Click here for a copy of Bobby and Diane's wedding vows.

Some thoughts on "Honeymoon at Viagra Falls," the 90-minute fifth season finale of NYPD Blue, after, as usual, the credits and a quick synopsis:


Story by David Milch & Bill Clark
Teleplay by David Milch and Scott Williams
Directed by (and guest-starring) Paris Barclay

SUMMARY: Cohen helps Andy and Bobby with the investigation of a double-murder after it looks like a fellow member of the bar was involved; Jill and Diane struggle to find a missing girl with many admirers; Greg wonders whether he should ask out a pretty witness with a more-than-passing resemblance to Donna; Andy gets some great news from Doc Mondzac, as well as a prescription to pep up his post-surgery love life; After a day of failing to find a free hour, Bobby and Diane finally make it to City Hall to tie the knot.


I could get used to this 90-minute thing.

Now, I probably wouldn't want one every week, and I'm sure that it would make several folks at Bochco Land extremely postal, but in terms of season-enders, this may be the way to go. While I doubt "Honeymoon at Viagra Falls" would make an all-time top 10 episodes list, it's certainly the best season finale the show's done since year one's "Rockin' Robin," and in some ways is better than that one.

While the show got caught up in cliffhanger fever at the end of last year, Milch & Co. wisely decided to mellow out for this year's finale, not only letting the characters -- and the viewers -- go into summer content, but giving a strong object lesson on the reasons we all love the show.

Unlike the equally extra-long "Lost Israel, Part 2," which focused largely on one case and at times felt padded out, "Honeymoon at Viagra Falls" bounced around so many different storylines and characters that very few seconds felt wasted. The 90-minute length not only gave the time to tell two full-length police stories, but devote an ample amount of time to the personal lives of five of the main characters (counting Sylvia).

Even the guest stars benefitted from the bonus half hour. The bit with James and the tight-lipped ex-Negro Leaguer, for instance, would never have survived the final cut of an hour show, nor would we have had the time to meet the two well-drawn red herring suspects in the kidnapping case (including frequent Bochco player George Wyner as the second).

Speaking of guest stars, howzabout the fine acting job by one Paris Barclay as the justice of the peace? A very nice, economical bit of work, as the justice starts out just trying to get home after a long day's work before looking at the loving couple getting all dewy-eyed, which, of course, makes him deliver the rest of the vows with much greater sincerity. Give that man an Emmy - well, for directing, at least. The leisurely pace of the show suits Paris more than most, and even moreso at this extra length. A previous Bochco cop show, the legendary Hill Street Blues, featured a similar quickie civil ceremony between Frank Furillo and Joyce Davenport, but the extra time here -- not only for all the small details of the wedding like the other bride loaning Diane her flowers, but for the constant silent fretting of the two over whether they'd make it to the altar at all -- gave Bobby and Diane's wedding added power and made this a very touching moment in Blue history. I even got a tad misty-eyed, I must admit.

While we're on the subject of misty-eyed moments, Andy breaking the good news to Sylvia came fairly close. I am so glad that Milch decided not to try to keep us on the hook all summer with Andy's medical fate. We all know, up in the cranial area, that Andy's not gonna die -- he's got a new partner to break in early next year, after all -- but down in the pulmonary area, it can still get stressful to be stuck all summer waiting for an answer. I also adored the final scene, simply because it gave us a very rare glimpse of Andy Sipowicz, happy man. Aside from the wedding, Theo's birth, and a few scenes with Andy Jr. shortly before he died, Andy has barely even smiled over the past five years, so to see him giddy (well, as giddy as a gruff guy can get) and proud like he was in bed was a real treat. My one question is this: how much stock does Milch own in Pfizer (the company that makes Viagra), and how many racehorses will he be able to buy off of this episode? :)

Greg meeting the Donna clone I liked, not so much because I want to see that particular affair rehashed -- been there, done that, and at times not well -- but because it gave us the most genuine Greg/James moment in a long time. Part of the reason all the James eye-rolling has driven me nuts is that it's way out of character. These guys are longtime partners and best friends who've done everything for each other. Oftentimes, Greg puts his foot in his mouth, but I've got a couple of friends with similar difficulty (and I've been known to speak before I think, myself) and I usually just grin, bust my friend's chops for saying what s/he said, and move on. James' reaction to Greg's shyness was a much better view of their relationship: James knows how neurotic Greg can get and was patient with him as he tried to encourage him. That scene also contained one of several Line of the Week candidates (See below). If this partnership's going to be continued next year, all I ask is that Mr. Milch remembers that these guys, however clueless they may occasionally appear, are well-meaning buddies.

Speaking of buddies, it sure looks like Jill and Diane have reached that point. One of the definite plus signs I'll take away from this season is the way the relationship between these two has developed. It would have been so easy to keep the two as wary partners forever, off of the way Jill and Bobby dated while Bobby and Diane were in an off-again mode. Instead, the two have bonded nicely, and while some could argue that Diane gets more out of the friendship -- she's too messed-up to usually be anyone else's support system -- I think part of the reason Jill likes Diane is precisely that: she enjoys having somebody to occasionally mother while she's away from her boys.

And howzabout the two lovely ladies on the job, throwing punches and taking names? Jill's slap of the pedophile wasn't shocking to me at all; if anything, I wondered why she hadn't slugged some skel sooner. And by making that sick twist enjoy being hit and threatened by two women, on top of everything else, James McDaniel got one brief, shining moment to demonstrate exactly how powerful he can be. You could argue that Fancy's entrance undercut Jill and Diane's performance, but Diane was the one who caught on to the guy in the first place.

While I'm on the subject of powerful men, Jimmy Smits sure trotted out Angry Bobby in a big way this week, didn't he? While I'd rather see Smart Bobby on a more regular basis, when Jimmy gets mad, he actually manages to upstage Franz a lot of the time. The scene with Bobby throwing the killer up against the cage and threatening to hit him in his liver was pure dynamite. Even better was Andy and Bobby's restrained fury while interviewing Razor, especially once Bobby ordered him not to look at Cohen. The Sipowicz/Simone partnership may not be much longer for this world, but I'm loving it while it lasts.

This case also put an interesting spin on Cohen, who we've always seen as a very competent but very smart-alecky guy. Here, he was just as passionate as Sipowicz or Simone have ever been, but his objectivity and negotiating skills went right out the window. And, of course, Andy still refuses to say a kind word about the poor guy. :) One question, though: my memory of previous episodes has gotten fuzzier since I stopped summarizing, but didn't we already see a dirty attorney story this year?

I said above that "Honeymoon in Viagra Falls" gave a good lesson on why we love the show. Why do we love it? Because we care about the characters, and we care about them because they care about everyone else. Andy and Bobby care about a dead five-year-old boy. The men in the park all cared about that little girl. James, for all his eye-rolling, cares about his partner. And the two couples really care about each other. For a show with a lot of dark, depressing plots, there's a lot of love out there, and I was really feeling it here.

Some quick hits:

-I bumped into Gordon Clapp at ABC's fall schedule announcement party, and after pleasantries were exchanged, the first words out of my mouth were, "What were you doing with your sleeve last week?" He was dismayed -- in part because I was about the tenth person at the party to ask him this -- but acknowledged that the take they used was kind of confusing. The official party line: Greg was pinching himself to see if this was real.

-We got not one but two silent sequences tonight, and I'm starting to think it's too much of a good thing. If we're going to keep seeing these things, they need more of a stylistic shakeup next year. The show's almost never done multiple-scene montages (the only one that comes to mind was in the pilot); maybe that's the way to go.

-More proof I can't get away from this show: as I'm typing this review at the crack of dawn on Wednesday, the TV is in the background, and I just heard Dennis Franz's trademark cadence talking about his experience in Vietnam as part of a plug for TNT's Memorial Day schedule.

-For those still paying attention: Brooklyn South was not renewed by CBS, meaning we could be seeing a lot of faces from that show popping up on Blue next year, at least as guest stars.

-Lines of the Week: Lotsa good banter here (though I thought Diane's Sweet'N'Low speech was a bit much), so I'll pick one from each of the three major relationship storylines:

"Well, how you gonna do it?"
"Much as we always have, or I'm gonna be really pissed off!"
    -Jill & Diane

"You know how many thousand of cops have made social overtures off a case, Greg?"
"I suppose so."
"Even not countin' hookers."

    -James & Greg

"Want to see if we can get a twofer out of this medicine?"

    -Andy

That's it for this season, folks. If I have time during the summer, I'll crank out another season in review piece, so keep checking the newsgroup (or the website) on occasion. Thanks again for a great season to everybody over at Bochcoland.

See ya in the funny papers...


Alan Sepinwall * e-mail: sepinwal@force.stwing.upenn.edu

NYPD Blue page: http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~sepinwal/nypd.html

RANDOM QUOTE:

"Well, what *do* you believe in?"
"Well, I believe in the soul. The cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are overindulgent, overrated crap... I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone! I believe that there oughta be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, WET kisses that last three days. Good night.
"Oh my."