Edward Burns' new "Public Morals" belongs to that small group of TV shows whose title has been previously used by another series. But back in the day, 1996 to be precise, the original "Public Morals" was a TV lightning-rod. Set in the squad room of the NYPD's vice division, it was the first comedy for CBS from Steven Bochco Productions, the company known for such gold-plated dramas as "Hill Street Blues," "NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law." But, due to a pilot laced with racy language, it was controversial from the get-go. Several small-market affiliates said they would not air the show without changes being made; some advertisers refused to sponsor it. Talk about much ado about nothing: The toned-down episode that eventually aired was trashed by nearly every major TV critic. "Public Morals" aired only once.
Here are five things to know:
ABC (home of "NYPD Blue") had rejected the pilot, but CBS picked it up. "One of the good things about being the third-place network is that you are pushed to take those kind of chances and sometimes really exciting things come out of it," said CBS chief Les Moonves.
After garnering a measly 8 share in its first airing on Oct. 30, 1996, CBS put it on hiatus. No further episodes were ever aired.
Newsday's review was typical of the response: "NYC vice-squad cops trade sleazy rejoinders in a nonstop quipfest that has not a smidgen of actual human feeling."
It featured an ensemble cast of mostly unknown actors, among them Donal Logue ("Gotham") as a boorish, Hawaiian-shirt wearing detective.
Also in the squad room was "NYPD Blue's" John Irvin (aka Upstairs John), the gay administrative assistant played by Bill Brochtrup. He had been "transferred" from "Blue" into this show, returning to Sipowicz & Co. when "Public Morals" was axed.