So will they or won’t they?
For several weeks, fans of ABC’s “NYPD Blue” have been wondering whether detectives Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) and Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross) will become romantically involved. There have been hints that the burly widower and the beautiful but emotionally troubled young detective share a budding attraction, with McDowell giving Sipowicz an unexpected kiss on the cheek after turning to him for advice regarding the daughter she gave up for adoption, and awkward pauses between the two since then.
On Tuesday’s episode, which this week only will air in the show’s old 10 p.m. time slot, the two share what the network describes as an “intimate moment.” But unlike some of the “intimate moments” on “NYPD Blue,” Sipowicz and McDowell will remain fully clothed.
Executive producer Bill Clark says that turning the characters into a romantic couple is like walking onto a minefield.
“I can say I don’t think in all of the years on the show any decision has had as much effort put into it as this one,” says Clark, a former NYPD detective. “Quite frankly, there has been no definitive decision yet as to where this thing is going to go.
“We are literally taking it one step at a time because it is such a complicated situation, and we are just having a little fun with it and seeing what people think.”
So far, Clark acknowledges, reactions from fans have been mixed, largely because Sipowicz’s life has been filled with so much tragedy over the past nine seasons, including the murders of his grown son and wife. “People don’t want to see him hurt again,” Clark says. “A lot of women identify with Charlotte--a lot of women feel vulnerable at times in their life and don’t know if this is a good thing for her. We don’t know if we want to get them to consummate their relationship in a sexual way or maybe [have Sipowicz] become a father figure in her life. As you can see, this is going much slower than most of our relationships.”
Because the series is steeped in reality, co-creator Steven Bochco and company don’t want Sipowicz to do something out of character. “Sipowicz has been the constant throughout the whole show, and people really love Sipowicz,” Clark says. “If he does something that tarnishes him, and if somebody does something wrong to him that tarnishes the other person, it can hurt us.”
If the relationship between the two develops and grows, says Franz, “the key is that we have to let the audience take it slowly, so they can accept the relationship and understand the relationship and understand the attraction and not be turned off by it. They need to understand we don’t choose who we fall in love with. For whatever reason, we find traits in one another that we like and are attracted to. At first glance, as we see opposites or people in a relationship that don’t look like they belong together, everybody kind of scratches their heads. But those are the most interesting relationships. You kind of have to dig in and find out what made that happen.”
“Bottom line, you can search for what you think will be your right matchup in life, but love doesn’t happen that way,” Ross adds.
Ross joined “NYPD Blue” during its eighth season, just before the departure of longtime regular Kim Delaney. “I wasn’t brought on to be involved with Dennis,” she says, adding that the writers and producers quickly picked up on their on-screen chemistry.
Despite being moved to 9 p.m. this season, the series has demonstrated its durability, averaging 13.5 million viewers against stiff competition that includes NBC’s “Frasier.” As a result, the producers and cast say they are already looking ahead to the prospects of a 10th season.
Franz, who has won four Emmys for his role on the series, loves the interplay between himself and Ross and can’t wait to see how the relationship will play out. “I am not doing too bad for an overweight, bald guy,” he says, laughing.
“NYPD Blue” airs this Tuesday at 10 p.m. on ABC. The network has rated the episode TV-14-L (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14, with an advisory for language). The series returns to its regular 9 p.m. time slot Feb. 26.