January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

ABC (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Faced with the reality that Jimmy Smits had decided to quit NYPD Blue after four years as Detective Bobby Simone, Steven Bochco and David Milch did what any self-respecting executive producers would do: They milked the situation for all it was worth. In a five-episode arc starting in late October, Bobby developed a mysterious heart ailment, underwent a transplant and eventually expired in a 90-minute swan song that drew the show’s highest rating since November 1995. Meanwhile, Bobby’s New York City cop colleagues (including wife Diane Russell, played affectingly by Kim Delaney) struggled to cope with their grief while discharging their daily duties. The dramatic combination of soap opera and street grit made for absorbing television. Though I had drifted away from the 5½-year-old series in recent times, I found myself getting readdicted to its urban rhythms.

Now Rick Schroder’s Danny Sorenson has replaced Bobby as partner to truculent Andy Sipowicz (the redoubtable Dennis Franz). Simply forget Schroder as that Silver Spoons kid from the ’80s. The 28-year-old actor is remarkably convincing as an idealistic yet crafty detective who can parry Andy’s constant sarcasm with a degree of diplomacy but isn’t afraid to let the older man know when he’s being an incredible pain in the posterior (on this show they use stronger language). NYPD Blue still has its petty irritations—gratuitous flashes of nudity, a glut of cop-shop jargon—but with Bobby’s death, the 15th precinct somehow seems revitalized.

Bottom Line: A citation for the Blue crew

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