My TV

13 September 2020

Procedural Watch: Blue Bloods

By // TV

In light of all the mandatory sitting at home by ourselves that’s happening right now, I decided to try something I’ve never done before: I actually watched all those cookie cutter crime shows that TV networks renew for decades on end and grandmas watch during daytime reruns for some reason. I often say I “watch everything on network TV except the acronym shows” well NOT TODAY! I tried my hand at one episode each of all the network procedurals on my dvr. Below is my official report on Blue Bloods.

Before watching the season 10 premiere of Blue Bloods (a summer rerun chosen at random), my knowledge of the show could basically be summed up by a vague familiarity with the audience and the actors. Blue Bloods is the kind of show writers of other shows name-check as character development when they’re trying to quickly establish that someone is a) older, b) white, c) conservative, d) probably blue collar. So your basic CBS viewer but, like, more Republican if that’s even’s possible. It’s about a family who all work in law enforcement and it stars Richard from Friends, that guy from American Dreams, a lady who looks familiar, and a Wahlberg of some kind (kidding, I know which one; it’s the one that’s married to the anti-vaxxer who’s a surprisingly good guesser on The Masked Singer).

So it turns out that Blue Bloods isn’t really a procedural so much as a cop drama, the difference between the two being all but moot in the modern network landscape. There were certainly a few interpersonal dynamics and ongoing arcs that I was missing and each character followed their own story so, even though everything was in fact wrapped up by episode’s end, no single plotline felt like a fully fleshed-out case of the week.

The familiar lady was prosecuting a very bad guy (then at one point barging into an apartment with a gun to save a lady? Full service lawyering right here). Wahlberg is a detective who found a very bad guy with the help of a pushy medium he has some sort of complicated maybe-romantic past with. Very bad guys was a big thing in this episode, and I assume in the whole show. Because if our heroes are only ever faced with the worst of the worst kinds of criminals, they’ll never have to reckon with a broken system and the outsized power of their systemically corrupt professions. Is it possible I just happened to catch a somewhat simplistic episode and at some point in its ten seasons Blue Bloods has in fact faced the complexity of policing and prosecuting by presenting a case with some moral grey area? It’s possible. I wouldn’t bet on it.

American Dreams kid was house hunting with his new wife and trying to avoid any special treatment on account of being the police commissioner’s son (how very valiant of him). Richard from Friends meanwhile was deciding how much special treatment should be given to the daughter of his old partner when she gets arrested (there was a lot of “I just don’t know what to do!” when the right thing to do was blatantly obvious). Special treatment for those with connections and wealth was a big thing in this episode. And in the world. Cause, you know, cops.

The most (only?) interesting scene took place at family dinner where the show’s gimmick really came into play. See, they’re all in law enforcement, but they’re all so different! The ADA in the family is a liberal! And a lady! Wahlberg is… not. I couldn’t get a read on the rest of the clan’s politics except to say that American Dreams kid seems harmless enough. But even if the show is built on the idea of a family who disagrees, the show itself has a clear perspective and how loudly Wahlberg won the argument over body cameras with Ms. ADA tells you everything you need to know. I don’t think it’s as dangerous a show as, say, Chicago PD (which is rife with brutality and never ever pauses to ask if its completely corrupt characters might not be perfect heroes) but it’s a really nauseating watch, especially right now. No, always. It should always be a nauseating watch, not just when there are protesters in the streets.

Don’t watch Blue Bloods (what an idiotic name btw, did the double meaning of that phrase just escape their understanding?). If you’re here for the beat cop angle, try Rookie Blue instead. If you want an investigation, NCIS New Orleans isn’t half bad. If you’re weirdly into police commissioners, honestly just give Gotham a try; it’s weird but you’re the one who’s really into police commissioners so you’re in no position to make the call on what’s weird. If your lawyer shows for some reason have to be about prosecutors even though most of the good ones are about defense lawyers, the good news is that my two favourite network shows of the past few years have been about both sides of the courtroom so For the People and All Rise both have great prosecutor characters. If you’re just here for the moustache, there’s always this photo of #1 Chris from when he played a cop on Broadway. You’re welcome. You now have no reason to watch Blue Bloods so just don’t.

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