Review: Blue Bloods 1×1

A super-format that's not so super

Blue Bloods

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: Not yet acquired

In the neverending quest for new ways to do cop and legal dramas, the concept of the “super-format” has emerged (I just made up that name so don’t go looking for it anywhere else. It’s mine). So you want to do cop shows, but you also quite like the whole lawyer thing as well? Well, how about Law & Order, where you get both cops and lawyers: a twofer super-format. Or maybe you quite like stories about guys on patrol, rookie cops and detectives? Well, how about Southland, then? That’s a threefer super-format. Or perhaps you even like the mix of politics that you get at the top of the police hierarchy with the day-to-day police work of the rank and file as well as lawyers? Well, how about The Wire then?

Indeed, The Wire was perhaps the first of the “super-super format” shows: a format that tries to amalgamate everything to do with the legal system and look at it all equally. But post The Wire, what new super-super format can you have?

Blue Bloods rather cunningly does the very American thing of making it all about family. In this case, the Reagans, a New York Irish family of cops and lawyers. We have Tom Selleck, complete with his old Magnum PI moustache, as the New York chief of police. His dad is the former chief of police. He has two sons, one a detective (Donnie Wahlberg), the other a beat cop. He had another son, who was also a beat cop, but who died in the line of duty. And he has a daughter (Bridget Moynahan) who is an assistant district attorney.

The result is a show in which you get to see all aspects of New York policing, from the politics at the top to the investigations by detectives to the day-to-day issues of the average beat cop to the problems of the legal system – all while the politics of torture are discussed over Sunday lunch. For a while, it actually seems pretty good – and then six minutes before the end, we get the Blue Templars and everything falls apart.

Here’s a trailer:

BLUE BLOODS is a drama about a multi-generational family of cops dedicated to New York City law enforcement. Frank Reagan is the New York City Police Commissioner and heads both the police force and the Reagan brood. He runs his department as diplomatically as he runs his family, even when dealing with the politics that plagued his unapologetically bold father, Henry, during his stint as Chief. A source of pride and concern for Frank is his eldest son Danny, a seasoned detective, family man, and Iraqi War vet who on occasion uses dubious tactics to solve cases. The sole Reagan woman in the family, Erin, is a N.Y. Assistant D.A. and newly single parent, who also serves as the legal compass for her siblings and father. Jamie is the youngest Reagan, fresh out of Harvard Law and the family’s “golden boy;” however, unable to deny the family tradition, Jamie decided to give up a lucrative future in law and is now a newly minted cop. Jamie’s life takes an abrupt turn when he’s asked to become part of a clandestine police investigation even his father knows nothing about, and one that could impact the family’s legacy.

Blue Bloods

Is it any good?
There are a few things that lift it out of the ordinary, but only a few things. Tom Selleck is obviously one of those things, since he’s great in everything, and Donnie Wahlberg and the rest of the cast are good, too. This does actually feel like New York policing rather than “AN Other” city policing. It’s also not afraid to ask a few tough questions and even come out in favour of conservative answers – even if it does seem to have a “men conservative, women liberal” dichotomy going on that makes the only strong female character on the show not actually that strong.

The actual police work doesn’t really hit the highs of either The Wire or Southland. There’s a happy series of coincidences that enable the whole investigation to get completed in about half the episode, then another happy series of coincidences that enable the fallout to be wiped up by the end as well. But despite that, it doesn’t feel as stupid as some shows I could mention on the same network when it comes to its depiction of policing.

Where Blue Bloods falls apart is the revelation towards the end that Donnie Wahlberg’s character might be a member of the ‘Blue Templars’, a legendary, infamous group of cop vigilantes, who take matters into their own hands when the law fails. It’s also possible that the dead brother, Joe, was killed not in the line of duty as previously suggested, but had been investigating the Blue Templars and killed by them when he was found out.

This is, of course, very, very silly and ruins the attempts at verisimilitude that the show had been trying to establish. Let’s face it, if it’s something Witchblade did with the “White Bulls”, you probably don’t want it in a regular-type TV programme.

To be honest, I’m probably not going to carry on watching. The show doesn’t bring quite enough that’s new and original to the table for me to want to follow the characters, none of whom – with the exception of Selleck – are really very likable or engaging. There’s a couple of romantic sub-plots that almost make me want to watch, with rookie cop getting the eye from his sharpshooting fellow graduate, but that’s about it. All the same, I am a sucker for a cop show, so I might yet – if I can’t find anything else to watch.

Not a glowing endorsement I know, but of the new shows this Fall, it’s one of the best – which shows you what a bad lot we’ve had so far this year.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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