Two characters remained through the show's run and anchored it until it's conclusion. Dennis Franz as Detective Andy Sipowicz, a very flawed individual, an alcoholic bigot, but the best detective around. And Gordon Clapp as Detective Greg Medavoy, a decent man with a lot of issues of confidence. The rest of the cast came and went through the 15th precinct of Manhattan just like life itself.
Sipowicz took over the show after the departure of his first partner David Caruso. He was predicted to be a breakout star and he sought to take advantage of his new found fame with a major movie career. A lot of folks wondered if NYPD Blue would survive at that point. Sipowicz was supposed to be a supporting character with the problems just mentioned, Archie Bunker with a badge. But he went in Alcoholics Anonymous and preached its virtues as did Daniel J. Travanti from Hill Street Blues. And over a dozen years, Sipowicz grew in strength and character.
Dennis Franz had three succeeding partners all who had a different character and background. Jimmy Smits, Rick Schroeder, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar were all very good and very different. In the case of Gosselaar he was finally able to shake the casting specter of Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell.
The women detectives all had an individuality about them as well. Probably Kim Delaney as the alcoholic Diane Russell was the best. She was counseled by Andy Sipowicz and brought into AA, but she also wound up marrying Jimmy Smits's character Bobby DeSimone and bravely carrying on after his demise. Sipowicz married ADA Sylvia Costas played by Sharon Lawrence and after she was killed in an unforgettable court house shooting episode. Andy later married again to young detective Charlotte Ross and found again some domestic happiness.
In fact it was getting to be a running joke towards the end that it was as fatal to be around Dennis Franz as it was to be involved with a Cartright from Bonanza. Partners Jimmy Smits and Rick Schroeder died, wife Sylvia Lawrence died, and his son from an even earlier marriage was killed all during the run of the show. But Sipowicz dealt with it all.
The detective squad of the 15th precinct had four heads, James McDaniel, Esai Morales, John O'Donahue, and Graham Currie. One of them actually was a cop, John O'Donahue. He played this mediocre time server Eddie Gibson who was an absolute doofus and originally was a detective on the graveyard shift. When he took the sergeant's test, passed it and wound up succeeding Morales the whole squad was ready to flip. But Gibson wasn't totally stupid, he knew these people and he basically let them have their head.
James McDaniel had a wonderful character in Arthur Fancy and he had all the problems and frustrations of being a black man who rises in the NYPD. I remember once in an episode he was asked why he didn't get rid of a bigot like Sipowicz. To which he replied if I got rid of him it isn't like I'm going to get as his replacement some candidate for the brotherhood award. Probably I'll get another white cop with the same attitudes, but who isn't half as good on the job.
We got to know all these people and what baggage they might have brought to each case they were assigned to. Probably NYPD Blue could have kept going, but Steven Bochco decided to end it while still on high. And he did in fact give it an ending of sorts unlike Hill Street Blues. It was an ironic ending in fact for Sipowicz. But you'll have to see the final episode in fact you'll have to see the entire series which you can catch on cable television to appreciate why.
But the elements are there for a TV movie or six. I've got a good feeling that people would want to see them. We may not have seen the last of the detective squad of the 15th precinct from NYPD Blue.