Friday, January 6, 2017

Not all fictional cops are rebels

I've recently discovered Blue Bloods, starring Tom Selleck--whom I remember as Magnum, P.I. during the 1980s. In Blue Bloods Selleck is Francis Reagan, an Irish Catholic commissioner of the NYPD. 

Reagan is the patriarch of a family of cops: His youngest son is a patrolman, his eldest son is an NYPD detective. His daughter works for the district attorney's office.

There is much that I could write about this show: It is simply one of the best dramas on television right now, especially if you love cop shows, as I do.

What is interesting about Blue Bloods, though, is that it largely eschews a common trope of fictional law enforcement--that of the rebellious cop (usually a detective) who struggles against complacent or corrupt authority. Selleck is the NYPD commissioner; and he works with--not against--those who fall under him on the organization chart. The NYPD of Blue Bloods is a family (both figuratively and literally), not a snake pit. 

If you've read much crime fiction, you'll appreciate the departure here. The maverick detective vs. the corrupt brass is such a common trope of police fiction that it has almost become ho-hum. Even the best fictional detectives--like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, and John Sanford's Lucas Davenport--are defined as outsiders. They spend as much time battling authority as they spend chasing after criminals. 

Not so with the cops on Blue Bloods. While there are internal disagreements within the fictional NYPD of the show, the cops mostly work together as a team, and the brass supports the detectives and the beat officers. 

While this creative decision forgoes a ready source of dramatic tension and conflict, it is probably closer to the way real law enforcement actually functions. And there is plenty of potential for conflict in a show about law enforcement work, even without rebellious detectives and venal, self-serving police leadership.