June 22, 2004 -- IF the last thing you want to see is another cop drama, have I got a show for you: "NYPD 24/7," a heart-wrenching cop show set in New York.
Huh? Didn't I just say no more cop dramas? Yes, but "NYPD 24/7" isn't a drama — it's real life.
For 16 months, the show's producers (who also produced the award winning series "Hopkins 24/7" and "Boston 24/7") were given unlimited access to NYC detectives, staying with them during investigations — from the frustrations to the triumphs, to the not so easily wrapped-up cases.
Hosted by Dennis Franz, aka Andy Sipowicz, Tuesday night's premiere focuses on a real-life younger Sipowicz, Stephen Di Schiavi, of Manhattan North.
Di Schiavi, who took a lot of ribbing from fellow cops for being chosen as one of the cops the show would trail, is a hard-boiled, soft-hearted tough guy.
He's seen too much, and even says that although he's 40, he feels 50 or 60. You can see why when he has to call the parents of a young woman who has been stabbed in the lobby of her ex-boyfriend's apartment building and is clinging to life.
You can see his other side when he's talking about a subway jumper who pulled out a gun and killed himself when the train stopped before running him down.
"Kinda like being a Boy Scout, I guess. Always being prepared."
And there's yet another side revealed when he and fellow detectives interview the stab victim's former boyfriend, who talks about the stresses of banking to them.
"What stress is there in banking," they wonder. With one sentence, you understand the difference in the stress level of say, currency trading and a gun fight with a crazed psycho, or picking up the pieces of a dismembered corpse.
Terence Wrong, the producer, has to walk the fine line in these shows between idol worship, steely-eyed non-judgmental journalism and entertainment, and he does a good job.
He has managed in each case to avoid being overly enamored of his subjects, a problem encountered by many embedded journos in Iraq who had to write honestly about the very soldiers they lived with on a daily basis.
While we don't get the inside dish on the cops' home lives, like you do in a cop show, this is for me, anyway, a refreshing change. The documentaries are about the lives these cops live on the street, the lives they share with their "other" family with whom they share life and death on a daily basis.
And perhaps the debut of two real-life cop shows in the past few weeks, ("The First 48" was the first), and the premature cancellation of "The Restaurant," signals that a switch is taking place in "reality" TV.
Maybe the next wave in reality TV will really have something to do with reality — and we'll be seeing survival shows peopled by cops and folks whose jobs really are a game of survival on a daily basis.
Their survival — and ours.
One thing's for sure — they beat watching unrealistic "reality" dating and survival shows which are growing thinner than Dennis Franz' hairline.
And besides, how many out of work bartenders are left who can afford to take six weeks off to go to the jungle and eat bugs? Or worse — take six weeks off to date pathetic, needy losers?
Tonight at 10 on Ch. 7