JAMIE PORTMAN; SOUTHAM NEWS
When conservative groups started attacking NYPD Blue last autumn, the impact was immediate on those connected with the hard-hitting ABC police series.
"It made us into a tighter, more dedicated group," says Amy Brenneman, who plays one of the more controversial characters -- officer Janet Licalsi, whose torrid affair with David Caruso's Det. Kelly heated up the screen earlier this season.
"When the controversy broke, it took me by surprise. In fact, it took a lot of us by surprise. For my part, it helped me articulate how I feel both about the show and the issue.
"What I feel is this: The show is very relentless, the pace is very relentless and it's a very intense world that we have created. Only now, well into the season, are we beginning to understand what the world depicted in this series really is."
Looking back, Brenneman thinks that she actually resisted the show's bruising narrative drive at the outset -- possibly because she was identifying so strongly with her character and the emotional and professional pressures imposed on her.
As NYPD Blue nears the close of its first season, Brenneman also realizes that this often raw and unsettling series boasts another key element -- a rough-hewn compassion.
The series' detractors prefer to concentrate on Brenneman and her nude bedroom scenes with Caruso -- scenes which have broken long-standing taboos in American series television.
"You want to know how I feel about the nudity?" she asks.
"I saw those scenes as part of the work, no more no less. What I remember is what an incredibly reassuring presence our director, Greg Hoblit, and my colleagues were at the time. Their support helped create the environment for what David and I had to do."
But in the wider context of the series, Brenneman argues that the nudity is no big deal.
"Unfortunately, people latch on to the wrong priorities," she says icily. "When people judge something in this limited way, it's a sign that they can't critique intelligently. They can't judge what is really gratuitous and what isn't."
What disturbs Brenneman is that people who complain about the nudity in NYPD Blue often have no trouble with the graphic violence of many Hollywood movies.
"A lot of us go to the movies and are horrified at what we see depicted -- the poor storytelling and the lack of responsibility."