Amid all the talk of new series, it is easy to forget about the old. One of the oldest network series, NYPD Blue, returns for another season tonight, and I am happy to report there is still much life in this venerable cop drama from Steven Bochco.
The secret of success for NYPD Blue is a simple one: Stick with Sipowicz - Dennis Franz's Detective Andy Sipowicz, every bit as much a television classic as any of the great British detectives like Inspector Morse. Enjoy him now, because we are really going to miss this guy when he's gone.
In tonight's season opener, Bochco wastes no time sticking Sipowicz back into the great emotional cauldron of race when an African-American woman spits on the detective and he pushes her to the ground. The woman is the lady friend of a big-time drug dealer who wants Sipowicz dead for what he did. The hour roils with anger, rage and racial confrontation.
The politics of treating race in this emotional a manner are complicated, and Bochco is celebrated by some and villified by others for it. But no other cop drama this side of Homicide: Life on the Street has ever done a better job of putting race on the front burner of public discourse. And no character has made us reflect more about our own feelings on the issue than Sipowicz.
NYPD Blue airs at 10 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2).
At a glance
Ken Burns' The Civil War (8 p.m.-10:30 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) - Catch Part 3 of Ken Burns' five-part series on the War Between the States. Burns hasn't changed the content of the 1990 series, but he has had it remastered and remixed to improve the picture and sound. PBS.
Gilmore Girls (8 p.m.-9 p.m., WNUV, Channel 54) - In the season premiere, Lorelai deals with the aftermath of discovering that Chris' ex is pregnant and that their relationship potential is scuttled. WB.
Life With Bonnie (8:30 p.m.-9 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) - Things get hectic as Bonnie Hunt juggles the duties of wife, mother of three, and host of a Chicago TV show. Hunt was once a member of the Second City improv troupe, and her performance on Morning Show, the show within the show, is unscripted. ABC.
Frasier (9 p.m.-9:30 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) - This show starts its 10th season with the long-awaited wedding between Daphne and Niles. Don't expect it to go off without a, well, hitch: Has any sitcom wedding ever gone smoothly? NBC.
The Guardian (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) - In the season premiere, Farrah Fawcett guest stars as the mother of the person Nick Fallin (Simon Baker) is accused of killing. CBS.
Beg, Borrow & Deal (8 p.m.-9 p.m., ESPN) - In the second episode of the new reality show, in which teams journey from New York City to San Francisco's Alcatraz Island, Team Cobi struggles to break out of the Big Apple while Team Contact soars with the Eagles in the City of Brotherly Love. New York Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Barry Gardner and quarterback A.J. Feely make appearances.
Compiled from wire reports by Sarah Kickler Kelber