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‘Frontline’ Documentary, ‘NYPD Blue': Just Capital

TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

VCR alert! Overlapping each other tonight are two highly worthy programs that view crime from dramatically different perspectives.

One is ABC’s returning “NYPD Blue.”

The other is a stunning “Front-line” documentary about men convicted of murder and other serious crimes being later exonerated by DNA evidence. Either that or being forced to remain in prison because of states refusing to accept this scientific data that appears to exclude the convicted inmates from involvement.

Another fine film from Ofra Bikel, “The Case for Innocence” airs on KCET, and is a compelling argument against capital punishment. It also indicts politicians who appear willing to sacrifice possibly innocent lives as scapegoats on behalf of pleasing the tough-on-crime crowd.

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Capital cases inevitably drive “NYPD Blue,” which hasn’t lost its stuff as it begins its seventh season belatedly. Nor has Dennis Franz’s seething Det. Andy Sipowicz lost his scowl or English-butchering codespeak.

“Maybe that’s why they give us a casual mention they put a casual beatin’ on him.”

That’s Sipowicz speculating about why two uniform cops told his partner, Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroeder), and him they just moderately roughed up a street tough who was found fatally beaten. Although they put the blame on someone else, their story has holes, and the investigating Sipowicz and Sorenson are outraged that the two possibly bad cops may want their colleagues to shield them from murder charges.

Sipowicz: “This is a five-ton bag of crap!”

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“NYPD Blue” remains so many miles above most of prime time that it’s in another Zip Code. Its texture is as nubby as ever, and the city’s grimy streets still run through its squad room like a five-lane highway. The acting here is still among the best in TV, moreover, with Kevin Dillon especially strong tonight as one of the cops seemingly tainted by the beating case.

But the bad-cop plot is left somewhat unresolved, and goes unmentioned in next week’s episode as if it never existed.

At one point in the hour, meanwhile, a thin smile works its way through the recently widowed Sipowicz’s frown when he has dinner at home with his young son. In this case a five-ton bag of tenderness.

* “Frontline’s” “The Case for Innocence” can be seen tonight at 9 on KCET-TV, and at 10 p.m. on KVCR-TV.

* “NYPD Blue” can be seen Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC. The network has rated it TV-14-LS (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14 with special advisories for coarse language and sex).


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