is a family affair for Tom Selleck, particularly this week.
Friday's (April 11) new episode of the CBS drama, "Secret Arrangement," puts NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan (Selleck) and his detective son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) at odds. The often impulsive Danny is among several officers being investigated by the District Attorney's office, and when he finds out, he suspects that Frank -- who can't tell him the details -- initiated the probe.
"I think that if it's not our best episode ever, it's certainly one of our best," Selleck tells
. "We're probably at the stage of a character-driven show where you can do these kinds of stories.
"A long time ago when we were doing 'Magnum, p.i.,' I always pushed it that way, because that's how I built the character as an actor. A guy named Horace Newcomb at the University of Texas gave us credit for pioneering a cumulative narrative in a regular series that wasn't a soap opera, and a bunch of things have happened in the lives of the characters and the family in ['Blue Bloods']" as well.
Selleck cites a conversation Frank had earlier this season with his father, former police commissioner Henry Reagan (Len Cariou). "He basically says something he probably never said before: 'I do not want to run my department the way you ran yours.' Then he's confronted with the fact that he tries to be so hyper-ethical about favoritism, it's in effect holding a talented cop back ... his son Jamie [Will Estes].
"Now," Selleck adds, "he's confronted with the fact that Danny has done things that Frank has suspended or fired other cops for. Frank has to say, 'I've been looking the other way,' and the cumulative narrative has benefited from that. The audience probably knows that, except maybe in season finales and contract disputes, nobody's going to die. That doesn't mean you can't have your characters in jeopardy, but it's momentary."
Still, the effects of a key scene in "Secret Arrangement" -- the inevitable showdown between Frank and Danny over the son's new mistrust of the father -- may not be resolved so easily as the series goes forward. "The jeopardy to relationships is what audiences don't want to see in 'Blue Bloods,' " Selleck believes, "and that's what this episode deals with."
Inevitably, the tension spills into a trademark of "Blue Bloods," the weekly family-dinner scene. "That's not Frank's finest hour," Selleck says, "but it's one of our finest family dinners. Our best dinners are usually when there's a fight going on, because this Irish-Catholic family doesn't pull punches."
Also, Selleck feels the audience is on a secret, as when his voiceovers used to let viewers know Magnum's internal thoughts. "The secret in 'Blue Bloods' is that everybody at the Reagan table may not know there's a problem between, say, Erin (Bridget Moynahan) and Frank or Danny and Frank," he says. "The audience knows it all, though, and they think, 'Oh, boy. When he finds out, that's not gonna sit well.'"
"Secret Arrangement" also deals with a turn in the relationship of Jamie and his police partner Eddie (Vanessa Ray), as well as Danny and Maria's (Marisa Ramirez) working of a murder case related to a private-escort service, making for the type of episode "I like the best," Selleck says.
"You've got these people who are in the family business, but they're all doing different things. While Frank is on a school field trip to a museum, there's something life-threatening going on elsewhere, and it's really fascinating," he says. "You can go back and forth. One doesn't change the mood of the other, it just says what their lives are like."
Already renewed by CBS for a fifth season, "Blue Bloods" also begins repeats this fall on WGN America. Selleck says he's as proud of the show's quality as of its ratings, which typically place it atop all broadcast-network shows on Fridays.
"'Blue Bloods' was the last show CBS picked up, out of 10 potential shows," Selleck recalls of the series' start in 2010. "I'd like to think that maybe it was because I committed to it and I had a track record. Then it was the highest-testing of those 10 shows, then we got 'stuck' on Friday nights, which was what the media said.
"My feeling was, 'If we build it, they will come.' All during the first season, nobody paid much attention to us, though we were the top new show on television. That seemed to be a pretty well-kept secret, and that's kind of been the case all the way through. Since the Christmas break, we've been consistently a Top 10 show -- and by definition, that's impossible on Friday nights."
"Blue Bloods" airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT Friday on CBS.