We also get a look-see into the private lives of the cops, including Jill Kirkendall (Andrea Thompson), the divorced blonde who is considering seeing her ex-husband again. They are preparing for their son's first communion, a thread that is picked up in next week's episode.
Sorenson, proving he's no smooth operator or sweet talker like Simone, gets involved with a woman after inquiring, "You wanna come home with me?"
But the best moment gives three-time Emmy winner Franz a chance to quietly shine. Sipowicz sits down with Theo for dinner after a frustrating day and talks about having a job where you try to help people; Theo obviously can't comfort and debate like Sylvia, but he can offer his old man a kiss in the middle of the meal.
There is no sign yet of the burgeoning closeness between Andy and his ex-wife, who had become an alcoholic after Andy Jr.'s death. That apparently will come later in the season.
There is little remarkable in "Loogie Nights" (a variation of the movie title "Boogie Nights"), since it revisits the theme of police abuse, which has been handled before -- and in more accomplished fashion. Still, watching "NYPD Blue" is like catching up with old friends.
Franz has said that a new character named Baldwin Jones, played by Henry Simmons, will be introduced in the sixth or seventh episode. In an online chat with fans of the series, he said Jones "will remind you very much of Jimmy Smits' quiet inner-strength character. His appearance will remind you very much of Michael Jordan."
The delayed return of "Blue" meant that a planned Christmas episode was axed. On the flip side, it also means we'll see original episodes every week without those endless reruns or substitutions.
Hard to be blue about that.