TV Series Review

Steven Bochco has a thing for the human posterior. The creator of NYPD Blue made headlines in 1993 by flashing Dennis Franz’s bare backside. His newest cop series, Blind Justice (ABC), waited about five minutes before showing a naked rear—this time on a bound-and-gagged female corpse. Viewers saw another nearly bare bottom in the second episode. Consider it a case of the gluteus maximized.

That decision to focus on the underside of life is typical of Blind Justice, which tells the story of Detective Jim Dunbar (Ron Eldard), a hero cop blinded during a shootout with a bank robber. Determined not to be sidelined, he sued to be reinstated as a police officer, despite his disability. That’s how he winds up at a precinct in the Bronx working with crime fighters uncomfortable taking dangerous assignments with a guy who needs a guide dog just to cross the street.

Dunbar’s first day back on the job finds police searching for a serial killer who leaves his female victims bound, gagged, naked and with their tongues cut out. Detectives Selway and Russo (Reno Wilson and Frank Grillo) are hot on the case, as is Karen Bettancourt (Marisol Nichols)—until she gets paired with Dunbar. That’s when she’s shunted off to investigate a routine car theft. Can you spell r-e-s-e-n-t-m-e-n-t?

Dunbar does have certain talents. While not quite Daredevil, his blindness has heightened his other senses. And his street smarts remain intact. He’s a deft questioner at crime scenes and in the interrogation room. Slowly, Bettancourt comes to appreciate her new partner, and they turn out to be a good team.

Being a Bochco drama, the cop stuff is only part of the story. Dunbar had cheated on his wife shortly before being blinded, and that betrayal simmers barely below the surface even as his wife (Rena Sofer) heroically lives out the “in sickness and health” clause of her marriage vows. Compounding the insult, he refuses to let her help him with simple things such as tying his tie. Eventually, however, her faithfulness transforms her husband.

Blind Justice also bears the Bochco stamp for some rough language, including an extremely crude sexual put-down hurled at Bettancourt by another cop. Also problematic, Dunbar cuts ethical corners. For example, he advises a victim to lie to her boss about the circumstances of the crime, and tells Bettancourt to withhold information from their superior so they won’t be pulled from a case.

Despite Steven Bochco’s talent for creating riveting stories and compelling human drama, his penchant for harsh realism that aims below the belt will have wise families searching for reruns of Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye.

Episodes Reviewed: March 8, 15, 22, 29, 2005

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Tom Neven

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