Blue Bloods

‘Blue Bloods’ Wouldn’t Work Without Tom Selleck


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Blue Bloods is one of the most enduring and beloved police procedurals on television. The series is the second-longest running show on CBS today, next only to NCIS, and is in production for its 14th and final season. As the series comes closer to its finale, credit must be given to the reasons why the show became, and remained, as successful as it is. Unlike other prominent cop shows, the series doesn’t follow a specific precinct or squad. Instead, the show is centered around the Reagans, a prominent family with legacy and importance in New York City law enforcement. Its members have roles that range from detective to district attorney — even all the way up to the commissioner of the NYPD! Even among the most popular law procedurals on television, Blue Bloods has such a distinct vibe and lasting power that makes it feel more timeless than other series. Of course, much of that credit goes to the fantastic ensemble cast and memorable writing of the show, but there’s one foundational character that cements Blue Bloods as television royalty: Tom Selleck and his portrayal of Commissioner Frank Reagan.

Selleck Is the Father of the NYPD’s First Family

The crux of Blue Bloods is that it follows a family of people working in law enforcement. Not a found family or friends-turned-family — an actual blood-related family that grew up together and are still tightly connected. That’s what separates the series from other prominent procedurals. The Reagans are the titular “blue bloods” of New York Law enforcement, who are known throughout their fields as people that excel in their careers. Selleck’s character, Frank, is the literal and spiritual patriarch of this prestigious and recognizable family. He sits at the head of the table for both the NYPD, as commissioner, and of his family, at their weekly dinners. In this unique role, Frank serves as the foundation for the family dynamics that separate the show from other series. In addition to the classic police drama that ensues in the show, there are also intimate family dynamics at play, and it often falls to Frank to be the leader, mediator, and role model for the rest of his family.

Three of the main characters are Frank’s children, all working in different but connected fields. Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) is a detective, Erin Reagan (Bridget Moynahan) is an assistant district attorney, and their younger brother Jamie (Will Estes) starts off as a beat cop before later becoming a sergeant. They are well-known in the NYPD and though they aren’t necessarily given preferential treatment, their family name brings legacy and expectation, as their relatives have done incredible things for the force. Even the grandfather of the family, Henry Reagan (Len Cariou), was the former police commissioner. And though he may be older than Frank, Henry has retired both from his police work and from being the active head of the family, mostly stepping in to give his son timely words of wisdom about leadership and family.

One of the ways that the show emphasizes the importance of its family dynamics is through the weekly dinner scenes that appear in every episode. Affirming how tight-knit the Reagan’s are, they meet once a week on Sunday for dinner in a scene that allows every character to interact with one another, serving as the setting for some of the show’s most emotionally intimate and important scenes. Frank, as the head of the family and table, is an irreplaceable part of these dinners and dynamic. It’s him who steps in to quell conflict between the siblings. It’s him who gives the most advice to the other characters about their personal and professional struggles. It’s him who leads the family by example and is the reason they are so renowned in New York. Because of his importance to every other character, and his constant role as the backbone of the family, Frank is established as the most integral character of the series.

Tom Selleck Plays a Unique Role Among Police Characters

Tom Selleck in 'Blue Bloods' Season 12
Image via CBS

Frank plays one of the most unique and multifaceted roles of any character in a law procedural. In addition to being the head of his family, Frank is the commissioner of the NYPD — one of the most iconic, recognizable, and controversial police departments in the entire world. As with any cop show, the series portrays characters that are the ideal versions of law enforcement and doesn’t often criticize the police with intense scrutiny; copaganda is an inherent part of the premise. Blue Bloods ultimately has to make a series about a family of cops endearing to the public, and a major part of that success is because of the standard set by Frank and his position. In the show’s world, it’s far easier to believe in the ideal version of police officers if people like Frank and his family serve in the capacities that they do. Frank is at the top of the ladder and his positive influence on the force feels palpable because of how we see him lead his own family.

Though a show like Blue Bloods inherently can’t deconstruct ideas of policing, that’s not to say that the show completely brushes the negative perspective of cops aside. In Season 6, Episode 8, “Unsung Heroes,” protesters boo and disrupt a speech Frank gives at Columbia University. The series also doesn’t deny the existence of dirty cops, as one of Frank’s children, Joe, was actually killed before the start of the show by a gang of corrupt officers. However, by the end of Season 1, the family got justice for their brother and were able to take down the organization. While other series like Brooklyn Nine-Nine can tackle important ideas of police reform more directly than Blue Bloods, the television escapism provided by this show is rooted in the precedent set by the Reagan family, which in turn was established by Frank.

Tom Selleck Was Destined for This Role

In the same way that Blue Bloods wouldn’t be the same without Frank, Frank could not be portrayed by anyone other than the incomparable Tom Selleck. Tom Selleck was a gentleman’s 65 years old when Blue Bloods first premiered in 2010, but his age actually landed him in the perfect sweet spot to be the head of an extended family. Selleck was already well-recognized for his action-packed performance in Magnum, P.I., one of the best TV action series in the 1980s. Moving up from a hot shot private investigator to the commissioner of the NYPD is the picture-perfect definition of “aging gracefully.”

Selleck’s performance is also one of the best examples of understated yet resilient masculinity on television. Even without considering his iconic mustache (which is legendary in its own right), Selleck’s portrayal of Frank conveys that unmistakable “dad strength” that people are aware of. He may not spend as much time in the streets and in the action, but with his firm words and quiet confidence, Selleck feels worthy of all the respect and reverence he’s given. Blue Bloods has established itself as de facto police show royalty, much like the Reagan family itself. Thanks in large part to Tom Selleck and his character, the show is able to take its intimate family dynamics and become one of the most enduring law procedurals on television. As the series nears its conclusion, audiences can continue to rely on Frank Reagan’s wise leadership and stalwart honor.

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