NYPD Blue’s Sixth Season One Of The Series’ Best

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory released the sixth season of ABC’s crime drama NYPD Blue today.  NYPD Blue was one of the most polarizing series on television over the course of its run on ABC from beginning to end.  The series’ sixth season is no less powerful than the seasons that had come before.  That’s not only because of the drama surrounding the cases in each episode, either.  The writing has shown a different side of the characters this season, especially in one particular story arc.  And that growth in the series’ writing is just part of what makes Season Six enjoyable for the show’s fans. The acting on the part of the series’ cast ties directly in to the writing. The cast expertly interprets the scripts for each episode, adding even more depth to the series this time out. The acting and writing that bring Season Six together are of equal importance to its success. On another level, the show’s overall production values—its gritty look, its cinematography, and music—round out the whole package, making NYPD Blue: Season Six another win for fans of this landmark series and for Shout! Factory.

One of the major reasons that NYPD Blue managed to remain on the air for so long was its writing staff. While Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises relied largely on the headlines for storylines, the storylines that ran through NYPD Blue were far more hard hitting. They showed that it was possible to craft a solid story without just re-enacting the weekly news headlines. And that expert writing continued well into this season. The season-opening story arc is proof positive of this. Season Six opens with Simone (Jimmy Smitts) ending up in the hospital due to a heart problem. It is that heart problem that eventually leads to a very difficult decision for his wife and to a very deep reaction from Sipowicz along the way. It’s definitely one of the series’ most moving and powerful story arcs as it shows that Sipowicz is human after all. Add in the discussion on the right-to-life and audiences get what is simply put a very powerful story arc; one of the best that the series had seen to date. This is just one example of the talents of the series’ writers this season. There are equally deep stories included in this season such as racism within the police force, and even the announcement of a new life coming into the world among much more. Audiences, again, will find out all of this for themselves when they purchase Season Six. Every story written for Season Six is proof of why this series was able to continue as a fan favorite for six more seasons after this one.

The writing that went into making NYPD Blue: Season Six was some of the best for any drama on television at its time. Just as key to this season’s success was the acting on the part of the cast. Dennis Franz’s acting in the season-opening story ac is some of the most powerful that any of the cast members had presented to that point. Franz presented a far more vulnerable and human side to Sipowicz as Sipwicz tried to maintain his hard-nosed façade, albeit unsuccessfully. It was, in an odd way, heart wrenching to see Sipowicz break down. Yet it was moving to see that he had that side. It makes him an even deeper character. The reaction of all of Bobby’s fellow officers was just as moving. It showed that for everything that they had to deal with, even the strongest people have to mourn. Anyone left dry-eyed after seeing this simply isn’t human. Of course, there were also the reactions in the much happier announcement in the season of a new life coming into the world late in this season. After everything that the force had dealt with since the season’s opener, the acting here proved to be just as powerful and moving. Those moments all together made Season Six all the more worth watching by any of the series’ original fans.

The writing and acting that went into bringing NYPD Blue: Season Six to life exhibited exactly why the series was still so successful this far into its run. One would be remiss to ignore one more factor that made Season Six a success. That final factor would be the show’s production values. The collective production values—its cinematography, music, and its overall gritty look—set the series apart from Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises from early on. The rapid fire camera work, the original music and gritty look were the antithesis of Wolf’s series. Those series always had more of a spit-shined look. Their music and the use of cameras gave those series too perfect of a look. By comparison, the collective production values used even in the sixth season of NYPD Blue made watching the series like seeing the late Robert B. Parker’s novels on television, just without Jessie Stone as the lead. That is truly something special. It really feels like a hard-boiled detective novel put to the small screen. And together with the writing and acting, it makes NYPD Blue: Season Six a completely welcome addition to the library of any fan of this series.

NYPD Blue: Season Six is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-six. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Natchez Burning Is One Of The Year’s Best New Novels

Courtesy:  HarperCollins/William Morrow

Courtesy: HarperCollins/William Morrow

Good books are easy to find.  Truly good books are far more difficult to find.  That’s especially the case considering the number of DIY books, political mudslingers and otherwise forgettable literary works that populate book stores today.  Next Tuesday, one of those rare truly good books will see the light of day when author Greg Iles’ new book Natchez Burning will be released.  Iles’ latest book and his first in five years, Natchez Burning is not the shortest of books.  It comes in at an astonishing 788 pages.  That’s not counting the book’s postscript.  That’s just the story itself.  It is a long story.  But it is a story that audiences will enjoy regardless of their familiarity with Iles’ body of work.  The story contained within the pages of this book is the crux of the book.  It centers on former prosecutor turned mayor of Natchez, Mississippi Penn Cage.  Readers that are familiar with Iles’ books will recognize Cage’s name as he has been the subject of previous books penned by Iles.  Iles’ writing is another reason that readers will enjoy reading this book.  This encompasses the story’s pacing, transitions and other related aspects.  Both elements work hand-in-hand to make Iles’ first book in five years quite the welcome return.  It is Iles at the top of his game.

Natchez Burning is the first book from Greg Iles in five years.  The main reason for that is that he had been involved in a terrible auto accident so long ago.  His fans had no idea if he would ever write another book as his injuries were so extensive.  Fans will agree in reading his book that as lengthy as it is, Iles did not lose a single step.  If anything maybe it was a blessing in disguise.  That’s because this book presents Iles at the top of his game.  The first way that it shows this is through the story itself.  Iles’ story is one that has been done before countless times by countless other storytellers.  There’s no getting around that.  The whole plot centers around the story of a man forced to face a dark family secret when his father is accused of a brutal decades old crime.  It forces the man, Penn Cage (who is also the subject of previous books by Iles) to decide between family loyalty and the truth.  What sets Iles’ story apart from that told by those that have told similar stories before him is the execution of his story.  His story is more believable than so many others because it is grounded in reality without being unnecessarily gritty and dark. That’s because he uses real events.  He highlights in the story’s opening sequence, the horrendous acts that were committed against the black community in the civil rights era.  And the concept of group of hard liners breaking off from an extremist group to make its own even more hardcore extremist group is just as believable.  These aren’t the only believable elements of the story.  They are but a small sample of how much Iles gets right throughout the course of his new story. Fans of Dick Wolf’s beloved Law & Order franchises or fellow author John Grisham’s books will most definitely appreciate the book especially for this reason.

Iles gets plenty right throughout the course of his story. Within the context of the story, the pacing and transitions are used expertly. This may seem to some like a minor matter. But there are authors out there who struggle to get both of these story elements in balance with one another even today. That greatly detracts from the suspension of disbelief. The end result is the ever increasing urge to simply close said authors’ books. Iles on the other hand uses his pacing to make his story the proverbial edge-of-your-seat story even from what turns out to be the story’s flashback opening sequence. As the story progresses, Iles gives readers clear, concise transition points from one scene to the next, making it easier to follow the story. This helps to heighten the story’s tension and in turn keep readers fully engaged from beginning to end, regardless of how long it might take one reader or another to finish the book. It’s all done so well that readers can see each scene play out in their minds just as vividly as if it were on the big screen. Who knows, with any luck, it may find itself begin adapted for the big screen.

The overall writing style that Iles used throughout the course of Natchez Burning is just as important to the overall enjoyment of the book as the story itself. Every part of the writing that went into making Natchez Burning work did its part to make the story as a whole more than deserving of its applause. Together with Iles’ execution of the story, the two factors together make up for the book’s extensive length. As a matter of fact, both factors together make Natchez Burning a book that readers won’t want to put down. Iles has succeeded that strongly in his return. Simply put, Greg Iles’ new book proves to be one of the first must read pieces of the year.

Iles will hit the road on a book tour promoting Natchez Burning beginning April 29th at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi. His most current book signing schedule and more is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/GregIlesAuthor and http://gregiles.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

NYPD Blue’s Fifth Season Proves Why Series Still Stands As One Of TV’s Best Dramas

Courtesy:  ABC/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: ABC/Shout! Factory

NYPD Blue was one of the biggest and most talked about crime dramas on television over the course of its twelve years on ABC.  The reason for that is that in comparison to the likes of Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises and CBS’ CSI series, it was far grittier than any of those programs.  One could easily argue that the success of NYPD Blue is to thank for FX’s The Shield rising to fame.  Of course, that series was itself based on a British series from the 1970s known as The Sweeney.  So it goes without saying that NYPD Blue was a groundbreaking series for its time.  And now thanks to Shout! Factory, the fifth season of the hit crime drama is now available in its entirety on DVD box set.  NYPD Blue Season Five is one of the favorites of fans everywhere.  That’s because it really exhibited the talent of the show’s writers at their peak.  The writing is just the starting point for the success of Season 5.  While it’s somewhat minor, audiences will agree that Season Five maintains the show’s image totally separate from the other crime dramas on television.  That will be explained later.  Just as much worth noting is the show’s music.  The music goes right along with the show’s image.  It wasn’t that perfect spit-shined sound that all of the other crime dramas used (and still use today).  These factors and so many more make NYPD Blue Season Five a fantastic trip down memory lane for any true fan of what was and still is one of ABC’s most revered series.

The fifth season of NYPD Blue stands out as one of the series’ best to date.  It is such an exceptional season first and foremost because of its writers.  The writers proved yet again with Season Five their ability to tell multiple stories without letting them get bogged down in each other.  This is something that still remains problematic for so many crime dramas today.  It was especially the case for the CSI franchise for many years.  The show’s writers relied more on sex appeal to try and cover up the fact that their stories were relatively shallow and had a tendency to get caught in themselves.  Just as much to the credit of NYPD Blue’s writers, their stories had substance.  Sure, there was some sex appeal.  But it largely took a back seat to the storylines that leave audiences on the edge of their seats right up to the end without audiences even realizing it.  A prime example of this was the season opener, “This Bud’s For You.”  This episode finishes off the cliffhanger that was started in Season Four’s finale.  The Joey Salvo homicide is finally figured out. And in the process, audiences see some personal character development among the cast. There’s more than enough drama to go around.  But none of it overpowers any other part of the episode.  That is a true sign of a well-written show.  And audiences will see that, again, throughout Season Five.  It’s just the starting point of this season’s success, too.

The writing behind NYPD Blue in its fifth season is the primary reason for the show’s success thus far into its run.  Another reason for the show’s success five seasons in is the show’s image. When put alongside its competition, NYPD Blue didn’t have the spit shined and streamlined look of perhaps a CSI or even any of the Law & Order series across the NBC family of networks at the time.  Those that are familiar with Dick Wolf’s varied series will agree with that argument.  The series in question attempted for years to have a certain grit and realism about them.  But they could never escape the more standard look established by Wolf’s company. Even today, Law & Order: SVU still suffers from that issue.  For lack of better wording, it’s almost as if Wolf’s series always held back.  NYPD Blue on the other hand took the road less travelled even five seasons in.  It wasn’t afraid to show a meaner, tougher side of police work.  Both then and now, few if any shows try their hand at such realism.  It continues to stand today as a tribute to the show’s ability to stand out in the crowd, even today.  Audiences will agree when they check out Season Five for themselves.

The writing and the look of NYPD Blue in its fifth season are both important elements in the show’s success.  There is still one more aspect of the series that while minor stands out among crime dramas of its time.  And it is related directly to the show’s image. That aspect is the show’s soundtrack.  Again, one has to note NYPD Blue’s competition at the time to understand why it is in fact so important.  The CSI’s, Without A Traces, and so many others had a specific soundtrack to go along with their relatively spit shined looks. NYPD Blue on the other hand, had a more generic soundtrack.  The show’s writers and creative forces used a soundtrack of music that one might hear on an inner city street, instead of paying royalty fees for a set of catchy tunes or just having a general marketable sound.  It helped even five seasons into its run, to prove how pretentious those other crime drams really were.  On the same branch, it showed once more how hard the show’s writers and creative heads tried to make NYPD Blue stand out.  It did just that.  And set alongside the show’s look and feel, and its writing, it is one more piece proving why even years after its initial run, NYPD Blue’s fifth season remains one of the show’s best. It is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-five. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.