Judge Adam Arseneau has blue ba...oh, never mind.
Our reviews of Blue Bloods: The Fourth Season (published October 7th, 2014), Blue Bloods: The Second Season (published December 16th, 2012), and Blue Bloods: The Third Season (published September 23rd, 2013) are also available.
Honor. Justice. Family. It's in their blood.
There are a lot of cop shows out there—but not all of them have Tom Selleck's moustache.
Facts of the Case
Police work is more than just a job for the Reagans. For them, it's a family affair. NYC Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I.) runs the police force in the greatest city in the world, a position his father (Len Cariou, Damages) held until his bold opinions drove him out of office. Frank's oldest son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg, Runaway) is a streetwise detective. Danny's sister Erin (Bridget Moynahan, I, Robot) is a fearless assistant district attorney, and their youngest sibling Jamie (Will Estes, American Dreams) quit law school to continue the family tradition as a newly indoctrinated beat cop.
Blue Bloods: The First Season contains all twenty-two episodes from
the show's first season, presented on six DVDs:
Seriously, there are hundreds of cop shows. Thousands, even. Blue Bloods might not rise above to the top of the pile, but solid performances from its cast, solid production values, and a propensity for hosting morally ambiguous family dinners helped the show land a coveted second season renewal on CBS. Not bad for a show with a New Kid on the Block as its leading man.
On the surface, Blue Bloods is your standard New York police procedural drama; a mystery-of-the-week that gets wrapped up neatly in a single episode with the obligatory foot chase thrown in for good measure. Where the show differentiates itself is that Blue Bloods is a family affair. The Reagan family is police royalty; the patriarch is the former NYC police commissioner, the son is the current commissioner, and the grandchildren are a seasoned detective and a rookie beat cops. Even the granddaughter, an assistant DA, gets in on the action. Every episode features the Reagan family, sitting down to a family dinner, debating the moral and legal ethics of the mystery-of-the-week. It's gimmicky, to be sure, a force-fed ethics lesson that smacks of self-righteousness and lazy writing. On the other hand, it helps massage things along, breaking up the monotony and lending a family element to a genre that tends to avoid unnecessary distractions like subtext and backstory. You either like it or you hate it, and it is very central to your overall enjoyment of the show.
The Reagans are an interesting bunch. Having family members placed throughout all ranks and files of the NYPD gives Blue Bloods a unique perspective. You've seen every single one of these plot lines before, done far better on any number of Law and Order variants, but Blue Bloods presents it from all angles. We get the fresh-faced and ideological beat cop, trudging on the streets, an everyman with eyes everywhere. We get a seasoned yet angry detective, jaded and cynical after years of watching bad guys go free, ready to bend procedure to serve justice. We get a wise, but exasperated, father figure, the police commissioner, a brilliant cop now relegated to desk duty because he answered the call to serve. We get the retired (formerly disgraced) grandfather who ran the city until he ran his mouth and lost the support of the politicians. We even get the occasional courtroom scene with the ADA granddaughter, giving us the unflinching lawyer perspective. Blue Bloods covers the spread like someone playing roulette with penny chips. Each episode involves all of the family in some capacity, from the head office of the commissioner to the coffee shop on the street, and each family member has their own unique role to play in serving justice. Then they all have family dinner together and argue about it.
Blue Bloods is a well-assembled show with strong acting performances from its cast. Shot in NYC, the show has that great vibe that only New York really has, and even though television producers want to think Toronto or Vancouver can stand in for it, they are wrong. I've never been a Donnie Wahlberg fan myself, but his take on Danny grows on you. He has a nice balance of sardonic grit and moral fiber. Tom Selleck' moustache is iconic, and its human host is equally good. He doesn't say a lot, but Frank has a quiet wisdom and patience befitting the kind of commissioner you'd like in real life—someone who doesn't want the job, but serves at the pleasure of his city.
Truth be told, I like the family gimmick more than I like the actual show itself. The smoke and mirrors never quite compensates from the fact that we've seen these storylines a hundred times already, and on far better shows. If we had genuinely solid material to engage the Reagans, Blue Bloods could be one of the best cop shows on television. As it stands, it rarely transcends average.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Blue Bloods: The First Season looks sharp as a tack: well-balanced colors, clean details and respectable black levels for digital video. White levels are decent and well-represented. Audio comes in both 5.1 surround and stereo, and neither have the kind of presence one might expect. Bass response is average and dialogue is clean, but everything lives in the center channel with minimum response in the rear channels.
For extras, we get six featurettes: "Keeping it in the Family," "Code Blue," "Creating the Characters," "Keeping It Real," "Analyzing the Scene," and "Empire State of Mind," as well as the obligatory deleted scenes, some gag reels, and some network on-air launch programs.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Blue Bloods comes out of the gates with a tasty premise—a secret organization within the police department called the Blue Templars—and an innuendo that someone in the family might be involved. For the next twenty episodes, this premise is almost entirely ignored, save for about ten seconds at the end of each episode. The payoff is total garbage. The finale of the show (spoiler-free) is heartbreaking in its ineptitude.
Instead of distinguishing itself from the myriad of other police procedural shows by actually introducing a long-running mystery, we get a clichéd-ridden fizzle that barely justifies the time investment to see it pay off. Talk about squandering a golden opportunity.
Blue Bloods is a competent enough show to deserve its second season renewal, but only time will tell if the show can deliver the long-term goods. For this Judge, there's not enough here to justify the time investment. With only a few hours in the day to watch television, there's just no reason to waste time on the average stuff.
Guilty. The Reagans are worth visiting for the occasional Sunday night dinner, but I wouldn't want to live there.
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