Tom Selleck isn't a police commissioner. He just plays one on TV.
After four seasons of being on the "job," though, he knows it rarely has a quiet week.
Such is the case once more as the CBS drama "Blue Bloods" wraps up its fourth season Friday (May 9). The intensely ethical Frank Reagan (Selleck) learns others may not have met his standards for accountability, since a supposed suicide appears to have had tawdry ties to some NYPD officers. Reagan then seeks help from Inspector General Kelly Peterson (Bebe Neuwirth, in her recurring guest role) to get to the truth.
"It's become almost a cliche," Selleck tells Zap2it, "that people say, 'Who's gonna die in the finale?' Lives are at stake for us here, and I don't want to give anything away, but this [episode] is very watchable. It's the culmination of a lot of things, and it does affect relationships, some of them permanently. It's just a real nice yarn."
Selleck muses that early on, the regular "Blue Bloods" cast members -- who also include Donnie Wahlberg and Will Estes as Reagan police officer sons Danny and Jamie, and Bridget Moynahan as prosecutor daughter Erin -- used to be pitched "the hypothetical 'Reagans trapped in a house surrounded by bad guys and fighting their way out' idea. Well, this is the season finale, and I said, 'Why don't we just try to write our best typical episode and not become something we're not?' "
Selleck credits "Blue Bloods" executive producer Kevin Wade (who also wrote the 1988 movie "Working Girl" and the play and 1985 film "Key Exchange") with devising just such a script. The star also likes that "Cheers" alum Neuwirth is back, since he's enjoyed playing off her over the course of the season.
"They like each other, but I think they really like to fight," Selleck notes of their characters. "Everybody looks for romance there, but their relationship isn't necessarily that. I think he'd like nothing better than to go to dinner with her and argue. We're getting really talented people. They don't have to do our show, but it's nice that they want to."
Another special pleasure of the fourth "Blue Bloods" season for Selleck has been the chance to reunite on several episodes with director Robert Harmon, who also has guided most of his "Jesse Stone" TV movies.
"Bridget, Will, Donnie and I all relocated to do this show," Selleck says. "New York is a central character here, and when you get a visualist like Robert Harmon, you start to see that. They say television is a world of close-ups, and those are important ... but when you get to know characters, you can play full-figure shots with something like the Chrysler Building in the background, and that's worth everything."
Selleck stays largely rooted to New York during the "Blue Bloods" filming season, but he also returns to his California home often. "I commute twice a month," he reports, admitting the cross-country trek is "never my favorite thing. When I'm anxious to get home, the New York-to-L.A. trip is longer, because I love my wife and my ranch and my dogs.
"We shoot eight-day episodes, and I work the last four days of one and the first four days of the next. CBS agreed to accommodate that, and it makes the show a little more expensive, and it makes the other actors' lives a little more complicated -- and I appreciate their spirit. Most of the time, they won't give you a 'lifestyle deal,' but they wanted me."
With additional stars including Len Cariou as Reagan family patriarch Henry and Marisa Ramirez and Vanessa Ray as Danny and Jamie's respective police partners, "Blue Bloods" will launch its fifth CBS season this fall, when WGN America and ION will begin showing repeats from earlier years.
Selleck enjoys the fact that the show not only has held solid in a slot where dramas often have faced challenges, but the ratings for some of its recent episodes have matched those of its 2010 premiere.
"I don't want to jinx it," the "Magnum, p.i." Emmy winner says, "but we keep having these [ratings] escalations, and if we go off the air for a while, the audience seems to make an appointment to find out when we're back on."
Indeed, "Blue Bloods" consistently is the top-rated fictional series among broadcast network offerings on Fridays, typically ranking among a given week's Top 10 programs throughout 2014 thus far.
"I think it's fair to say that we have changed viewing habits on Friday nights," Selleck reflects, "and I'm very proud of that, as much as I am of the quality of the show in terms of the writing and the acting. The consistency is there. You can watch any episode we've done this year and you're going to want to see another one, so I just hope people sample it."
Photo/Video credit: CBS