At the end of NYPD Blue's eighth season, Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroder), the troubled young partner of the 15th precinct's Detective Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz), had disappeared under sinister circumstances after a botched undercover operation. It was not until season nine got under way that Danny's murder was confirmed, sending Sipowicz -- not to mention the rest of the 15th -- into an emotional spiral. In the fine revolving-door tradition of NYPD Blue, Danny was immediately replaced by another handsome young detective with personal issues: John Clark Jr. (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), the son of a veteran cop (Joe Spano) who happened to be an old enemy of John's new partner Andy. To compensate for the defection of another longtime series regular, Kim Delaney (Detective Diane Russell), Jacqueline Obradors was added to the cast as Det. Rita Ortiz, formerly of the vice squad who had transferred to the 15th at the insistence of her jealous, possessive Assistant DA husband, Don Harrison (Stan Cahill). Inasmuch as the series was falling into a pattern of predictability by this time, it was hardly surprising that Rita Ortiz would have been minus one husband and plus one new boyfriend (John Clark Jr., of course) by the end of season nine.
Of the holdover actors from previous seasons, Esai Morales had neatly settled into the role of Lt. Tony Rodriguez, the no-nonsense replacement of former 15th precinct skipper Lt. Fancy -- and had brought along his own emotional baggage in the form of a vengeful Internal Affairs Bureau captain (Casey Siemaszko) who had seemingly made it his life's work to force Rodriguez out of his job. The inner demons of Det. Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross) surfaced to plague her when she attempted to touch base with Jennifer (Katie Fountain), the daughter whom she'd given up for adoption 16 years earlier. Homosexual administrative employee John Irvin (Bill Brochtrup) took a brief respite from his duties to embark upon an African "safari" with his new boyfriend. And the off-again, on-again relationship between Det. Baldwin Jones (Henry Simmons) and ADA Valerie Haywood (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon) took on a new and slightly melancholy dimension when Valerie became pregnant. As usual, it was top-billed Dennis Franz as Andy Sipowicz who bore the brunt of the dramatic developments. In addition to having to adjust to the tragic loss of another partner, Dennis also found himself enmeshed in the financial intrigues surrounding wealthy old eccentric Mrs. Hornby (Elmarie Wendel), for whom he worked as a bodyguard in his off-hours. And, of more importance to future plot developments, Andy finally made a romantic decision between two of the women in his life, Connie McDowell and the very-much-younger Cynthia Bunin (Juliana Donald) -- or rather, the decision was made for him following a traumatic hostage crisis. With Steven Bochco replacing the departing David Milch as senior executive producer, NYPD Blue was poised to begin its ninth season in early October of 2001 -- thereby breaking the tradition established in the past two seasons, when the debut date had been moved up to January (or mid-season) due to backstage intrigues and scheduling conflicts. However, the tragic events of September 11 obliged both the producers and the network to delay the season opener until November 6, by which time several scripts had been rewritten to reflect the 15th precinct's reaction to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Dennis Franz, Henry Simmons, (more)