Having all but defined the "police precinct" TV-series genre of the 1980s with his Hill Street Blues, Steven Bochco did the same for the 1990s with NYPD Blue, which joined the ABC Tuesday-night lineup on September 21, 1993. The setting was New York's fictional 15th Precinct, originally presided over by Lieutenant (and later Captain) Arthur Fancy (James McDaniel). Most of the stories revolved around the cases handled by a team of veteran cops, with one-half of that team represented by the thuggish, moody, emotionally unstable, but occasionally sensitive and sentimental Detective Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz). Andy's first partner was Det. John Kelly (David Caruso), who was just as tough as Andy but more compassionate. After all but ruining his career by trying to cover up a murder committed by his lover, mob-connected uniformed officer Janice Licalsi (Amy Brenneman), Kelly retired from the force. Also exiting the 15th around that same time was Kelly's ex-wife, attorney Laura Michaels (Sherry Stringfield), who'd been an eyewitness to the murder of the mob boss who nearly bumped off Sipowicz in the very first episode. Kelly's replacement was Detective Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits), who devoted himself to his work to overcome the recent death of his wife. Like his predecessor, Bobby was the polar opposite of his partner Sipowicz, but the two managed to become friends. Eventually, Bobby would marry again, taking co-worker Det. Diane Russell (Kim Delaney) as his bride, but their happiness was tragically brief; by the end of NYPD Blue's 1997-1998 season, Bobby Simone was dead of heart failure. The grieving Diane found brief consolation in the arms of Simone's replacement, Det. Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroder), but eventually transferred out of the 15th. The demise of Bobby was also a crushing blow to Sipowicz, who had already lost his 18-year-old son, Andy Jr. (Michael DeLuise) in a shoot-out. Within the next few years, Andy would endure the death of his erstwhile sweetheart, Assistant DA Sylvia Costas (Sharon Lawrence), and also the passing of Bobby's replacement, Dan Sorenson, who was killed in a botched undercover operation. On a more upbeat note, Andy doted on Theo (Austin Majors), his son by Sylvia Costas; he enjoyed a December-May romance with Det. Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross); and, surprisingly, in light of Andy's homophobia, he developed a close friendship with openly gay administrative aide John Irvin (Bill Brochtrup). Sipowicz also managed to get along with his new partner John Clark Jr. (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), even though Andy and John Clark Sr. despised each other.
Among the other prominent NYPD Blue characters over the years were Barrio-born Det. James Martinez (Nicholas Turturro), who had a short but torrid affair with Det. Adriene Lesniak (Justine Miceli) before being promoted to sergeant and transferred to another precinct; Martinez's replacement, Det. Baldwin Jones (Henry Simmons), who was romantically involved with new Assistant DA Valerie Heywood (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon); unhappily married Det. James Medavoy (Gordon Clapp), whose main squeeze was voluptuous administrative assistant Donna Abandando (Gail O'Grady) -- at least until Donna quit police work to sign on with a major computer firm; Lt. Tony Rodriguez (Esai Morales), who replaced Lt. Fancy as "skipper" of the 15th precinct; and Det. Rita Ortiz (Jacqueline Obradors), who transferred to the 15th because her husband wanted to get her out of the vice squad. Beyond the above-catalogued intramural relationships and requisite excessive violence, NYPD Blue is best known for breaking down such network-TV taboos as profanity and nudity, though what seemed to be scandalous when the series originally signed on was virtually kid stuff in the early years of the 21st century. Consummately produced, directed, written, and acted, the series had not only ridden high in the ratings ever since its inception, but as of 2003, the program had garnered 15 Emmy awards. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi