DVD Review: NYPD Blue (Season 06)

Changing up cast members on long-running police shows isn’t an unusual occurrence. The switch can be made as the result of a harsh reality such as when Michael Conrad passed away in the middle of Hill Street Blues. Sometimes the star gets too big for TV like when Michael Douglas left The Streets of San Francisco after producing an Oscar winning movie. Often an actor wants more money as what happened when David Caruso vanished from NYPD Blue. But nearly all of the time, the character’s departure is treated in a swift manner without too much effect on the show. The new character shows up and the old character barely leaves a ripple. Think of all the supporting cops that vanished from Hawaii Five-O without an exit interview. The departure of Jimmy Smits’ Detective Bobby Simone changed the formula for saying goodbye on NYPD Blue: Season 06.

Smits had arrived during the second season when actor David Caruso battled producers over his pay. Caruso’s Detective John Kelly was escorted out of the police station because of an Internal Affairs probe. It was not a painful changing of the guards. Sure there was a warming up period as Simone and Detective Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) became friends on the force. Things seemed fine for the characters until off camera Smits decided to not renew his contract with the show. He was ready to move on with his acting career. Instead of the usual farewell episode involving a transfer out of the precinct, Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues), David Milch (Deadwood) and other writers gave Simone a heart wrenching goodbye.

“Top Gum” starts the season off with what would seem like a normal episode. Simone and Sipowicz are investigating a murder case that’s being muddied by the victim’s father. The old man doesn’t want anyone to know that his son was gay. It’s hard to get to the truth when there’s so much denial. Later in the episode, Simone does a favor for a pal, but he starts to feel a little sick. What’s wrong? “Cop In a Bottle” investigates a hero officer who can’t recall his glory moment since he was blotto on the job. But all the investigations are forgotten when Simone needs the ambulance at a crime scene. There’s something seriously wrong with him. “Numb and Number” has the precinct trying to remain normal, but everyone is nervous about what’s wrong with Simone. He’s stuck in the hospital and his health is failing. “Brothers Keeper” gets extremely emotional as his condition gets even more dire. “Hearts and Souls” brings to an end Simone’s involvement on the show. Simone’s departure turned into on the of best episodes of the series.

Like at a real world police precinct, Simone’s desk would not remain empty for long. “Danny Boy” brings in a new detective to cover the position. Detective Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroder) arrived from Narcotics. He isn’t embraced so quickly because people are still mourning Simone. There’s also a lot of questions about his tactics and attitude during investigations. He might like to bend the rules a bit to strong arm the truth out of suspects. Schroder did his best to make people move on from his time as Ricky Schroder on Silver Spoons. He was no longer a goofy kid as he prowled the streets with Sipowicz.

The end of the season does shake Sipowicz to the core. He and Sorenson must shake the tree to get more evidence for the Cullinan murder trial. Andy’s girlfriend Sylvia Costas (Sharon Lawrence) is the lead prosecutor on the high profile case. She gets worried that her man is going to be destroyed by the defense attorney. She wants to protect him. But it turns out that she’s the one who really needs protection. This leads to a season ending gut punch that makes fans wonder what will happen to Sipowicz at the start of season seven.

NYPD Blue: Season 06 marks the halfway point of the show’s 12 year run. The season is catastrophic with beloved characters departing in slow and swift plot turns. Yet the show didn’t crumble with viewers turned off that their favorite faces were missing. People are going to naturally change in a police department over the years. Some of the departed will be missed more than others. At the same time, there will be new arrivals that will make their own marks in the work place.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers have that ’90s shimmer to them. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. The levels are fine for the interrogations. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

No bonus features.

NYPD Blue: Season 06 is an emotionally devastating season for Detective Sipowicz. He loses so much in the course of a season. Yet he gains a few things.

Shout! Factory presents NYPD Blue: Season 06. Starring: Dennis Franz, Jimmy Smits, Kim Delaney, Rick Schroder and Sharon Lawrence. Boxset Contents: 22 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: June 24, 2014.

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