Blue Bloods' new executive producer, Ed Zuckerman, wants to make one thing clear to viewers: He's not messing with the formula that made the sophomore CBS drama a hit in its first year.
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The veteran TV writer/producer was hired in May to replace outgoing creators Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess amid reports that CBS wanted to make the show more procedural. (Zuckerman's resume supported the theory: He served long stints on JAG and Law & Order.) However, Zuckerman insists nothing will change.
"The idea is to keep the show the same balanced show between a case of the week and the Reagan family issues and family drama," Zuckerman tells TVGuide.com. "I think if anything, we might be doing a little more Reagan family stuff this year."
Read on to see what's in store for the Reagans, how the new mayor (David Ramsey) will make trouble for Frank (Tom Selleck), and what new case will run throughout the season.
TVGuide.com: What's the transition been like for you?
Ed Zuckerman: It's actually been pretty smooth. That's a good thing for me, because the last couple shows I've been on haven't lasted very long. [Zuckerman most recently served as executive producer for ABC's short-lived legal drama The Whole Truth.] There's a lot of continuity. ... I kept almost all of the old writers who are a great resource. They're good writers, and they know the characters, and they know where the men's room is. ... People really know what they're doing.
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Reports say the show is changing creatively to be more procedural. Is that true?
Zuckerman: The only basis for that as far as I can tell is that I used to work on a procedural show. So, someone was making a leap from that. I have received no such marching orders. The idea is to keep the show the same balanced show between a case of the week and Reagan family issues and family drama. I think if anything, we might be doing a little more Reagan family stuff this year.
Zuckerman: Some episodes are going to put family members in conflict. Their jobs put them in conflict. There are going to be some romances involving at least two family members this season. We're going to try to deepen the role of Henry [Len Cariou]. He's not just at home cooking dinner. He's still very much alive and vital. And in real life former commissioners do many things. We're also going to try and pay a little more attention to Danny's marriage to Linda [Amy Carlson].
Last season had an ongoing story with the Blue Templar. Are you abandoning that type of structure for the season?
Zuckerman: No. We have one story that will run the whole season. We are launching something at the very end of the first episode, and it we're going to develop it slowly over the course of the season. It involves a story for Jamie [Will Estes] and an organized crime figure. It's not going to be in every episode. It's going to pop up here and there, and it's going to culminate in, we hope, a pretty cool conclusion in either Episode 21 or 22.
How does Jamie get involved with this organized crime member?
Zuckerman: Jamie totally by chance befriends a young man [Eric Morris] who's roughly his peer . He is the Jamie of an organized crime family — the younger member of an organized crime family We're not even sure if he's involved with the family or not, but Jamie has to decide whether or not to pursue this relationship as a friendship or as an informer.
We also know that Monica Raymund will play Jamie's new partner. What does that mean for Nick Turturro's Renzulli?
Zuckerman: We may not see him every week. Actually, [in this case] reality is our friend. Renzulli is a sergeant, and as a sergeant he rides on patrol with a variety of different patrol officers. Some weeks he rides with Jamie and some weeks Jamie will be riding with somebody else. Jamie will do a lot of shifting around. He'll have a variety of new partners. As for his female partner ... some interesting issues arise between the two of them.
Is that perhaps one of the romances you hinted at before?
Zuckerman: Well she's married and the Reagans are not adulterers. But she's not happy in her marriage, so I think it's going to be a very interesting dynamic.
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Let's talk about the new mayor.
Zuckerman: He's a very dynamic mayor. He's a young man; he's an African-American. He comes from sort of a community-organizing background, which is the antithesis of Frank Reagan's background as an old law-and-order guy. So in many ways, they're opposites. The Reagan family is a classic 20th century New York police family, and this mayor is a very 21st century character. He is a politician, and Frank Reagan always has a little bit of trouble with politics. The mayor represents a changing city, and the Reagan family must come to terms with the fact that this is not the world they grew up in.
How does having a new boss affect Frank's day-to-day duties as police commissioner?
Zuckerman: Frank is a great cop, so it's not a matter of police methods. It's just a matter of confronting who the players of this city are. ... It's a matter of personalities between two very strong men with different agendas. The mayor will have a very political agenda, and it's a broader agenda than the last mayor had. Frank just wants to do the right thing and make the city safe for all people. For the first few episodes, they are kind of dancing around each other. It's also normal protocol that when the new mayor is sworn in, that the police commissioner automatically resigns, and it's up to the new mayor to keep him or not. I'll keep you guessing as to whether or not Frank remains the police commissioner after the first episode, but it is an issue.
You mentioned focusing on Danny [Donnie Wahlberg] and Linda's marriage before. What plans do you have for them?
Zuckerman: We will have a number of episodes where things happen in Danny's house that are caused by things happening outside the house, or vice versa. In one episode, he has a fight with Linda that leaves him very irritated and it causes an incident on the street because he hasn't gotten over that. So we see the police work affecting the home life and we see the home life affect the police work.
What about Danny and Jackie (Jennifer Esposito)?
Zuckerman: I like that dynamic a lot, and we have no changes in that. We want to keep that going. I think that works very well. We have an episode coming up where Jackie goes undercover with Danny backing her up.
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And Erin [Bridget Moynahan]? The case in the season premiere actually involved a friend of hers, right?
Zuckerman: Right. There's a murder, and the new widow happens to be a close friend of Erin's. Because the circumstances of the murder are actually pretty scandalous, the widow would actually prefer that the murderer go free than have a trial which would expose her family to the shame of finding out what her dead husband was up to. Erin, of course, doesn't want to let a murderer go free, so she's torn between a personal request and the duty of her job.
What other plans do you have for her this season?
Zuckerman: We have at least one episode coming up where she'll be doing a murder trial, and there's probably a romance coming up in the cards for her as well. [At home], there's one episode where Nicky wants more freedom and Erin's very nervous about it, especially since some teenagers were just murdered for no reason.
So, you have identified the two romances you mentioned, but what about Frank? We saw him with the reporter last season — anything this year?
Zuckerman: We do have an idea for a relationship for Frank. It's still in the early stages so I can't speak in detail of it, but you may see Frank in a relationship with a somewhat surprising person.
You're taking over a show that became a hit last year. Do you have any specific goals to help the show grow?
Zuckerman: I think the first duty of any TV writer is to be entertaining and the second is to be intelligent. In my years writing for other shows, I think I learned how to structure mysteries to fool people a little bit, so I think some of the mystery elements of the show will be a little more twisty and subtle than they may have been in the past. I want to just keep the show as good as it was last year, and try to make it a little bit better. No major changes are in the cards.
Blue Bloods returns Friday, Sept. 23 at 10/9c on CBS.