'NYPD' creator sticks to his guns TURNED ON IN L.A. -- Fall Preview

July 26, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles

Steven Bochco is going to cut back on some of the sex in "NYPD Blue."

But he says he won't back off an inch on the levels of violence and harsh language, which have several ABC affiliates saying they won't air the show when it premieres Sept. 21.

At a press conference here yesterday, Bochco said he has agreed to delete 15 seconds from a sex scene in the show's pilot at ABC's request.

"But we have not made, nor will we make, any adjustments in terms of language or anything else in the show," he said.

The scene that Bochco says he will change involves a male police detective making love to a female police officer who is not his wife.

The original sequence ran 30 seconds and showed the naked couple making love, and also showed the woman's breasts.

The scene contained more nudity than has previously been shown on network TV. It went beyond the nudity shown last fall on "Civil Wars," another Bochco show on ABC.

"The network asked me to consider making a minor change . . . in (that) lovemaking sequence," Bochco said. "They asked me to short- en it.

"We looked at it three or four different ways, and finally came up with a sequence that is 15 seconds shorter than the one you saw.

"It does not eliminate any of the nudity. And that is the only adjustment we have made.

"I said to ABC, 'I can't imagine what perceived problems this edit will solve for you.' "

Indeed, neither the edit nor Bochco's press conference is likely to solve any problems for the ABC executives who stood in the wings watching yesterday's session -- especially problems with nervous affiliates.

Bochco promised more nudity, harsh language and violence in subsequent episodes of "NYPD." And he said he won't back down even if the number of affiliates refusing to carry the show leads ABC to cancel it.

WJZ-TV, the ABC affiliate in Baltimore, has not decided whether to it will carry the pilot, General Manager Marcellus Alexander said yesterday. He said ABC is telling affiliates that the pilot is "only a work in progress" and that it is "having conversations" with Bochco about changes.

"The show is creating a fair amount of controversy not only in Baltimore but across the country," Alexander said.

"We'll have to see what ABC comes back to us with."

Alexander said ABC had promised to show affiliates an edited version of the pilot later this week.

Yesterday, Bochco said, "I would personally hope that the affiliates would have the courage to let the viewers see the show and make their own decisions."

Bochco explained his refusal to back down on language and violence by saying that he feels he's fighting for his survival as a producer of network shows.

"I don't think we can effectively compete any more with cable," he said, "unless we can paint with some of the same colors you can paint with when you're making movies."

Bochco said this is especially true for hourlong police dramas, which air at 10 o'clock when the audience is largely adult.

"I would have made an even stronger show (in terms of violence, sex and language), if I could have," he said.

Perhaps most surprising was Bochco's statement was that the series might not even carry a violence warning.

When the networks announced their violence warning plan last month, they said "NYPD Blue" was the only show that they considered violent enough to warrant the label.

Now comes Bochco, saying, "I'm not sure the series will carry an advisory.

"My understanding from ABC is that it's going to be on an episode-by-episode basis."

ABC executives declined to comment immediately following the session.

ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert is scheduled to hold a press conference today.

"Either way, I don't see that as a significant problem," Bochco said.

"Six months from now, I don't think this will be seen as a violent cop show. . . 'Hill Street Blues' was more violent than this show will ever be."

Bochco blamed the press for the controversy surrounding the series.

"You are the ones who have turned this into an issue," he said. "We don't think it is an issue.

"We don't think anything we do in the pilot is going to bring down the republic."

While he acknowledged that the controversy could help the show in terms of ratings, he called all the pre-air publicity a "double-edged sword."

He said "advertiser concerns" have led to "a great deal of network anxiety." As a result, the pressure is on "NYPD" to get big ratings right out of the box if it is going to stay on the air.

"We'll take our attention anywhere we can get it," he said. "But, given the choice, I would rather have had the show just be reviewed and have viewers discover it."

He said he hopes the quality of the drama will not be overlooked in all controversy.

"I don't think any of this would mean a thing, if we were making a lousy show."

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