8. NYPD Blue
Air Dates: September 21, 1993 – March 1, 2005
Stars: Dennis Franz, David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, Rich Schroder, Kim Delaney, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Henry Simmons, Gordon Clapp, Bill Brochtup, James McDaniel, Nicholas Turturro, Esai Morales, Sharon Lawrence, Amy Brenneman
When all else fails during pilot season, and networks can't scrounge up any unique programming, there will always be the police procedural format. Year in and year out, channels both basic and cable premiere new shows steeped in the world of crime-solving, typically with crooked cops, flawed heroes, and a dead body or two per episode. And the sad fact is that every one of these programs is trying to be even half as great as NYPD Blue.
Co-created by Steven Bochco and David Milch, ABC's seminal police drama never skirted over the harsh realities associated with protecting and serving. The violence was raw, the characters were both likable and damaged (and sometimes naked), and fan favorites weren't immune to death. NYPD Blue thrived on the kind of naturally powerful storytelling that later procedurals have so desperately forced into clichéd submission. —MB