Review by Michael Spadoni
This Steven Bochco police drama combined elements of his previous hits, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. Like "Hill Street," the action was set in a police station; and not unlike "NYPD" it had a gritty look and feel. And it added something new to the Bochco formula: a high amount of violence.
In fact, the series pilot was the first broadcast television episode to be rated TV-MA (for mature audiences) under the then-new content rating system. Little wonder: In the first ten minutes a gunman went on a shooting rampage killing police officers and bystanders until he was captured and later died. It turned out that the boyfriend of Officer Anne-Marie Kersey (Yancy Butler) was gunned down; when the suspect was finally secured in the station house, Kersey kicked him-and the gunman died of internal injuries, leading to an investigation by the much despised Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). Because the suspect was black, there was an outcry of racism. In the end, no one was punished. Otherwise, it was business as usual for the 74th Precinct in New York's Brooklyn area.
On paper, Brooklyn South had all the makings of another Bochco hit. But early episodes were rocky, with too many characters and a lack of focus. By mid-season, the spotlight was placed on fewer characters, and the stories became more cohesive, bringing "South" close to the quality of Bochco's best dramas. But in direct competition with ABC's Monday Night Football and NBC's news magazine Dateline, it ranked 73rd among all shows on the broadcast networks. Co-creator David Milch (who was also the heart and soul of NYPD Blue) explained the situation to the "New York Daily News": "NYPD Blue's crucifixion for a year (due to its language and sexual content) before it got on the air was, in fact, a kind of blessing. It gave me an extra year to conceive the show. So, what took us two-and-a-half years with 'NYPD Blue,' we tried to accomplish with 'Brooklyn South' in six weeks. And some of that shows."
But time was not on the show's side; CBS cancelled Brooklyn Southafter its first and only season. In fact, the 1997-98 season was not a good one for Bochco. Another of his CBS series, the maligned comedy Public Morals, was pulled after one episode. And his final drama under his old contract with ABC, Total Security, was also cancelled. In retrospect, Brooklyn South was certainly most deserving of a second chance.
Published on April 7th, 2020. Written by Michael Spadoni for Television Heaven.