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Public Morals aired on October 30, 1996 on CBS.
A comedy about a vice squad unit of the N.Y.P.D.'s Public Moral's Division, the cops who kept the hookers under control and underage drinkers from hanging out in bars. Ken Schuler ( Donal Logue) was a barely tolerable cop who favored loud Hawaiian shirts and whose only saving grace was his cullinary skill; Richie Blondi ( Larry Romano) was a super-dumb young Italian ("Duh!") from a family full of career criminals. Mickey Crawford ( Justin Louis), handsome but obnoxious, had recently been added to the unit by headquarters to " beef" up the division, and Darnell " Shag" Ruggs ( Joseph Latimore) was the unbelievably square , butt-kissing rookie. The two women in the unit were sexy, streetwise Corinne O'Boyle ( Julianne Christie) and tough, ambitious Val Vandergoodt ( Jana Marie Hupp), who held their own while kidding the guys. They all reported to Lt. Fogerty ( Peter Gerety), a bumbling career cop whose job was to hold the " sleaze patrol" together. John Irvin ( Bill Brochtrup recreating his role from ABC's NYPD Blue) was the very gay administrative assistant recently transferred to the department from uptown.
Producer Steven Bochco's track record with serious cop shows was impressive-Hill Street Blues and N.Y.P.D. Blue, for example-but comedy was another matter, and trying to make light of prostitution , and all those stereotypes , didn't work. The critics brutalized Public Morals from the day it was announced on the CBS schedule ( at which time it was billed , tastefully as "the p**** patrol"). When it finally aired, it was also a commercial disaster. Uncomfortable with the raunchy language and disappointed with minuscule ratings, CBS dropped the show after a single telecast. Thirteen episodes were reportedly filmed; will they ever be seen?
An Article from The New York Times
Bochco Gets a Chance to Try a Laugh Track
By NANCY HASS
Published: July 14, 1996
In the smoke-free back rooms of the television business, Steven Bochco has been called a lot of things over the years: genius, golden goose, "utterly impossible." But "funny" is one adjective that rarely springs to mind when describing the intense auteur of such dramas as "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law," "N.Y.P.D. Blue" and "Murder One."
Which is one reason, he readily admits, that getting laughs has come to obsess him lately. "Figuring out what makes a joke funny is such a different game," he says. "Of course, a lot of the rules of television apply, but some of them are useless. Drama, even when there's humor, always springs from the human condition. Comedy exists suspended in space."
Mr. Bochco, 52, has good reason to be serious about comedy right now. His newest project, "Public Morals," is a classic sitcom, his first (his "Hooperman" and "Doogie Howser, M.D." are considered comic dramas). It will make its debut on CBS in September. But his first brush with half-hour comedy has not been a lark.
Despite his track record -- no one in television has created as many sophisticated dramatic hits -- getting "Public Morals" off the ground was a struggle. ABC, the network on which he has had his greatest successes over the years and with whom he is at the tail end of a 10-series deal, turned down the concept more than a year ago. Executives at ABC say there were a number of reasons for this rejection, among them that the network did not have a proper slot for an adult comedy ("Public Morals" is about a squad room of vice cops) and that the humor was potentially too risque for its audience. But the main reason was brutally basic: ABC was simply not convinced that Mr. Bochco could produce a hit sitcom.
The network's biggest concern, says Ted Harbert, the chairman of ABC Entertainment, was that Mr. Bochco himself was not running the show or writing it. Instead he had hired a comedy veteran, Jay Tarses, the quirky creator of such critically acclaimed flops as "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," "Buffalo Bill" and "The Slap Maxwell Story." (In an unrelated development, Mr. Tarses's daughter, Jamie, was hired away from NBC last month to be president of ABC's entertainment division. Had she been with ABC a year ago, she, not Mr. Harbert, would have had to make the call on "Public Morals.")
Mr. Bochco, who is known to be one of the most hands-on producers in television, told ABC that he would closely supervise the project and guide the story lines but would leave the actual scriptwriting and coordination to Mr. Tarses. Such an arrangement spooked ABC; the network executives were accustomed to having Mr. Bochco control the entire process, and Mr. Harbert considered Mr. Tarses "brilliant but unpredictable."
"In the past, buying a Steven Bochco show was buying Steven Bochco," said Mr. Harbert. "He was the guy. He was the concept, the character and often even the actual words. And if anything went wrong, he could get in there and fix it. Comedy isn't his thing. He doesn't want to sit around a room and think up jokes."
As Mr. Bochco recalled the rejection last winter, when the sting was still fresh, his carefully cultivated California cool was punctured by an edge of adolescent moxie kept in reserve for those moments when he is ready to brawl. He was brought up with too little money on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (his father, Rudolph, was a violin prodigy who as an adult struggled to support his family), and he is known for a nasty counterpunch.
"I understand why they felt they had to say no," he said in January during an interview in his palm-tree-lined office on the Fox lot. "But I'd really like to rub their noses in it."
Mr. Bochco wasted no time looking for a way to prove ABC wrong. He took the idea straight to CBS, with whom he already had a relationship. Next January, just as his ABC deal ends, he will begin a three-series deal with CBS. His contract specifies that CBS has a right to buy any concept that ABC turns down in the interim. And CBS could not afford the reservations that Mr. Harbert had about "Public Morals."
Leslie Moonves, president of CBS Entertainment, bought the concept over breakfast last summer. Unlike ABC, which had given away time-slot commitments to production companies like Dreamworks and Disney (ABC's parent), Mr. Moonves had plenty of holes to plug in the fall '96 schedule. And getting Mr. Bochco on the roster fit perfectly with the network's new strategy of loading up on well-known talent (Bill Cosby and Ted Danson will star in new CBS sitcoms this fall).
"Taking on 'Public Morals' was a risk," Mr. Moonves conceded recently. "It is an edgy show. It's not a domestic sitcom; it's out there. But one of the good things about being the third-place network is that you are pushed to take those kind of chances and sometimes really exciting things come out of it."
The show, which stars an ensemble cast of unknowns, is about a division of the New York City Police Department that was until recently indeed quaintly known as Public Morals. (The department was renamed Vice just a couple of years ago.) Mr. Bochco has touted "Public Morals" as a " 'Barney Miller' for the 90's." He got the idea for the sitcom during a chat with Bill Clark, a former New York City detective who is a producer on "N.Y.P.D. Blue." Mr. Clark's wife, Karen, a retired city police officer, was once assigned to Public Morals.
"As soon as I heard the name Public Morals, I was struck by it," Mr. Bochco said recently during lunch at the China Grill, the restaurant that occupies the ground floor of Black Rock, CBS's headquarters in Manhattan. "It's so ridiculous to think of protecting some sort of public morality."
THE PART OF "BARNEY MILler" that Mr. Bochco hopes he can recreate is the unprettified mix of tedium and absurdity that comes with being a police officer in New York. While shows like "N.Y.P.D. Blue" and "Hill Street Blues" may have broken new ground for realism in the precinct house, their dramatic lighting and slick camera work inarguably render even the gallows humor glamorous.
"During the research stage for 'Public Morals,' " said Mr. Bochco, "we traveled to New York to interview cops and we asked them all which was their favorite police show. Every single one of them said it was 'Barney Miller,' because it was the closest to their experience."
Mr. Bochco said he had not sought to do a sitcom, but once he stumbled on the idea of "Public Morals," he became intrigued with the idea of broadening his oeuvre. "People have a lot of expectations, but I get bored," he explained. "You don't want to repeat yourself. And you want to see what else you have in you."
Although his most infamous foray outside the dramatic realm -- the musical police drama "Cop Rock" in 1990 -- was a widely lampooned failure, Mr. Bochco remains proud of the effort. "A lot of people thought 'Cop Rock' was wrongheaded," he said, "but, God, it was polished."
There is an additional lure to risking a sitcom that Mr. Bochco did not mention: profitability. Hourlong dramas may bring cachet, but it is comedies that bring cold cash in syndication.
" 'Public Morals' appealed to me because of my very raunchy, prurient sense of humor," he said, running a hand through his well-coifed thatch of silver hair. Mr. Bochco, who is well known for blithely seeding both his shows and his conversation with mildly scatological references (some call his humor sophomoric, and he does not disagree), says that "Public Morals" gives him a "place to do that comfortably."
"The story lines involve most of the so-called victimless crimes, prostitution, gambling, porn houses," he said. "I figure that in a situation where there are six-foot transvestite prostitutes there's a lot of built-in absurdity."
There is also, it appears, a built-in proclivity toward profanity and racy slang, which some viewers will no doubt find shocking. "I'm not sophisticated, and I don't apologize for it," he said. "There's not a Noel Coward bone in me." The word whore is used nearly a dozen times in the pilot; one female character accuses another of being a "dyke." The biggest laugh hinges on the use of the word "penis."
Despite the resistance Mr. Bochco met in trying to do a sitcom, he does have a track record in comedy. "Doogie Howser, M.D." was a moderate success that has done well in syndication. And although "Hooperman" failed, it was well received by the critics. Nonetheless he never entertained the idea of writing "Public Morals" himself. Whereas "Doogie" and "Hooperman" were essentially examples of the half-hour one-camera narrative comedy, a close cousin to hourlong drama, "Public Morals" is a classic sitcom. Shot with four cameras in front of a studio audience, it is more like a play presented on a proscenium stage, Mr. Bochco says, a "different species of the beast."
He hired Mr. Tarses when the concept for "Public Morals" was still in its infancy, after a chance meeting on the Fox lot. Mr. Tarses, 57, greeted Mr. Bochco, whom he knew only casually, by telling the producer how much he liked "N.Y.P.D. Blue" and how funny he found the show. Mr. Bochco countered by telling Mr. Tarses about his new idea for a sitcom. In the shadow of the gritty set on which the exteriors of "N.Y.P.D. Blue" are shot, the two men began to brainstorm.
The only aspect of "Public Morals" that they initially disagreed about was the four-camera format. Mr. Tarses wanted to use a single camera; Mr. Bochco and CBS insisted the show be shot as a traditional sitcom. "I wanted to do something in that very straight form," Mr. Bochco explained. "I have no interest in being known as a quirky loser. That holds no charm for me."
In the end, Mr. Tarses caved in, but he still needed an usual set of guarantees. Shy, bearish and perennially underemployed despite his near cult status in the television business, he would do the project only with the understanding that Mr. Bochco would "insulate me from the things I don't do well -- like interacting with other human beings."
But Mr. Tarses turned out to be remarkably easy to work with, Mr. Bochco said. "The night we shot the pilot," he remembered, "Jay turned to me with this sweet, sweet smile and said, 'Isn't this just great, and we all still love each other.' "
For his part, Mr. Tarses insists that Mr. Bochco is much more adept at comedy than he lets on. "Steven likes to portray himself as alien to the genre, but that's nonsense," he said. "The story suggestions, the nuances -- a lot of them are his. He knows what's funny, and that's a lot more than you can say about most of the jerks in this town."
N OW THAT THE PROJECT is headed to prime time, on Wednesdays at 9:30 P.M., Mr. Bochco looks at ABC's rejection with more philosophical distance. His anger seems to have been tempered by the fact that in May the network renewed "Murder One," his crime drama that has had a rocky time in the ratings. True, ABC will move that show to Thursday at 9 P.M., where it will go up against a virtually unbeatable opponent, NBC's "Seinfeld," but Mr. Bochco said he is "profoundly grateful" to ABC for giving it any further chance at all.
The time slot of Wednesday at 9:30 is not exactly a great one for "Public Morals." ABC dominates comedy on that night with "Ellen" and "Grace Under Fire," and CBS's less-urban audience does not have a tradition of watching comedies on Wednesday. In fact, the network has not had a hit comedy on Wednesday since "The Beverly Hillbillies" in the 1960's.
Still, even Mr. Harbert is loath to underestimate Mr. Bochco's ability to defy the odds. "It probably just fuels Steven to say, 'I'm going to show those bastards at ABC,' and more power to him," he said. "I think we made the right decision, but I will never count Steven out. He is a genius, and he has a genius for proving people wrong."
An Article from the LA Times
Certain Words Put TV on the Cutting Edge of Controversy
News analysis: New programming rekindles a debate over how much the networks should watch their language.
July 24, 1996|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER
In 1990, a television series based on the movie "Uncle Buck" dominated the discourse between network officials and TV critics, all because a 6-year-old girl in the show uttered the phrase "You suck."
Debate over the propriety of certain language in prime time has again become the centerpiece of this year's television critics' press tour, with CBS' new Steven Bochco comedy "Public Morals" at its core.
Efforts to redefine content boundaries have been a fixture at these annual gatherings held before each new season, but the language question probably hasn't gotten this thorough a working over since the "Uncle Buck" brouhaha.
Part of that may stem from the political backdrop to this year's TV season. Election-year politicking has focused discussion on the V-chip and a TV ratings system as well as on reviving the family hour. There's also concern in some quarters that introduction of a ratings system, which is planned in January, may actually allow broadcasters more license in expanding the parameters of taste.
Most of the comments have centered on "Public Morals," a comedy about vice cops that among other things uses a colorful slang term for the female anatomy. But the discussion has included the language in other shows, including the new Scott Bakula CBS drama "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," the new Rhea Perlman CBS comedy "Pearl" and the new Molly Ringwald ABC sitcom "Townies."
NBC has also been questioned frequently about the appropriateness of language and themes in popular programs like "Friends" and "Mad About You" that air at 8 p.m., when children are apt to be watching.
CBS, which is touting "family-friendly programming" like "Touched by an Angel" every night at 8 as a marketing tool, has indicated that it sees "Public Morals" as a risk. Officials stress that the show won't air until 9:30 p.m. and will carry, as entertainment President Leslie Moonves put it, "the most definitive rating on the [parental advisory] scale, whatever that will be."
Network executives contend that they're responsive to content concerns, and CBS has yet to decide whether the at-issue line will survive in "Public Morals."
Even so, some officials privately wonder whether the critics group is actually a true reflection of public attitudes--in some ways being more permissive, in others more conservative. In fact, new CBS star Bill Cosby not only chastised the risque language on television but also criticized the critics themselves, saying they contributed to it by lauding as "irreverent" shows that "pushed the envelope."
Bochco--who experienced a similar ruckus three years ago when ABC launched "NYPD Blue" (though the concern then was more with partial nudity)--insisted that he doesn't welcome the publicity surrounding "Public Morals," calling the controversy a "nonissue."
As with "NYPD Blue," Bochco reiterated during a question-and-answer session Monday that divisions between movies and television have blurred, with roughly two-thirds of Americans having cable and thus access at home to R-rated movies either uncut or lightly edited. By movie standards, he said, "Public Morals" would warrant at worst a PG rating.
Despite thematic similarities to "Barney Miller," Bochco added, a show must reflect the culture today, not mores of 20 years ago.
"Television is losing its viewership hand over fist," he said. "I don't think anybody knows anything about this stuff anymore. Clearly a reliance on yesterday's notions of what succeeds or doesn't succeed isn't serving us in the industry."
Regarding Cosby's criticism, Bochco said, "Bill has done really well doing the stuff that he does, and I've done really well doing the stuff that I do. And I think there is plenty of room for Bill Cosby . . . and Steven Bochco on a [TV] landscape."
Both Bochco and his partner on "Public Morals," producer Jay Tarses, maintained that the political climate has made it more difficult to take such chances. Television insiders, in fact, say only a few producers with Bochco's influence and track record have the latitude to explore such boundaries.
"Maybe it's controversial because of what's happening politically this year and the family hour," Tarses observed, joking, "I think that this is [appropriate] to the family hour, if your family is a bunch of transvestites, pimps and hookers."
* WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT
Next Monday's summit is not likely to change the networks' opposition to Clinton's plans for TV. See Business section.
A Review from The New York Times
Vice Problem? Round Up The Usual Detectives!
By CARYN JAMES
Published: October 30, 1996
Sometimes a little scandal doesn't hurt a show. Months ago, when CBS stations saw the pilot of ''Public Morals,'' Steven Bochco's new sitcom set in the vice squad of the New York City Police Department, there was a mini-outcry about the show's vulgar language and salacious content. The truly offensive aspect of the show, though, was that it was excruciatingly unfunny.
Tonight's toned-down premiere offers a different episode, one that is pointedly and atypically stripped of sexual content, as the squad raids a bar serving minors. That strategy manages to make a bad series even worse. The premiere is still not funny, and it doesn't even have the conviction of its crass but titillating taste. Instead of sexual innuendo, there is some trashy name-calling: the police call the minors ''little idiot tramps,'' and in return they are called ''meter maids'' and ''fat Nazi pig bouncers.'' This is so not-clever, you expect the next line to be, ''Your mother wears Army boots.''
An even bigger problem is that the show features a squad room full of stereotypes so predictable and dull that ''Public Morals'' seems like ''Barney Miller'' about to overdose on Valium.
There is Schuler, the boor; Crawford, the womanizer; Ruggs, the uptight African-American, and Biondi, the not-too-bright Tony Danza clone. The two women on the force include Vandergroodt, the tough and smart brunette, and O'Boyle, the tough and sexy blonde.
Only Bill Brochtrup rises above this amateurish mess, playing John Irvin, the same efficient and gushingly loyal administrative assistant he played on ''N.Y.P.D. Blue.'' (He was the blond guy upstairs who gave haircuts.) Of course, he is inhabiting a stereotype, too: the gay man with exquisite taste. But Mr. Brochtrup creates a likable individual beneath the purposefully cliched manner; he defines the difference between edgy, politically incorrect humor and the doltish attempts at it that surround him.
Next week's episode returns the show to its hard-core subject, when O'Boyle's boyfriend is arrested for picking up a prostitute who happens to be Vandergroodt undercover. Crawford ends up drooling over the dejected O'Boyle. The show proves that with or without its smarmy coating, ''Public Morals'' has no idea where to find a funny line.
CBS, tonight at 9:30
(Channel 2 in New York)
Created by Steven Bochco and Jay Tarses. Dayna Flanagan and Stephen C. Grossman, producers; Lisa Albert, co-producer; Don Scardino, director; Ken Lamkin, director of photography; Mindy Roffman, art director. Produced by Steven Bochco Productions. Jay Tarses, executive producer.
WITH: Donal Logue (Ken Schuler), Julianne Christie (Corinne O'Boyle), Justin Louis (Mickey Crawford), Jana Marie Hupp (Val Vandergroodt), Joseph Latimore (Darnell ''Shag'' Ruggs), Lawrence Romano (Richie Biondi), Bill Brochtrup (John Irvin) and Peter Gerety (Neil Fogarty).
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
BOCHCO'S COP SITCOM PROVES TO BE A 'PUBLIC' NUISANCE
C By Bruce Fretts
Sitcoms have never been Steven Bochco's strong suit (Q.E.D. Doogie Howser, M.D.), and PUBLIC MORALS (CBS, Wednesdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) is no exception. Cocreated with Jay Tarses (who specializes in shows critics love but people hate, like Buffalo Bill and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd), it's a raunchy, real-life look at cops -- in this case, a New York City vice squad. But what could have been a comedic NYPD Blue ends up playing like a low-rent Barney Miller.
And therein lies the problem. Unlike Miller, Morals lacks a galvanizingly humane central character like Hal Linden's Barney to hold the show together. What Morals does offer is a squad room of oddballs, some ballsy, others just odd. On the plus side: Bill Brochtrup, reprising his NYPD role as gay administrative assistant John Irvin and adding a touch of gentle humor to the otherwise crass proceedings; Peter Gerety as a world-weary lieutenant who seems to have wandered in out of Fox's underrated 1993-94 cop-com Bakersfield P.D.; and tough cookie Julianne Christie, who somehow manages to maintain her dignity even when delivering crappy lines like ''This relationship has been in the toilet for months -- I say it's time to flush!'' On the minus side: George Clooney clone Justin Louis as the office lothario; Eriq La Salle wannabe Joseph Latimore as an uptight buppie; and Matt LeBlanc manque Larry Romano as the token dumb guy. Worst of all is Donal Logue as the piggiest (in both body and mind) of the cops. Better known as greasy cabdriver Jimmy from MTV's promos, Logue is best taken in small doses. Compared with its sitcom competition, Morals fares better than Men Behaving Badly, but Drew Carey's certainly got nothing to worry about. c
A Review from the LA Times
'Hill Street,' 'Animal House' Beget CBS' 'Public Morals'
October 30, 1996|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC
There's more sleaze in the squad room of "Public Morals" than in the New York streets its cops are assigned to purge of scummy lawbreakers.
Created by Steven Bochco and Jay Tarses, this is the boisterous CBS comedy that underwent its own laundering, of dialogue, before its debut tonight as the last of the fall season's newcomers. Changes imposed on the show have had no impact on the humor, whose success remains spasmodic at best in the three episodes made available for preview.
The admirable track records of Bochco and Tarses, and their reputations as risk-takers, speak for themselves. Bochco has approached the police genre on TV from just about every possible angle, from the musical "Cop Rock" to the classic "Hill Street Blues" to the present hit "NYPD Blue," and earlier tried giving it a smile face in "Hooperman."
Tarses has been a sporadic creative presence in TV for years. And a highly positive one, although never attaining commercial success for his two genius works, "Buffalo Bill" and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," where "Public Morals" director Don Scardino also did such fine work.
Perhaps the best of "Public Morals" is yet to come. So far, it's "Barney Miller" meets "Men Behaving Badly," the latter a new NBC comedy whose male protagonists are a summa cum "Animal House." The same applies to "Public Morals," which, too, is largely sexual, and its male characters largely primitive.
"What is it with men?" Det. Corinne O'Boyle (Julianne Christie) snaps at ever-amorous Officer Mickey Crawford (Justin Louis) in Episode 2 when he makes a move on her after her boyfriend is scooped up in a prostitution sting. "It's like your crotch has a kill switch to your brain."
"Public Morals" aims for the eclectic chaos of ABC's late, great and witty "Barney Miller," but so far can't even carry Barney's badge. Besides O'Boyle and Crawford, squad-room regulars include the cretinous Det. Ken Schuler (Donal Logue), prissy rookie officer Darnell "Shag" Ruggs (Joseph Latimore), tough-sounding Det. Richie Biondi (Lawrence Romano), girlish administrative assistant John Irvin (Bill Brochtrup), feisty Sgt. Val Vandergroodt (Jana Marie Hupp) and the Public Morals Division's buffoonish commander, Lt. Neil Fogarty (Peter Gerety), who tonight falls off his chair, among other things, and in a future episode accidentally spills hot coffee on himself where it can do the most damage.
We meet all of the above tonight in the context of the morals squad closing down a bar serving underage drinkers. The series is funniest when mixing metaphors by putting cerebralspeak in unlikely mouths, such as Fogarty getting all misty about jazz and sax man Johnny Hodges and Biondi speaking with sensitivity about painters Vermeer and Cezanne in his thick street Bronxese.
It's least funny when going for broad sight gags and dwelling on Crawford's lust and the slobbery Schuler, a low-level organism with few recognizable human traits. That's the major emphasis of "Public Morals" initially, as if someone had tripped a kill switch to its brain.
* "Public Morals" premieres at 9:30 tonight on CBS (Channel 2).
An Article from the New York Daily News
BOCHCO'S 'MORALS': NO LAUGHING MATTER
BY Eric Mink
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, October 30, 1996, 12:00 AM
IT WAS dumb and wrong of Steven Bochco, the TV producer and minimogul, to tell Entertainment Weekly recently that the majority of TV critics are dopes. But it turns out he was 100% correct with respect to me. I thought at the time that the arrogant and self-reverent producer was merely being thoughtless when he insulted the people who, collectively, have supported virtually all his previous TV projects "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law," "NYPD Blue," etc. Stupid me. It now seems clear that Bochco was ingeniously establishing an alibi for the negative reviews that almost certainly will greet the launch of "Public Morals," a sitcom premiering tonight at 9:30 on CBS. Thanks to Bochco's broad-brush smear of our ragged fraternity, bad reviews can now be dismissed as the rantings of soreheads ticked off at being called dopes. There's just one hitch: Whether the reviews are believed or disregarded, when viewers see the new comedy for themselves, they're still going to wonder where the laughs are. Some background: "Public Morals" is principally the work of Jay Tarses, a highly regarded and fiercely independent writer-producer whose previous work includes "Buffalo Bill" and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.
" In years past, to his credit, Tarses has clashed with network suits who tried to squelch his creative vision. For "Public Morals," Tarses wisely aligned himself with Bochco, thus gaining the considerable clout of a successful, groundbreaking producer also known for his stubborn resistance to network interference. The pilot they originally presented to CBS last spring was laced with vulgar references that were not entirely out of place in a late-evening sitcom about the cops of a New York vice squad. When a few CBS-affiliated stations expressed reservations about running the episode as is, we had the first minicontroversy of the season. Some critics who looked at that first-generation pilot may have been been dismayed by its language, but I was more concerned about its lack of humor. Now, having looked at three finished episodes, I can confidently report that the vulgarity has been cleaned up but that "Public Morals" still isn't very funny. Tarses and company are actually trying something unconventional here. Pilot episodes typically waste a lot of time and energy setting up characters and situations with all the subtlety of a .357 magnum. "Public Morals" bravely forgoes that approach, plopping viewers down in the middle of a universe that is already running at full speed. Personalities and relationships thus emerge from an essentially nonstop stream of work-place banter. Alas, they emerge with little distinctiveness. Detective Richie Biondi (Lawrence Romano), for example, seems little more than a ripoff of Matt LeBlanc's Joey character on "Friends," while Joseph Lattimore's Detective Ruggs echoes Ron Glass' Detective Ron Harris on "Barney Miller.
" Female cops played by Julianne Christie and Jana Marie Hupp offer only the slightest suggestion of something more than stereotypes. The character with the most promise seems to be Lt. Fogarty (Peter Gerety), an intriguing and nervous blend of common sense and utter befuddlement. "Public Morals" has plenty of talent in front of and behind the camera; what it needs is time to find solutions to its myriad creative problems. Given the show's competitive time slot, CBS' fragile upward momentum and a lack of support for the show from TV critics, time is the one thing "Public Morals" is unlikely to get.
To watch an episode of Public Morals go to https://vimeo.com/125346545
For more on Public Morals go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Morals_(1996_TV_series)
To look at a crossover between Public Morals and N.Y.P.D. Blue go to http://poobala.com/blueandpublicmorals.html
For a look at Stephen Bochco go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080216073504/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/stevebochco.htm
For some Public Morals -related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/public-morals
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Keywords: Public Morals Cast (Links Updated 8/2/18)