“Blue Bloods” is a CBS-produced TV drama – now in its third season – airing on Sky Atlantic in the UK, which typifies the successful formula used to create a top-rating series stateside. It centres on the Irish-American Reagan family, a bunch of high-achievers and strong role models, who pretty much run the NYPD between them, and also – in the shape of Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan – have a massive influence over the prosecution of all the ne’er-do-wells apprehended week by week.
The Reagans are a disparate collection of characters – all human life is there, of a positive and admirable kind, anyway. Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) is the head honcho, as Police Commissioner, his Pop and perennial éminence grise Henry (Len Cariou) also held that office, but is now retired and dispenses slightly crotchety wisdom informally, in the family setting. Frank’s two sons are obligingly different types of police officer – Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is the hard-nosed yet lovable detective, and Jamie (Will Estes) is the rookie, law-graduated yet lovable street cop. Between them, these two officers are responsible for just about all the law enforcement and bad-guy nabbing in New York City on any given day, swinging into action after receiving pearls of fatherly wisdom from dad Frank, and hauling their quarry to be processed by sister Erin (Bridget Moynahan), the principled yet lovable prosecuting counsel.
As we can clearly see, the family theme beloved of American popular culture is particularly strong here. The Reagans, we learn, have hauled themselves up from humble and inauspicious circumstances (Frank’s grand-daddy was – whisper it softly – a shiftless alcoholic!) by hard work, unswerving rectitude, devotion to the Mother Church and regular injections of moral fibre dispensed at the family dining table. They think no small beans of themselves – oft is heard the stern admonition “Remember – you’re a Reagan”. The aforementioned dining table is a huge affair, laden with food symbolising the bounty deserved by all God-fearing, hard-working folk, and it is here that family issues are thrashed out, subject always to the casting-vote wisdom of one or other elder statesman.
On the street, the action is often hot and fierce, and some moral dilemma is always just around the corner. Detective Danny tends to be the fulcrum for most of this activity, his hard-nosed yet lovable tendencies neatly counter-balanced by his partner detective, Jackie Curatola (Jennifer Esposito), a tough yet lovable dame whose trusty gun is worn artlessly displayed upon a shapely hip, and whose heart is good. Patrolman Jamie, during momentary lulls, will deal with less immediately life-threatening issues – he brings a fresh-faced approach to law enforcement, frequently showing his more hard-bitten and cynical colleagues the error of their ways, by the application of homespun Reagan principles and a boyish grin.
The Reagans have had their problems; all has not always been rosy in their garden. Frank’s eldest son, Joe, died in the line of duty – but this might almost be seen as lay-your-life-down credibility, an essential qualification for such an exemplary family. Frank is also a widower, bless him, and daughter Erin is divorced – we get the distinct feeling she married beneath her, but hey, it would be hard not to. There are three generations of service veterans to provide the right kind of backbone for this American dream, and the recurring visits to the family table are a hymn to extended-family devotion, enlightened discipline for the youngsters, unquestioned fidelity in the surviving marriage (Danny’s, despite his regard for his disconcertingly hot detective partner) and just generally The Right Way Of Doing Things.
For anyone who likes some fairly compelling action, a neat delivery of morals and homilies every week, and the pre-packaged security of the family home and fairly smug prosperity, “Blue Bloods” is the ideal TV series. Beyond a nagging feeling that it would be easier to watch for a UK audience without some of the schmaltzy sermonising, it’s actually a pretty good watch – the production values are excellent, the acting generally good, and you do get used – eventually – to Selleck’s habit of slowly exhaling through his nose in a wise way, whenever he’s contemplating some knotty problem, or about to deliver a tablet of sagacity.
The suspension of disbelief is, in any event, a pre-requisite for a TV drama these days – the way real life pans out simply wouldn’t make good viewing. So you find you can handle the apparently accepted fact that one family seems to hold such complete sway over law enforcement and the administration of justice in a teeming metropolis like NYC. Then again, the Reagans are simply one hell of a family – as they’re usually just about to tell us.