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'Blue Bloods: The First Season' Gives Us Too Much Blood, Not Enough Blues

Blue Bloods serves up plenty of its best product, Tom Selleck, but its procedural format kills any life outside the man with the mustache.

Blue Bloods

Cast: Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, Len Cariou
Length: 43 minutes/22 episodes
Studio: Panda Productions Inc., Paw in Your Face Productions, CBS Productions
Year: 2010
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Release date: 2011-09-13

Tom Selleck is back on TV! And he’s a cop! If that’s all you need to know in order to tune into Blue Bloods every Friday at 10EST or buy the first season on DVD, you’re in luck. It’s the only reason you’ll get.

Yes, Selleck has been on TV plenty of times over the last two decades. He’s had guest stints on The Closer, Boston Legal, Las Vegas, and even Friends. Despite this seeming ever-presence, he hasn’t appeared as a regular on a show considered his own since 1988, the final season of the massively popular, Magnum P.I.. Here, he's not quite a private “I”, but he's a cop. The top cop, at that.

Selleck stars as Frank Reagan, the NYC police commissioner and the head of a family of police officers (and one district attorney). Learning the characters’ names is unimportant. The only name that matters is Reagan, and the family members throw it around more often than they eat. So from here on out, I’ll refer to them as Papa Reagan, Grandpa Reagan, Sister Reagan, Angry Bro Reagan and Rookie Reagan.

Selleck, as Papa Reagan, is in a comfortable position. He’s clearly the show’s moral compass. Sitting at the head of a family dinner table across from his opinionated, wild card father, Selleck commands his clan with carefully considered wisdom and timely advice. He does little wrong and the mistakes he makes are calculated ones. In one of the six-disc set’s special features, Selleck describes himself in the role of “referee” when surrounded by his family. Though I don’t think he meant it in a negative manner, the term accurately describes the banality of decisions he has to make.

Sure, Selleck gets some good material every once in a while. He’s called on to save his daughter from an attacker. He calls out a few liars, cheaters, and law-breakers. His stern tone is ever dominant and his performance matches it. Selleck’s air of believability is the stuff of legend, and deservedly so. He acts and reacts with the best of them. Damn it if he doesn’t almost save this show.

The pilot shows some promise. We are briefly and succinctly introduced to the characters before settling into its genre’s stereotypes. We get a new case every episode because a case is solved every episode. How? Well, the good guys find the bad guys and then they confess. Yes. Every. Single. Time. Confessions. It’s preposterous, even though the cops go about getting the confessions slightly differently each time. Some are slightly manipulated into admitting their crimes while others are so scared they just blurt it out. Evidence usually comes into play, but lawyers usually aren’t even present at the time of interrogation.

The first episode does find the appropriate balance between family intimacy and case-by-case urgency. Rookie Reagan is graduating the police academy, so the family comes together more than just for the weekly family dinner (where some of the show’s best scenes occur). The case involves a missing girl and thus draws an applicable amount of fervor from the family members involved. It’s a solid premise for a pilot and we’re immediately drawn to the easily likable family. However, it’s apparent early on that disputes are settled in a little too neat and tidy of a fashion, probably for the benefit of the show’s older audience.

After the first episode, Blue Bloods becomes a procedural owing a giant debt to Law and Order. Yes, the Reagans still gather around the dinner table every Sunday and break bread. Yes, we’re probably given a little more of these characters’ personal lives than on the legendary, forever-in-reruns cops and court drama. The problem is none of the extra information matters because it never carries over from week to week.

It is absolutely infuriating how none of the intense emotional subject matter carries over from episode to episode – Rookie Reagan is dumped by his fiancé, and he is all but a-OK by the next episode. Angry Brother Reagan has a breakdown about the war near the end of another episode. It’s never spoken of again. Sister Reagan is attacked and nearly raped, but she’s out on the town with her pops the next time we see her. Perhaps one of the most egregious errors is the ignorance displayed after one of the Sunday dinner clan is kidnapped. There's no mention of it again, and the victim is literally putting on her party dress in the first scene of the next episode.

Nothing relevant sticks. There are less than a handful of story arcs that last the season, and those develop so slowly you can forget about them. The one and possibly only season-long subject is the existence of an old cops-only secret society called The Blue Templar. Rookie Reagan deals with them the most in the first season, but his experiences are limited to once every three episodes or so before the whole thing is tidily tied up in the finale. These sort of practices make it impossible for the audience to be concerned about the characters. If what happens in one episode has no effect on them down the line, why worry what happens at all?

I doubt most of the fans do, actually. Blue Bloods is made for a crowd who doesn’t want to remember too much from week to week. They like things simple, and that’s exactly why the CBS drama is a mild hit. For those of us who demand a little more, though, in these days of high quality television, it’s another disappointment. What makes it even more frustrating, though, is that quality shows with similar angles are getting nixed (I’m sorry, but I really miss The Chicago Code, a cop drama with much more street cred). Oh well. I guess there’s still progress to be made in some genres of television.

Anyone interested enough to check out the special features should be pleasantly surprised. There are deleted scenes for almost every episode, and they’re conveniently attached to their respective 42-minute originals. There are also six behind-the-scenes featurettes ranging from four- to 24-minutes apiece. All include interviews with the cast and crew, including comprehensive conversations with each of the regulars. None are essential viewing, so to speak, but they are well-produced and give the viewer anything and everything they could hope for – plus there’s a gag reel and promos used to advertise the pilot.

One note – it's slightly uncomfortable to watch creators Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess glowingly praise the show they created, but are no longer a part of thanks to the arrival of veteran Law & Order producer Ed Zuckerman. Still, it’s nice they were gracious enough to shoot the interviews or allow their interviews to be used.


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