THE SERIES “Blue Bloods”
WHEN | WHERE Friday at 10 p.m. on CBS/2
SERIES GRADE (so far) B
The landmark will come and go without much fuss. No “EW” cover. No “trending” on Google. Twitter will remain mostly silent. Sure, when “Blue Bloods” airs the 150th episode on Friday, there will have been the obligatory cast interviews, mostly on CBS. But in a TV ecosystem where the decibel level of hype approaches a roar most days, this will scarcely register a whisper.
“Blue Bloods” — a drama about a multigenerational family of NYPD cops — draws 10 million-plus viewers every week, despite airing on Fridays, a night that attracts the second-least number of viewers (after Saturday). CBS just ordered an eighth season; “Bloods” will surpass “Magnum, P.I.” as Tom Selleck’s longest-running paycheck next fall.Who needs hype with this kind of success? My six reasons why “Bloods” is a winner:
1. Older people watch. With its viewers’ median age of 63 and change, according to the most recent figures, “Bloods” has the oldest audience of any network show. Older viewers are stable, loyal and reliable. They also know what they like and don’t need some critic or Twitter feed to tell them what they should like.
2. The cops are the good guys. Most uniformed cops on TV series don’t always come out so well, do they? But “Bloods” celebrates the NYPD, and celebrates its values. The men and women in blue are the heroes
.3. Selleck is a rock star. OK, he’s an aging rock star (75), but a rock star, nonetheless. That ‘stache will be in the Smithsonian some day. If at all possible, that voice, too.
4. Leonard Goldberg. Surely you recall Goldberg, 83, once Aaron Spelling’s partner, now executive producer of “Bloods.” For decades Goldberg knew exactly what viewers wanted. Sometimes they wanted schlock (“Charlie’s Angels”). Sometimes they wanted Shatner (“T.J. Hooker”). Sometimes they wanted to hear Tattoo say “Da plane, da plane.” (“Fantasy Island”). Mostly they just wanted the show to end at the closing credits — without some complex arc, or morally ambiguous anti-hero plumbing the depths of his blighted soul. “Bloods” is old-school TV. It ends at the credits.
5. The Sunday family dinner. But wait, say you the fan. “Bloods” is all about ambiguity and urgent questions of right and wrong, or right from wrong. Every episode pivots on some moral quandary that has stumped Frank’s sons Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) and Jamie (Will Estes). That’s where the family dinner comes in. This ingenious plot device allows Frank — without badge or uniform — to resolve these thorny problems with his own weapons of choice: Decency, honor, common sense. And if Frank can’t quite sink this basket, so to speak, then his own dad at the other end of the table, Henry (Len Cariou), follows up with the dunk.
6. “Bloods” is pure formula. Formulas are the language of TV, also the language “Bloods” viewers understand. Every episode opens with the tease (typically a crime), followed by the first act where the B story is set. Sunday dinner usually falls somewhere between the 4th and 5th acts — mostly because that’s where Danny, Jamie and lawyer daughter Erin (Bridget Moynahan) get some clarity on their ethical/professional dilemma. All storylines are resolved by the end of the 5th act — ideally with Frank conferring a bit of paternal wisdom.
BOTTOM LINE “Blue Bloods” is all meat and potatoes, no salad. Its values are generally conservative, its resolutions reassuring. It believes in the importance of cops, and it believes in their mission. But it also can be stodgy, and it’s diversity-challenged, with not a single lead played by a black actor (although one of the main supporting characters is a Latina). That is just inconceivable for a New York-based show. At least the cast is good, the star big, the intentions honorable and the message comforting.