In the post-Janet Jackson era, Bochco said, "We dialed back a lot of things that we used to do, especially in terms of sexuality. It's not worth the battle every day." He added: "Now, in the existing climate, I don't know that you could actually get 'NYPD Blue' on the air."
Launched in today's more conservative climate, Bochco's new show -- "Blind Justice," about a police officer who stays on the force after being blinded -- is much tamer. Still, he says, fights over its content are fierce.
"I'm having the same kind of ridiculous fights over language issues on 'Blind Justice' that I had 15 years ago on 'L.A. Law,'" said Bochco, who also created the popular 1980s legal drama.
Bochco says innovators and artists who work in television are being driven to work in cable television. His new drama about the Iraq war, "Over There," premieres this summer on FX cable channel. David Milch, the co-creator of "NYPD Blue," produces his Western drama "Deadwood" for HBO.
The debate over decency is even more fevered today than it was in 1993. On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission announced that "Saving Private Ryan" was suitable for airing; dozens of ABC affiliates refrained from showing the World War II film for fear of retaliation from the FCC.
Today, almost as if in Bochco's honor, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, told the National Association of Broadcasters he would push for legislation to apply the same standards that apply to network radio and television to cable and satellite radio and television. "Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area," Stevens said. "There has to be some standard of decency."
"When the senator defines specifically what is or what is not 'decency' for a country that has way in excess of 200 million people, I'll be very interested in hearing that point of view," Bochco said.
Language and nudity aside, even some critics admit to a place in their hearts for "NYPD Blue's" Sipowicz and the 15th detective squad.
"It's compelling drama," said Caldwell. "But I think that it could have been as compelling and as interesting without the, sort of, gratuitous content."