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Goodfella

For Dennis Franz of TV's "NYPD Blue," life Is good.
Kenneth Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95

(continued from page 3)

Franz, however, did cop an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Dramatic Series. Both he and David Caruso, who played Detective John Kelly, the red-haired cop for whom each case seemed to present a fresh existential crisis, could have taken the award. When Franz won, Caruso congratulated him.

Which leads to the controversy of controversies that has surrounded the show in its second year. "The first season was a battle, trying to get people in some cities to have the permission to be able to watch the show and judge for themselves," Franz recalls. "The show was having to defend itself for our use of certain language. And that was a big topic. Not that we seem to have won those battles, but this is a year of contentment after all the discontent."

Well, almost. After Caruso demanded a reported $100,000 per episode--triple his salary--and unusual scheduling arrangements, Bochco let him go. "Whether it was money, ego or personality clashes, the bottom line is still that when 'NYPD' lost Caruso, it lost its soul," said Jeff Jarvis of TV Guide. "He gave 'NYPD' its tension: sexual, moral, dramatic." Since Caruso's departure, actor Jimmy Smits ("L.A. Law") has come on board "NYPD" for its second season as Detective Bobby Simone, which invites inevi-table comparisons.

"It's the most natural thing for people who watch the show to compare," Franz says. "I think they're both great, and they both handle their characters--there are distinct differences between the two characters. Caruso's character was one of a weary sort, always trying to do the right thing. That caused great angst within himself. He was always battling good versus evil. And the Bobby Simone character is also an upstanding character with much integrity."

Despite the post-mortem sentiments of fans and scribes, the show is flourishing, consistently placing in the top 10 shows of the week. Although wildly different than Caruso's character in manner, Jimmy Smits' character is effective and is developing more and more each week. The ratings reveal that millions of fans have stayed with the show to give Smits a chance; they are being rewarded, as the show's writers begin to unravel his enigmatic character.

"From what we've seen of him so far, he isn't battling as many demons as were presented in the Kelly character," says Franz. "That's not to say it's not going to happen, because I'm sure it is. There's something going on in his past, but we don't know about his past yet. There have been a few episodes that have ended where I really longed to know what happened to Bobby Simone before he came to this point. I assume that the audience is asking the same question. What kind of man is this, where is he coming from and will that open up as time goes on?"

"NYPD" is a show that always seems to make its own press. Whether it's the little "viewer discretion" warning at the beginning of each episode or the parade of naked bottoms, the production always rates high on the titillation meter. One example was Sipowicz's first skirmish with Sylvia Costas. She comes at him with a Latin phrase common in legalese, saying "ipso facto..." Sipowicz grabs his crotch and shoots back, "Ipso facto this, bitch." Before long, Franz suggested to writers that it would be novel for two people from such different levels on the food chain to get together. The writers began developing the relationship.

Then came the now-infamous scene in which Sipowicz's ass made its grand debut. While he showers, his girlfriend enters and begins to wash him. "I usually wash myself down there," he says, not quite protesting. "It's getting clean down there," he says, as she continues. While her tush was a sight worth beholding--perhaps even freeze-framing on your 19-inch--Sipowicz's ass became the butt of late-night TV shows. "I did it as a joke," Franz says with a smile. "I know what I look like. I wanted to show I'm Everyman."

Jay Leno went to town on him. "Did we need to see Dennis Franz's ass just before Thanksgiving?" Leno wondered during one monologue. "I had only a 20-inch screen and couldn't see it all," Leno continued. On another show Leno cracked, "Franz was actually doing a public service announcement: 'This is your ass, and this is your ass on Twinkies.' " No one got a bigger kick out of it than Franz. "He had a ball at my expense," he says.

Franz was invited onto Leno's show. "I brought Twinkies onto the show. I was going to throw them at him, but gave them to the audience instead." But a truce was not called; Leno wasn't finished. Referring to the New York City cop, Carol Shaya, getting fired for baring it all in Playboy, Leno said, "What kind of country is it when a beauty in her 20s is fired for going around topless, and Franz is 50 and allowed to go bottomless?" Now Leno leaves messages on Franz's machine such as, "More ass jokes coming!"


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