Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

January 5, 2001

'NYPD Blue' opener: The misery continues

By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

Tuesday night we all have the pleasure of tuning in to the new season of that Emmy-winning misery fest, "NYPD Blue."

"Blue," as network announcers style it, is but one of the many drama series that never tire of inflicting positive characters with negative life developments. Really, it’s almost a TV epidemic.

There was a time in television not that long ago when a lead character on a drama didn't have too much to worry about. Sure, there would be numerous close shaves and worrisome eventualities during the course of the hour, but it was a universal law that at the end of the show Cannon or Mannix or Quincy or Ironside or whoever it was would be in the pink, as would all the hero's loved ones.

It's different now. Consider "Blue's" poor Andy Sipowicz. Is there anything mortal man could endure that he hasn't endured? His grown son died trying to stop a holdup. His second wife died in a courtroom foyer, felled by a criminal's bullet. His beloved partner (played by Jimmy Smits) succumbed to congestive heart failure. An alcoholic himself, he has gone off the wagon once or twice (though not as many times as you would expect given all the tsuris he has to go through).

And now his toddler son, left in his care when the missus went bye bye, has apparently come down with some life-threatening disease.

Nor is it necessary to be a male character on one of these shows to come in for your share of bad personal news.

Take the Lucy Knight character on "ER," for instance. This unfortunate young woman (as portrayed by Kelli Martin), having garnered a few raspberries from the critics, was summarily knifed to death at the end of the '99-00 season. The reasoning by the show's writers seemed to run as follows:

Since the character isn't doing the show any good by being on it, kill her off in a violent fashion, make it plain beforehand that this will occur and enjoy a nice feast of heightened ratings at least for an episode or two.

You'd think  Dr. Carter (Noah Wylie), who managed to survive the same attack and subsequent surgery, would be given a little respite by the show's scenarists, especially since he was also
carrying around a lot of guilt over his failure to help his pal Lucy - but no. On the contrary, his use of the narcotic painkillers prescribed for his injuries escalated into a full-blown drug addiction, with the privileged young physician shooting up under his watchband to escape detection and then having to absent himself to rehab for a while.

The Diane Russell character on "NYPD Blue," played by Kim Delaney, doesn't have a lot to sing about, either.

First she was shown to be an alcoholic. Having wrestled that plot development to the ground by turning her into a faithful attendee at AA meetings, it came out that her family was extraordinarily dysfunctional, the tip-off coming when her mother ended up shooting her father to death after years of abuse.

Is that all? Heck, no. Worse came to worst when the Jimmy Smits character, who had become her husband while all the rest of this stuff was going on, died on her.

All of this probably constitutes one major reason why a Dick Wolf TV "product" like "Law & Order" is so popular with viewers: "Just the facts, ma'am" television in its purest form, the show doesn't ask viewers to vicariously suffer the torments of the damned in order to get from commercial to commercial.

This is not to say that the "L&O" characters are immune from misfortune. Characters have suffered accidents, deaths, illness, family tragedy, to say nothing of being banished to Staten Island. But Wolf's people seem to take pride in limiting these catastrophes in the most minimalist manner imaginable, with a couple of lines of dialogue and a camera setup or two. And at the end of the day the focus is on the malefactors and the justice that does or doesn't catch up with them.

Andy Sipowicz would be smart to seek a position partnering with "Law & Order's" crusty Det. Lenny Briscoe. He might still have to suffer, but not quite so publicly.

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

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