It is impossible to imagine a television landscape without Tom Selleck, and fortunately we don’t have to. Although in recent years he has appeared only sporadically, starring in the Jesse Stone movie series, guest-starring on shows including “Friends” and “Boston Legal,” he’s back full time as the paterfamilias of CBS’ solid and satisfying cop/family drama “Blue Bloods.” As someone who has loved the man for her entire adult life, I think I speak for many when I say: How is it possible that he still looks so darn good?
Maybe it’s the uniform. In “Blue Bloods” Selleck plays widowed New York City Police Commissioner Frank Reagan who, having already sacrificed one son to the thin blue line, is about to usher another into its ranks. Jamie (Will Estes) left Harvard Law school to replace one brother and join another — Frank’s eldest, Danny ( Donnie Wahlberg), is a canny detective whose dedication to justice trumps rules and regulations, putting him at constant odds with his sister Erin ( Bridget Moynahan), who, as an assistant D.A., is law to her family’s order.
One could argue, and persuasively, that a show about a family of Irish cops in New York — Frank’s father, Henry (played by the indomitable Len Cariou). was commissioner before him — is off by a few decades. But watching the Reagans bicker and gossip over Sunday dinner, one is inclined to just to settle in and enjoy. “Blue Bloods” is meat and potatoes TV — predictable perhaps but tantalizing and flavorful nonetheless.
If the dinner scenes remind you of another, darker, show, well, Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess of “The Sopranos” are co-creators, and the issues of family and professional codes that anchored that show also provide the framework for this. There, of course, the similarity ends, since this is network cop drama, with a procedural at its heart.
In the pilot, Danny must leave Jamie’s graduation festivities early because a young girl has gone missing. Doused with child-in-peril drama and a ticking clock (the girl is a diabetic who will die without an insulin injection), it is not a particularly strong investigation narrative, hinging on, among other things, an unbelievably productive international phone call. But it serves to set up the larger themes of the show — Danny’s service in Iraq has left him emotionally volatile, Frank has enemies in high places, and Erin is not just the sole female of the tribe, she’s the only one who questions the supercop mentality.
Jamie, meanwhile, must cope not only with his girlfriend’s mixed reaction to his joining the force but also the possibility that his brother’s death was not what it seemed. (And that his father is dating!) It’s certainly fertile ground, and those working it are pros. Selleck and Cariou, like the characters they play, set the bar high as men who have seen enough sorrow to appreciate the small joys. Meanwhile, Wahlberg’s frustrated, bewildered rage is convincing, Moynahan nails the only-girl’s mixture of entitlement and bitterness, and as Jamie, Estes provides the viewer’s entrance into a suspicious and suspecting world.
If it pulls off what it seems capable of doing, “Blue Bloods” should be both a good cop show and an evocative family drama. So something for everyone, just like a good Sunday dinner.