(NOTE: This column originally ran in The Star-Ledger of NJ on Feb. 27,
Farewell to NYPD Blue: The Best Episodes
By Alan Sepinwall
(With links to the original reviews or summaries where
- "Pilot" (9/21/93): After all
the hype and boycotts over the nudity and language, the series premiere
had to deliver substance as well as style. Boy, did it ever: comedy
(Andy's profane kiss-off to future wife Sylvia), tragedy (Andy is shot and
nearly killed by a mobster), sex (John Kelly gets lucky with both his
ex-wife and Officer Janice Licalsi) and suspense (we find out that Janice
is working for the mob herself and has been ordered to murder Kelly). A
- "Emission Accomplished"
(10/19/93): When James Martinez suspects that an elderly cop committed
a murder, Kelly tries to keep his protege from winding up in Internal
Affairs for the rest of his career - a fate he failed to prevent for his
first partner, now a department outcast. The closing scene, with Kelly's
ex-buddy bagpiping an Irish lullaby in a graveyard at sunset, is a real
- "NYPD Lou" (11/2/93): See
story. Also features the first appearance of Andy Jr., then estranged
for years from his dad.
- "Guns 'N Rosaries" (5/10/94): Martinez kills a black man who
was about to shoot partner Greg Medavoy, but the victim's gun disappears
and a racial firestorm ensues. To make matters worse, Janice's talk with
John's priest convinces her to confess to the murder of Angelo Marino and
his driver. The last two scenes - the first with Kelly putting a gun in a
reporter's face, the second with Kelly trying to save Janice from a
humiliating perpwalk - show just why everyone but the people who worked
with Caruso were sorry to see him leave.
- "Heavin' Can Wait"
(11/14/95): Sylvia's morning sickness, an awful child murder and
Diane's decision to call Bobby instead of AA sponsor Andy when she thought
she might drink combine to set the two partners against each other for the
first time. Perfect as Franz and Smits were as allies, they were even
better on those infrequent occasions when the partnership was on the
- "The Backboard Jungle"
(1/16/96): While investigating a drive-by shooting at a charity
basketball game, Andy antagonizes a black community leader, jeopardizing
the case and his working relationship with Lt. Fancy. Sipowicz's use of
the N-word, followed by a scene where he suggests the shooters "decided to
act their color," served as a cold, hard slap in the face to viewers who
wanted to see him as a lovable bigot.
- "A Death in the Family" (5/7/96)
& "Closing Time" (5/14/96): Long
before it became a cliche for the writers to kill off one of Sipowicz's
loved ones, the arc dealing with the murder of Andy Jr. was one of the
series' most powerful, especially the portrait of Andy falling off the
wagon and getting the snot beaten out of him while drunkenly trying to
give his dead son one final lesson in policework.
- "It Takes a Village"
(11/4/97): The two leads each confront their darkest impulses: a sex
offender touches a nerve when he suggests Sipowicz might get off on
beating up suspects, while Bobby is consumed with self-loathing when he
cons a grandmother into telling her murdering grandsons to confess without
a lawyer present.
- "Hearts and Souls"
(11/24/98): Yes, it seems like Simone was in that hospital bed
forever, but his swan song was a work of art, switching back and forth
between the physical and metaphysical worlds as Bobby and his friends each
make their peace with his impending death.
- "Raging Bulls" (12/15/98):
A fight six years in the making, as Sipowicz and Lt. Fancy finally come to
blows over a racially-motivated police shooting, with a confused Danny
Sorensen the only thing keeping them from making it a 12-rounder. A great
showcase for Franz, James McDaniel and Rick Schroder, back before his
character became a total freaking loon.
- "Oh, Mama" (9/21/04):
Sipowicz and John Clark's investigation into a high school murder leads
them to the home of a teenage boy whose obese, delusional, stark naked
mother is molesting him. The case gets closed, but Clark is faced with a
no-win scenario: leave the fragile boy with his mom or place him in a
juvenile facility filled with violent delinquents. He does the latter,
then turns to Andy and asks, "What did we just do?" Easily the dark
highlight of the Mark-Paul Gosselaar years.