Randomly stick a pin into any TV lineup, and you're bound to hit a police drama. But not all cop shows are created equal. As compared to your average CSI, CBS' Blue Bloods takes a more keep-it-in-the-family approach to police work by showing us the New York City police department through the eyes of Irish-American protagonists, the Reagans—cops one and all, through and through.
Sitting in the police commissioner's chair during the week and at the head of the family table on Sundays is Frank Reagan, a craggy-faced, mustachioed patriarch who handles police emergencies and family strains with the same sort of resolve that's bolstered by time and experience. Son Danny is the rumpled and ever-stubbled detective on the front lines. Balancing out opposite ends of that dramatic family core is Frank's dad and retired police chief, Henry, who fondly remembers the kick-'em-in-the-shorts, no-nonsense days of yore. Youngest sibling Jamie recently rejected a life of lawyering for the thankless job of beat cop. Add Frank's idealistic, assistant DA daughter, Erin, to the mix, and you've got a cop's-eye view of things from just about every strata of the law-enforcement world.
In CSI, the story is often preoccupied with the autopsy room, and episodes can be filled with graphic gore. And in other series, such as Law & Order: SVU, the crimes themselves can feel oppressively tawdry and, for some people, titillating. New waves of cop shows, from NBC's Hannibal to HBO's True Detective embrace deeply flawed antiheroes or darkly villainous primaries.
All of these shows can make it feel like the world is full of bad, bad people. Blue Bloods, while never veering far from the constructs of the established genre, offers something of an antidote to that: Here we see regular ol' people trying to do the proper thing. We see principled characters square off, showing that good people can sometimes disagree. And we see this family of Reagans trying to do right by the badges they wear and the city they protect.
"Blue Bloods combines the classic American values of family, service, love and hard work," writes Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture for the Media Research Center. "It's a cop drama that is in many ways reminiscent of Duck Dynasty even down to the family dinner. This is the kind of TV many Americans crave. As one of the stars said in a recent episode, the family's legacy is 'service.' When his son tells how four generations of the family served in our nation's wars he says, 'I want to be just like him.' That's celebrating the best of us."
Clearly, this is a family that loves its literal law and order. And through the Reagans' steadfast refusal to give up on one another, it's equally clear that this is a cop drama concerned more about the bonds of family then the bones of forensics.
Blue Bloods is not without its problems, naturally. It is on TV, after all. Sometimes those "family values" we've been talking about can actually rub the wrong way. (In a recent episode, one Reagan encourages her daughter to wait until she's in love to sleep with someone—not marriage.) Mild profanities filter into the script, too, and the criminal setups allow for depictions of violence as they run the gamut from child molesters to terrorist threats to cop killers.
Erin comes home to find her daughter, Nicky, and the girl's boyfriend already there—both adjusting their clothes. Erin doesn't say anything about the relationship until Nicky blurts out a few days later, "Why don't you just ask if I'm having sex?!" So Erin does, and Nicky says no—but that they've talked about it. Erin's response? That she trusts Nicky to make the right decision (confessing she herself was not a virgin when she married) but also saying that the two of them are not allowed in Nicky's bedroom anymore. (We later see the young couple kiss.)
Danny and Maria investigate the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, a case with similarities to one Danny worked seven years prior. And the father of the previous abductee tries to help. We're told that Danny encouraged him years ago to never lose hope, and "Now these parents need you to do the same for them," he says. (Danny ends up rescuing both girls, validating the father's hope for all these years.)
Frank's antiterrorism unit comes under fire, with others demanding more transparency. He refuses. Information, he says, "is a lot less valuable if your enemies know you have it." But he finally agrees to a modicum of outside oversight. The family drinks wine around the dinner table. We hear people say "d‑‑n" (twice), "h‑‑‑" (four times) and "p‑‑‑ed."
"What You See"
Frank receives an emergency call from the FBI, informing him that a local named Khalid Hassan—formerly known as Steve Hass—is in custody. Seems this radical Islamic convert had some messages from al-Qaeda on his home computer—along with plans for a car-mounted explosive that could blow up a city block. Somewhere out there is an accomplice in a dark SUV. And the e-mails indicate an explosive deadline of 5 p.m. The hunt is on.
At police headquarters, Frank wrestles with balancing public awareness with keeping the public from panicking. Danny is trying to get Khalid to talk, even as he tries unsuccessfully to connect with his wife and kids who are in the potential blast zone. Jamie is working a police blockade. And the SUV keeps moving ever closer to its target.
The episode raises the questions: Is racial profiling acceptable? And how much freedom would you sacrifice for the public safety? The answers aren't obvious, but a familial prayer of thanks—over a meal of beer and pizza—caps the happy conclusion.