‘Blue Bloods’ Finds Success by Being Pro-Police
Strong cop drama stands out for its conservative values, solid perspective
There’s nothing overtly “cool” about “Blue Bloods,” a police procedural that has dutifully aired Friday nights on CBS since 2010. It’s not interested in goosing up ratings with famous guest stars or special event crossovers with other shows. It doesn’t use the “ripped from the headlines” technique of the “Law & Order” shows to grab new viewers.
The show’s only major star, Tom Selleck, just turned 72 on Sunday, and its second most recognizable performer is only the second-most popular Wahlberg (Donnie, older brother of movie star Mark and former boy band member). The show’s average viewer age is over 63 — the oldest of any ongoing regular series on TV.
It’s simply a show about New York City police (and prosecutors) doing their jobs the best they can, keeping the streets safe night after night.
It’s simply a show about New York City police (and prosecutors) doing their jobs the best they can, keeping the streets safe night after night for all the Big Apple’s citizens — even some who don’t always appreciate their efforts.
But in a television environment overflowing with shows that are hell-bent on pushing the envelope, breaking every last remaining taboo with sex, profanity, and violence, “Blue Bloods” provides something that’s special in its own way in 2017.
It delivers a pro-police message, showcasing several generations of law enforcement professionals, several of whom are also Marines who served their country overseas in combat. It doesn’t shy away from issues involving bad cops, but it also hews to the belief that the vast majority of police officers dedicate their lives to protecting the public and doing it the right way — something the media is usually not keen to admit.
“Blue Bloods” also highlights family values, with members of the Reagan clan coming together for Sunday night dinners to discuss the issues America faces today and to make sense of an ever-changing world.
This isn’t the sort of show that regularly trends on Twitter or gets thoughtful analysis from the mainstream media. Over the 146 episodes of “Blue Bloods” that have aired across seven seasons, the show has received exactly one Emmy nomination — for stunt coordination. (It didn’t win.)
Regardless, “Blue Bloods” has proven there’s a place for this type of series in 2017, even while most networks show zero interest in providing scripted entertainment for older, more conservative viewers.
Given the enormous number of shows now available to U.S. viewers, you'd think there might be more than a handful of non-news programs that target traditional Americans.
On average, American cable subscribers can access more than 200 channels in 2017. And without even including streaming options such as Amazon and Netflix, they have several thousand different television series to choose from. As of last year, more than 1,400 different shows aired in primetime alone, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Yet the majority of programming today eschews traditional entertainment for shows with far more provocative themes. "RuPaul's Drag Race," a reality show about drag queens, has aired for eight seasons to date. "The Walking Dead," in which people are constantly slain in the most gruesome fashion by both zombies and fellow humans, is in the middle of its seventh.
Torture and rape feature regularly on the incredibly popular "Game of Thrones," which won 12 Emmys last year, including Outstanding Drama Series. MTV's ongoing series "Teen Mom," which follows actual teenage mothers, has aired 102 episodes.
Of course, it's not as if American television is devoid of shows featuring police officers. Law enforcement has been one of the most popular TV genres going all the way back to "Dragnet" — which first appeared on television in 1951.
But very few shows today are interested in providing realistic insight into what it actually means to be a beat cop and to deal with the various challenges they face. Most are only concerned with solving crimes and delving into soap-opera territory with subplots about romantic entanglements — or about pushing various political agendas.
"Blue Bloods" has a different focus, one that makes no excuses for being pro-police. Interestingly, the few times the media has bothered to pay any attention to the series, it's faced criticism from both sides of the media spectrum.
Liberal media sites Slate and Daily Kos blasted the show in 2014 for an episode featuring a suspect who makes a false accusation of police brutality. The strident Daily Kos accused the series of pushing a "fascist" cop agenda.
On the other hand, the show raised the ire of a Breitbart writer last May, resulting in an article headlined: "CBS's 'Blue Bloods' Finale Spreads Black Lives Matter's 'Hands up, Don't Shoot' Propaganda."
Managing to enrage both Daily Kos and Breitbart is something rare indeed, and this speaks to the fact that "Blue Bloods" is anything but a one-sided take on policing. The show strongly supports law enforcement while also being fully invested in personal responsibility and proper procedure.
The Sunday family dinner discussions provide another window into the constant challenges faced by both officers and prosecutors (another member of the Reagan clan is an assistant district attorney). These scenes highlight the fact that law enforcement is a tough job requiring bravery, strength, compassion, and judgment.
The show was lauded by police supporters for a scene in which Selleck's character, New York City Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, said: "Cops are held to a higher standard, but never forget that they are people, too. I'm not asking anyone to cut us slack, not at all. But a little recognition for the conditions under which our men and women operate, that would go a long way."
Selleck is one of Hollywood's few acknowledged conservatives and a longtime supporter of the military and police. He's a proud member of the NRA and served in the National Guard.
Regarding his role on "Blue Bloods," Selleck told TV Insider: "The actors, writers, and producers don't want to make NYPD officers perfect, but I know that a lot of cops think we are presenting a three-dimensional picture of who they are in life."
Selleck later told the New York Daily News he thinks it's unfair that cops have received so much criticism in recently years: "I think cops are being portrayed in a very negative light ... Police work is not easy."