Judge David Johnson isn't "blue" about this NYPD series.
An inside look at New York's finest.
Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?
Facts of the Case
In 2002, ABC News approached the NYPD with a proposition. The alphabet channel requested full access to the department for 16 months, with cameras following beat cops and detectives through their daily routines. Filmmaker Terrence Wrong was tapped to produce the special. Despite some hesitation from senior police officials, Commissioner Ray Kelly approved the unheard-of access, hoping to grant the public a more intimate view into the lives of the officers and perhaps improve the department's image.
So the filming commenced, and the end product is this seven-episode series (divided into two discs for the DVD release) titled NYPD 24/7. Each episode runs a TV hour (read: about 45 minutes) and focuses on specific cops and the cases they're working. Dennis Franz of ABC's now-retired NYPD Blue hosts and narrates each episode.
So is NYPD 24/7 just a beefed-up version of COPS? That's a question you might be asking yourself now. I'll admit I was wondering the same thing getting into it. Simply put, each of these episodes is produced as either straight narratives or profiles, neither of which Fox's real-life cops show delves into. Plus, there's far less trailer trash in NYPD 24/7, which may immediately turn some people off.
Let's just launch into a closer look at what awaits you on this disc:
• "Shawna Kunkel Stabbing"
This is a good episode to kick off the series, and falls into the "narrative" category. The details of a homicide investigation are interesting, and the fact that this stuff is a lot harder than it looks on TV is illuminating. These are often long slogs through tedium to track down these scumbags, and are rarely resolved within a day. Good stuff.
• "Vic and Nicole"
Here we have two profiles of interesting characters. Hollifield is a no-nonsense badass whose trademark is pulling over bad drivers and throwing their keys. He is forthcoming about the effects of the job, and particularly, the effects of 9/11 (which had happened just one year before this was filmed). His comments are raw and moving; the next episode, which features him again, gets deeper. Papamichael is another interesting character, a saucy brunette who enjoys busting prostitution-seeking clowns. She can't hide her glee when she brings down a couple of BMW-driving preppies who tried to negotiate fees with her.
• "Vic and Alison"
• "Romona Moore Murder"
This is the richest episode of the series, and the best. The investigators go to Albany and Atlanta to find their perp, run into endless roadblocks, combat fatigue, and must reconcile with the angry community. It blends the finest of the profile and the narrative, and offers the most compelling and revealing look into what these detectives face.
• "Orchard Street Murder"
This is the lesser of the procedural installments, and it's anticlimactic. But again, there's value in seeing this: Not all investigations are wild successes.
• "Manhole Death and Crime Scene Unit"
This is the weakest of the bunch. The manhole death does little to intrigue, and the Crime Scene Unit, while populated by interesting detectives, just doesn't offer the fertile storytelling that other episodes have. Not to knock what these folks do, but after 16 months of nonstop filming, I'm surprised this made it to the top seven.
• "From the Boss to the Beat"
This is captivating stuff. This episode really brings back that feeling of unease and vulnerability that I, at least, felt. Watching the cops cordon off an entire city intersection to investigate a suspicious backpack is eye-opening. After hours of preparation and crowd control, and after suiting up in bulky bomb gear, it's revealed—of course—that the bag is harmless.
Overall, I'd say this series is a mixed bag. Some episodes just didn't strike me as deserving to be part of the final culmination of a year and half of filming, but the good stuff far outweighs the ho-hum. These detectives are crushingly human, can make mistakes, work themselves silly, risk their lives daily, and, unlike in the fictional world, do not always solve the case.
Cops aren't superheroes. But they are heroes.
On the technical end, NYPD 24/7 is serviceable. It's presented in the original full-frame aspect ratio, with decent quality coming through. Sound is an average mix of Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Extra are lamentable. A photo gallery and some profiles are it, a shame considering the wealth of footage and anecdotes that must have been produced.
For an intimate look into a non-sensationalized police department, NYPD 24/7 is top dog. Yeah, some episodes are downers, but I suppose that might be the point. But the extras? There's nothing to see here.
The accused is released, but Sipowicz is keeping an eye on you.
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