the sound of 1,000 Japanese men jumping up and down on a wooden floor
May 1, 2019 8:38 PM   Subscribe

In the 1994 NYT article Capturing The Pounding Pulse Of New York City, Michael Beckerman dissects the 60 seconds of music and visuals of the opening credits for N.Y.P.D. Blue [here from season 3]. The shows creators (Stephen Bochco and David Milch) and composer (Mike Post) discuss the theme in this 1m45s video. Post also created a single-length version of the theme that offers more textures. But still, that original, man boy howdy!
posted by hippybear (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, almost every shot in that intro has a moderate to extreme telephoto field of view. It feels... claustrophobic? Shaky. I think that was a pretty universal style in that time period. I wonder what made directors/cinematographers like it so much.
posted by scose at 9:00 PM on May 1, 2019

scose: NYPD Blue sort of pioneered the whole "handheld camera" thing on series television. Its use was pretty well done for the storytelling parts of the show, with a lot of movements which sort of mimic the kind of eye-movement camera storytelling that Hitchcock was using without the opportunities that handheld offers. Not just gratuitous, but instead attention focussing. A lot of it was smooth work anyway, not the "busy of the city" sort of cuts and jittery of the opening sequence.
posted by hippybear at 9:09 PM on May 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am a sucker for heartstring-tugging opening titles, and they mostly don’t make ‘me like this anymore.

Thanks for sharing this!
posted by armeowda at 9:21 PM on May 1, 2019

I wouldn't say that NYPD Blue pioneered it. Compare to the opening credits of the first season of Homicide, which began the same year NYPD Blue did. (Boy, does that theme music contrast, though.)

IIRC (and I may not), all the NYPD Blue interior shooting was done in California, and it always comes across as if they really wanted to underline NEW YORK WE'RE IN NEW YORK when they were doing the exteriors on location.
posted by praemunire at 10:13 PM on May 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm doing a rewatch and it's been hours per night and I'm not even out of season 1 yet and dear god network television was a juggernaut of creation and there are 12 seasons of this I might die before I'm done but Sipowitz's journey was worth it the first time around and even in season 1 in 1993 it's been multi-racial, respectful of women, and hasn't involved any cringing. Multiple points!
posted by hippybear at 10:48 PM on May 1, 2019 [8 favorites]

It's a bit early-oughts-cheesy, but I have a soft spot for the theme of the short-lived LA city/crime drama Boomtown.
posted by doctorfrog at 12:21 AM on May 2, 2019

You know, here, in the West, they'd probably just use a recording of six to eight people jumping and layer it. And they probably wouldn't even use a proper wooden floor, just, I don't know, plywood or something. But in Japan they care about it. They get asked for 1,000 men, they get 1,000 men, and you know they're not going to be some jerks they dragged out of central casting, but sober, dignified, accomplished jumpers, people with jumping in their blood. And the floor, you need a special floor for that, solid planks laid across carefully-shaped bearers, resting on beams that are practically tree trunks. Have you seen how they fit them together? It's amazing, they don't use any nails at all. And so when the men jump - and I know that's kind of exclusionary, but you have to understand it's a different culture - when those men jump, all together, it's, I don't know, something wonderful and mythic, something that reaches into the past, as if we were looking at a woodblock of Japanese men jumping and it came to life. Because that's what it is, when you record 1,000 Japanese men jumping up and down on a wooden floor.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:44 AM on May 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

The shows creators (Stephen Bochco and David Milch) and composer (Mike Post) discuss the theme

Pretty certain David Milch is not in that clip. I believe besides Post the two men talking are Bochco and director Greg Hoblit, though I can't say for sure.
posted by dobbs at 5:55 AM on May 2, 2019

Thanks for digging this up hippybear. I was slightly young for the series when it came out, but binging it a few months back, I was struck by a few things:
> police brutality and structural racism nuance are not new storylines in television. I mean, I've seen these topics covered on shows before, but the level of character arcs and intersections around those topics was really well-told and believable. We have been talking about these issues for more than my entire adult life. It also feels like Patient Zero for toxic masculinity in policing.
> The score and the interlude music is just out there compared to what was on during that time period. I was curious about the score, but the interludes in particular did a good job of mixing that 80s NY urban jazz and hip-hop boom-bap without sounding cheesy. And it felt like each interlude on each episode was unique. Would love to know more about Post's compositional techniques.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 1:51 PM on May 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I rewatched it once fairly recently because it was on one of those cop-show networks that airs OTA. What I was mostly struck by was what a paean it was to the infinite forgivability of white men (I mean, Jesus, after like five years of working together John-the-PAA doesn't mind Sipowicz asking him to babysit while treating him as a potential pedophile, and that's the tiniest example) and to the unerring instincts of "good cops," who can always pick the bad guy out of the bunch. For its time, it's certainly a respectably-made show, and I know the creators weren't trying to push a hard-right agenda (indeed, they probably thought of themselves as relatively liberal), but I can't help but feel that, by being a reasonably sophisticated narrative pushing those ideas, it poisoned a lot of wells.
posted by praemunire at 2:12 PM on May 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's difficult sometimes to view media from the past through the lens of the now. For its time, it was progressive and was acknowledged as pushing social attitudes forward away from bigotry and toward acceptance. It was doing this in a lot of ways from the very beginning. From today's perspective it might have a veneer of difficulty, but context is important, especially in our swiftly evolving cultural attitudes.

Just having Arthur Fancy being in charge of the 15th Precinct and having him and Sipowicz interacting in a professional manner in the workplace despite Andy's racism and Arthur's seeing of that was a model to the citizenry of how things are supposed to go at work. Acknowledging someone's background and seeing them work against type because Professional Relationship was remarkable at the time.
posted by hippybear at 11:31 PM on May 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

And honestly, as a gay man who came out in 1990 and who watched NYPD Blue first-run every Tuesday night it was on, the moment when Andy was willing to let John babysit for him felt like a victory. YMMV, but many in my life who also watched the show cheered for that moment at the time. Andy let go of a bit more of his bigotry. He trusted against his base mettle. Anyone who stepped beyond their programming was a victory in those days.
posted by hippybear at 12:50 AM on May 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

See, like, and also the thing is, I'm in my rewatch far enough now that John is a part of the cast now and....

... Like, the echoes of how raw it was. How... Like I don't even know the word. But suddenly, there was John. And he wasn't the butt of jokes. He was shown to be an effective member of the team even while people on the team were hesitant to trust him. He was the epitome of what I learned about coming out, and what I think black and brown and asian people learn, which is be the absolute best you can be because that is how you are an ambassador for that other, that Alien Other, that you represent to other people. And that while it is not your responsibility that someone regards you as being Other, the way you relate to people in the world helps paint a picture for people who carry these various Others in their minds. You don't have to convince them, but if you're honorable, maybe you will by accident.

I dunno. His presence and his portrayal was emotional for me the first time around, and this is my second time around and it's working again. Maybe it's me being "of a certain age", but if that is the case, I was of exactly the age the first time around, and it meant a fucking lot to me and to others I knew watching the show.

I'll bow out now. This isn't where I expected this thread to go. But I'm glad it went here, because I'll defend John and how his situation within the run of the show evolved because it felt honest and real and also a bit ahead of the times, and it helped me (and I know others) feel seen and feel hopeful.
posted by hippybear at 8:45 PM on May 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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