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TV Review: Blue Bloods Is All About Family

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I will be among the first to stand up and complain that there are too many cop and / or legal shows on the air currently (not to mentioned medical dramas). But amid all of the mediocre shows, a few stand out. I find myself very much enjoying CBS’s new Blue Bloods. I think that’s because each member of the family works in a different part of the New York City police force or legal system, and there is almost as much family plot as there is murder investigation. I love that every episode includes a scene where the four generations of Reagans sit and debate what is going on in their lives. Those are my favorite moments in the series.

Last night’s episode was called, appropriately enough, “Family Ties”. Like most of the series’s episode titles, it can mean a couple of different things. One was the mob connection, and the revenge being sought out after a prominent boss’s son is killed at his engagement party. Bonus points to the writers for making the bride’s mom Jackie’s (Jennifer Esposito, who should be a main character!) high school friend. It was a gripping, compelling story all on its own, not to mention that part that will satisfy those fans of cop shows who watch.

The other meaning relates to a plot following Erin (Bridget Moynahan), who works for District Attorney Charles Rosselini (Bobby Cannavale). Rosselini is running for mayor against the incumbent, Frank Ruzzo (Bruce Altman). Erin is assigned to pursue corruption charges against Ruzzo’s deputy, raising Rosselini’s profile, and dealing a blow against Ruzzo at the same time. Complicating matters is that Erin’s father, Frank (Tom Selleck), is the police commissioner, and anything that reflects poorly on Ruzzo’s administration also hurts Frank. And then Rosselini had to go ahead and kiss newly-divorced Erin last night, so there are all kinds of ties!

Side bar, it is no surprise to me that Frank is easily the best character on a show of great characters. Selleck’s talent is immense, and he chooses TV roles very carefully. As the boss with impeccable professional detachment, as well as the very loving family man and widower, Frank is one of the best characters around. No wonder Selleck took the part. It will likely be the defining role of the next stage of his career.

Of course, more than one Reagan frequently has a stake in whatever case is going on. Most often the connection is between Frank and his son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg, who will be touring with his old musical group, The New Kids On the Block, this summer, which seems bizarre on so many levels). This makes sense because Frank is in charge of the entire police force, and Danny’s occupation often delivers him the highest profile cases around. In that regard, it’s easy to see how their jurisdictions would overlap. In a similar vein, Erin is one of the best assistant DAs, so she often gets involved in those same stories.

Now the three of them all being on the same case has happened before on multiple occasions, so often that it does begin to stretch believability sometimes. Thankfully, only rarely has youngest son Jamie (Will Estes), a rookie on the beat, gotten drawn in, and usually only when every cop in the city is involved in something huge. Instead, Jamie has been pursuing his own mystery related to the death of his brother Joe, an event that pushed Jamie to give up a promising career as a lawyer and put on the uniform.

Some critics have complained about Jamie’s investigation, feeling that it adds an unnecessary continuing arc through the series, wishing Blue Bloods would instead focus on the more temporary cases of the week. If you read many of my reviews, or follow my twitter account, you know I grow bored of procedurals quickly, and so you should not be surprised to learn that I think those critics are dumb. The show does need that ongoing arc. It has been a little slow moving for my taste. Often episodes, such as last night’s, give only one scene for Jamie to find another piece of the puzzle. I feel like Estes hasn’t been as good as the other stars thus far, so I don’t really miss him when he’s not around. I more like his scenes because I love his partner, Renzulli (Nicholas Turturro). However, I’m ready for his plot to take center stage, and provide the chance for Estes to prove he belongs on screen alongside Selleck, Wahlberg, et al.

While I don’t believe Estes has been underused so much, I am disappointed that Frank’s father, Henry (Len Cariou), gets so little to do. Sure, he’s retired, but he’s also a busy body. He likes to know what’s going on with his son and grandchildren. I think Blue Bloods might benefit from him getting a little more nosy. Either that, or give him a consulting position with Frank, Frank’s office, the Mayor, or the DA. I know Henry left the force under less than ideal circumstances, though they haven’t been discussed in detail, but I could see it being enough time passed, and his family being entrenched enough into local politics, to let Henry be a little more active.

Surprisingly, despite all of that family stuff among the Reagans out serving the city, little attention is paid to other members of the family. For instance, Danny’s wife, Linda (Amy Carlson), has gotten an occasional meaty scene, which she always handles wonderfully, but I’d like to see more of her. Erin’s precocious daughter, Nicky (Sami Gayle), perhaps annoying mostly because of her age and arrogance, has had more scenes than Linda, and that is a crying shame. How about a more home-focused episode every once in awhile?

All said, Blue Bloods does touch on the typical legal and law enforcement shows, but has enough other elements to keep viewers who like to think interested. That was not a knock against the aforementioned genre, but shows within that category are frequently seen as mindless escapism, which has its place, but is not generally my cup of tea. The different points of view allow for a lot of flexibility from week to week, and the cast is amazing. Please check out Blue Bloods Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com