Gritty police series focusing on the uniformed police officers of the 74th Precinct in southern Brooklyn.
22 Episodes of 60 minutes duration. CBS 1997-98
This Steven Bochco police drama combined elements of his previous hits, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. Like “Hill Street,” the action was set in a police station; and not unlike NYPD Blue, it had a gritty look and feel. And it added something new to the Bochco formula: a high amount of violence. In fact, the series pilot was the first broadcast television episode to be rated TV-MA (for mature audiences) under the then-new content rating system. Little wonder: In the first ten minutes, a gunman went on a shooting rampage, killing police officers and bystanders until he was captured and later died. It turned out that the boyfriend of Officer Anne-Marie Kersey (Yancy Butler) was gunned down; when the suspect was finally secured in the station house, Kersey kicked him–and the gunman died of internal injuries, leading to an investigation by the much despised Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). Because the suspect was black, there was an outcry of racism. In the end, no one was punished.
Otherwise, it was business as usual for the 74th Precinct in New York’s Brooklyn area. There was Sergeant Francis "Frank" Donovan (Jon Tenney), who gave out the morning duties to the beat cops (and was an informant for IAB, who reported to Lieutenant Stan Jonas , played by veteran Bochco player James B. Sikking). Street cop Jimmy Doyle (Dylan Walsh) had a younger brother Terry (Patrick McGaw) who left the police academy in disgrace but later foiled an Irish gang’s bank robbery plan and joined the vice unit. Kersey, whose attack on the gunman continued to haunt her, had a short-lived affair with Donovan. Jimmy Doyle’s partner was Phil Roussakoff (Michael DeLuise, from “NYPD Blue”), who was more likely to use force or belligerence than reason to get out of a jam. He briefly dated Jimmy and Terry’s sister Kathleen (A.J. Langer). Another cop, Jack Lowery (Titus Welliver) was facing his own personal problems, including his selfish wife Yvonne; she eventually died. Lowery than took up with his partner, Nona Valentine (Klea Scott), which didn’t sit well with her former boyfriend, Officer Clement Johnson (Richard T. Jones). And there was rookie cop Hector Villaneuva (Adam Rodriguez), who was mentored by the more experienced officers. Keeping the team together was desk sergeant Richard Santoro (Gary Basaraba), whose long years on the force led him to provide good, sound advice.
On paper, Brooklyn South had all the makings of another Bochco hit. But early episodes were rocky, with too many characters and a lack of focus. By mid season, the spotlight was placed on fewer characters, and the stories became more cohesive, bringing “South” close to the quality of Bochco’s best dramas. But in direct competition with ABC’s Monday Night Football and NBC’s news magazine Dateline, it ranked 73rd among all shows on the broadcast networks. Co-creator David Milch (who was also the heart and soul of NYPD Blue) explained the situation to the “New York Daily News”:
"`NYPD Blue's' crucifixion for a year (due to its language and sexual content) before it got on the air was, in fact, a kind of blessing. It gave me an extra year to conceive the show. So, what took us 2 ½ years with `NYPD Blue,' we tried to accomplish with `Brooklyn South' in six weeks. And some of that shows."
But time was not on the show’s side; CBS canceled Brooklyn South after its first and only season. In fact, the 1997-98 season was not a good one for Bochco. Another of his CBS series, the maligned comedy Public Morals, was pulled after one episode. And his final drama under his old contract with ABC, Total Security, was also canceled. In retrospect, Brooklyn South was certainly most deserving of a second chance.
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