It's easy to look at CBS' newest cop drama, Blue Bloods, and assume it's just the latest entry in the network's long line of police procedurals. It's easy, but wrong.
The series, which focuses on a family of New York cops, will certainly deliver the case-of-the week storytelling that has made CBS the No. 1 network. But it's the family drama that inspired veteran producer Leonard Goldberg to bring this story to television.
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"I thought about two kinds of shows I always loved doing: police shows and family shows, and I thought, 'No one's ever done one that combined both, so maybe this is the time,'" Goldberg tells TVGuide.com, adding that Norman Rockwell's famous Thanksgiving painting provided a second bit of inspiration.
"Every week we would have a family dinner scene after church," Goldberg says. "I thought that would be kind of the cornerstone of the family side of our show."
To bring the family to life, Goldberg sought out Emmy-winning husband-and-wife writing team Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess, best known for writing about a family on the other side of the law on The Sopranos.
"We were looking to get on the other side," Green says. "Not that these characters don't have flaws, but they are basically strong, good, honorable people who are trying to do the right thing and make an honorable world. Frank Reagan is keeping his city safe and that's what his children are doing, and that's what his father did."
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Goldberg had only one actor in mind to play Frank, the police commissioner and patriarch of the family. "Very rarely in television or movies do you say, 'There's only one guy who can play this,' and actually get him," Goldberg says. "We told CBS that if we didn't have Tom Selleck, we didn't know who the second choice would be. Unless you have an iconic figure like Tom Selleck playing Frank Reagan, it's not really going to work. You have to have that kind of man with that stature, that physical presence, that gravitas."
Frank's father (Len Cariou) was a former police commissioner. His eldest son, Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), is a respected detective, who sometimes goes outside the lines for justice. His daughter, Erin (Bridget Moynahan), is a single mom and assistant district attorney. And his youngest son, Jamie (Will Estes) is a law school grad who decided to join the force after his other brother, Joe, was killed on duty.
"We have every generation to work with," Green says. "There is just so much history there and so much richness that the stories are just endless. It's a great gift to a writer."
But again unlike other procedurals, there is a mystery element that provides a constant undercurrent to the show. We'll only say that there are conflicting stories about how Joe died, and Jamie is called upon to sniff around for answers behind his family's back.
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"This is a huge decision for him and it's going to take him a bit to decide whether or not he wants to do it," Goldberg says. "On the one hand, he's shocked to learn that his brother didn't die as they were all told. On the other, he's always shared everything with his father. It's a huge thing and he's going to wrestle with it. He's probably going to be feeling his way around the edges of this before he makes his decision."
Goldberg says the mystery will run throughout at least the first season, though it won't be dealt with every week. But even if it's resolved, the show will continue to explore those extra layers, Green says.
"I think the note that it provides — that kind of link to a world larger than just the police department that includes political intrigue and criminal intrigue in a larger sense — will always be something that we'll want to play to some extent," she says.
And although there are early hints that some of the Reagans might be mixed up in whatever it is Jamie's investigating, Goldberg insists that these characters are not antiheroes.
"You should be very trusting of them," Goldberg says. "In fact, we hope when you've seen a show or two you'll wish that Frank Reagan was the head of the police in your town. You'd be very safe at night. They're human beings; they have flaws, and we'll be exploring that. But essentially, they are the good guys."
Blue Bloods premieres Friday at 10/9c on CBS.