Bochco TV: Docs 'n' Cops

steven bochco AP

This week, CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard reviews the new Steven Bochco series City of Angels and the new season of Bochco's NYPD Blue.
City of Angels, the new Steven Bochco dramatic series starting Sunday night on CBS before it moves to Wednesdays, shouldn't come as a big surprise. From Bochco, we expect urban pathology.

The executive producer specializes in mean streets, where the city no longer seems to work, nor the criminal justice system, nor civil society. We usually see these streets through the eyes of cops, a thin blue line between the solid citizen and the savage tribes. But chaos theory and random violence also reached the executive suites of LA Law. So why not an inner-city hospital?

Blair Underwood, who was radicalized on LA Law during the Rodney King insurrection, stars in City of Angels as a chief surgeon trying to repair everything wrong with the body politic.

Vivica A. Fox is the new hospital administrator, who has a romantic history with Blair.

Michael Warren, one of Bochco's favorite Hill Street cops, is the Machiavellian CEO.

Phil Buckman and Hill Harper are salt and pepper residents, equally paranoid.

And Robert Morse astonishes as the eccentric chairman of the board of supervisors.

In the first two hours, we are also introduced to a missing body, a wrongful-death lawsuit, a Shaft joke and some necrophilia.

Reviews by CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard
You will have noticed that most of these people are black. Most of the people behind the camera on City of Angels are black, Hispanic or female. Already, we are promised that the new show won't be about race. It will be about delivering decent health care to a community of the working poor.

But we are also warned: If we don't like it, we say something sad about our blinkered selves.

This insults the talented actors, writers, and producers who created City of Angels. They are off to an edgy, passionate start. They have a moral compass. It's not a game show.

Neither, of course, is NYPD Blue, the other Bochco product that returned to ABC last week.

Sipowicz, trimmer than he used to be, fixes meatloaf for his son.

Sorenson is about to get a female cop to squeeze, played by Sheeri Rappaport.

Kirkendall is seeing her ex-husband, even though Russell warns her that he's dirty.

But the pleasant surprise about last week's episode is that NYPD Blue actually came out against police brutality, after several seasons of smacking snitches upside their pony heads, coercing confessions from uppity perps, and a general contempt for those niceties that distinguish our lega system from, say, Singapore's.

I've seen the next six hours of NYPD Blue, so I know already that when Nicholas Turturro passes the sergeant's exam, Lt. Fancy will get a new black detective, Henry Simmons, and Andy will resent the color of his skin until he roughs up a suspect, and then we know he's truly blue, and if you don't like it, another batch of wise-guy Sopranos also starts Sunday night on HBO.

But I'm rooting for the angelic doctors. After which I'd like to see a virtual-reality series where a black-owned Internet company merges with a female-dominated media conglomerate, and the people we see at the press conference look more like the real American mosaic.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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