Blue Bloods Review: Family In Law

BLUE BLOODS: Tuesday 1st February, Sky Atlantic, 10.30pm

And so to the launch of the eagerly anticipated Sky Atlantic, or ‘The Home of Stories’ as Murdoch’s mob have dubbed it. Tonight we will see the premieres of two big budget American dramas that have already been very successful across the pond: Boardwalk Empire and Blue Bloods.

The latter will ultimately play second fiddle in tonight’s schedule; it aint easy competing with a $65m budget after all, but with Tom Selleck on board, it should be worth a look. Blue Bloods is a police drama about the Reagons; a multi-generational family of cops in New York City. Fronting this house of law-enforcers is Selleck’s character Frank, the City’s Police Commissioner who “runs his department as diplomatically as he runs his family.â€? Which if his Sunday lunch is anything to go by, isn’t good news for his department..

Tonight’s pilot concentrates on the backstory of the family. Frank’s father Henry is an outspoken former Police Chief who says what he thinks, which presumably explains why people are constantly telling Frank that “he should have learned that lesson” from his old man. Defending his choices, Henry tells his grandkids: “I got a clean conscience and I can sleep at nightâ€?. Then there’s Frank’s three children: eldest son Danny, an Iraqi War vet with questionable interrogation methods; daughter Erin, an assistant who is at hand to (begrudgingly) solve the legal battles that the family inevitably become embroiled in and youngest son Jamie, a Harvard graduate who turns down a career at the bar for a career on the beat. Unsurprisingly, his girlfriend is not pleased. Anyway, he’s soon faced with the prospect of joining a secret police investigation (The Blue Templar?!) that even his father doesn’t know about. Oh and Frank’s other son died in the line of duty, we’ll be hearing more of that later though..

With the foundations of this series rather clumsily exposited, we move on to the actual plot: A nine year old Latino girl is snatched while walking home from school, with no clues other than a cuddly toy at the scene and a sighting of a white van. Conveniently however – what with this being a TV show and all – the search for a suspect is narrowed down significantly when it transpires that the toy is a prototype from China that only three people in the world own. Cue the first clichéd cop line (don’t worry, there’s plenty): “The haystack just got a little smallerâ€?.

If there’s one thing that niggles in this opening episode of Blue Bloods, it’s the use of thinly-veiled character background, which often comes off as forced and not-at-all subtle. Yes, it’s the first episode of a new show and we need to know who these people are, but you get the feeling it could have been done a little more smoothly. On their way to the next suspect’s address, we already know that the clock for Danny and his sidekick (Starsky & Hutch in multi-racial form) is ticking, because the abducted girl is diabetic and requires regular injections. However, the friendly scriptwriters decide that this implicit knowledge is not enough: Tension, we need more tension!

“How much longer have we got with this diabetes thing? A couple of hours?â€?
“If that. Teresa’s type 1 diabetes: she could die of insulin shockâ€?.

Err, yeah… We know.

Another plot dump subtly introduces the fact that Danny is a tortured soul who has been to Iraq but has perhaps not yet recovered emotionally. And all in one neat sentence!

“Danny, dya ever see that doctor? There’s no shame in talking about what went on in Iraq.â€?

Elsewhere, it is clear that Blue Bloods’ point of difference is ‘a cop show with a moral backbone’. The moral debate that takes place at the family dinner scene serves as a device to get the audience questioning the use of police brutality and force: does the end justify the means? (In this case, the ‘means’ involving shoving a suspect’s head down a toilet to save aforementioned child). A political move by the show perhaps, because in the circumstances, you are inclined to agree with Danny (aka the toilet shover).

However, for all its slightly awkward moments, Blue Bloods has enough scope and character(s) to develop into a gripping police drama that demonstrates the moral dilemmas and political consequences involved in policing. While in this episode, we’re left with an ‘all’s well that ends well’ feeling, what’s left to be seen is if things will always be this hunky-dory. Somehow, with a clandestine police force bubbling under the surface, I’m guessing not…