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Brighter Shade of 'NYPD Blue' : Television: Despite preemptions in 11% of its markets, the premiere was seen by 15 million homes. But only half found it provocative.


ABC's "NYPD Blue" overcame a vigorous protest campaign and preemptions by 57 stations concerned about the show's nudity, profanity and violence to register strong ratings in its premiere Tuesday night.

The show's national Nielsen rating of 15.9--representing 15 million homes--would have placed it among last week's Top 10 shows, even though 11% of the country couldn't see it because of the preemptions. The police drama, from "Hill Street Blues" co-creator Steven Bochco, won its 10 p.m. time period, outscoring "Dateline NBC" and the second hour of CBS' "Donato and Daughter" movie.

"We're delighted with the ratings," ABC spokesman Stephen Battaglio said Wednesday. "It's a very strong performance. The show had the highest rating in its time period for a regular program since March 7, 1989."

In a statement, executive producer Bochco said, "We have always put our trust in the viewing public to make an informed judgment about the acceptability of 'NYPD Blue.' We are, of course, tremendously grateful that a significant number of viewers seemed to approve our efforts."

ABC officials confirmed that 57 of the network's 225 affiliated stations opted not to broadcast Tuesday's premiere. The number came close to the dropouts projected two days ago by fundamentalist minister Donald Wildmon, who has staged a protest campaign against the show. When he said Monday that 54 stations would not carry the show, ABC called his claims "ludicrous" and said the number would be closer to 30.

Despite the high ratings, Wildmon on Wednesday called his protest "an absolutely resounding success. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of television. Never before have this many stations dropped out of a network show."

Wildmon had placed full-page ads in newspapers and contacted affiliates and advertisers to protesting the show, which he called "soft-core pornography" before he'd seen it.

ABC officials refused to release the number of calls they received from viewers after the first airing. "But we can say that we get more calls when a series is canceled or when a soap opera is pre-empted because of breaking news," Battaglio said.

Of the calls received, two-thirds complained about the show's content, with particular focus on a nude love scene near the end of the show. One-third of the viewers who called in praised the show, "saying they didn't know what all the commotion was about," Battaglio said.

Another ABC spokesperson, Janice Gretemeyer, said there was also a handful of calls from viewers in cities where the premiere was canceled who were upset they couldn't see the show.

The premiere was a hot topic on radio shows Wednesday. About 200 listeners called disc jockey Rick Dees on KIIS-AM/FM to register their opinion.

"They were split right down the middle," said Dees' producer, Paul Joseph. "Fifty percent thought the show went a bit over the line, while the other half said they didn't know what all the fuss was about."

A poll of 1,000 viewers by TV Guide and "Entertainment Tonight" found that 52% liked the show and 24% didn't. The other 24% were neutral.

Viewers in Los Angeles, Orange County and the San Fernando Valley registered varying opinions. Many seemed to have difficulty with the cinema verite style in which the show was photographed, calling it dizzying and disorienting.

Richard Christian Matheson, 39, a television writer and novelist whose latest book, "Created by," deals with a TV writer who sells a network a cop series featuring unprecedented nudity, violence and profanity, said, "Everyone said that Bochco was pushing the envelope with this. I don't think he was even licking the envelope."

Elizabeth N. Flores, 37, of Huntington Beach, said, "I had to send the kids off to bed because it started right off with profanity and nudity. They tried to cover too much in the show. The profanity was realistic but the nudity was overdone, even for late-night television. It seemed like I was watching 'American Gigolo.' "

John Knight, 31, a salesperson from Huntington Beach, said, "It was a little provocative for television. I wouldn't want it at 8 or 9 p.m. But I wasn't offended."

Jim Robak, 51, a composer who lives in Van Nuys, felt that the "sex was gratuitous. It seems as though they're trying to compete with HBO."

Robak's wife, Geri, 40, a singer, agreed. "It wasn't erotic. It didn't serve any purpose," she said.

The couple said that they would not object to their 17-year-old daughter watching the program. "It's nothing she hasn't seen," said Geri Robak.

The dominant advertisers for the first episode were movie studios such as Touchstone Pictures and Columbia Pictures, hyping current and upcoming movies. Other advertisers included HIS Jeans and Aspen Cologne.

Wildmon said the advertisers were "a bunch of freebies and buzzards. ABC didn't make any money on the show."

ABC's Gretemeyer disagreed, saying Wildmon was "wrong and misguided. All the advertising was paid for at a premium rate."

Free-lance writers Mimi Ko from Orange County and Emily Vigliemo from the San Fernando Valley contributed to this story.

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