The world, we can probably all agree, has more than enough cop dramas. But American TV producers, we can probably all agree, don't really care. The suits know we'll watch them anyway, checking in every week to see bad guys' faces being slammed into pavements, expensive cars being flipped and hard-bitten officers shooting from behind the open doors of their patrol cars, all in the name of justice (read: ratings).
Blue Bloods (right), which has just returned to Hong Kong television, for its second season (AXN; Mondays at 10.55pm), has all of that, but it also takes the genre a step further ... to the family dinner table.
There's a scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in which the wife of one of Dr Evil's anonymous guards, unfortunately just flattened by a steamroller, moans: 'People never think how things affect the family of a henchman.' By the same token, if it's any consolation to Mrs Henchman, few punters consider what police get up to when they take off their uniforms. And in that, the producers of Blue Bloods perhaps saw a chance to explore the softer side of the grizzled lawman.
So here we have Danny Reagan (above right; New Kids on the Block heartthrob/wash-up Donnie Wahlberg), an ass-kicking detective by day and a sensitive family man by night. Alongside him, we've got Tom Selleck - 67 years old, and still flaunting that moustache from the Magnum P.I. era. He plays Danny's father, Frank, the stately but troubled commissioner of the New York Police Department who spouts folksy wisdom over the Sunday roast. Blue Bloods' female characters - Danny's wife Erin (Bridget Moynahan, Sex and the City), for instance - are mainly in supporting roles, but at least they exist as part of the script, which, by the way, is pretty solid.
Programme creators (and husband and wife) Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green were writers on The Sopranos and they bring to Blue Bloods a well-paced narrative that touches on familiar themes (love, justice, revenge) and deftly balances the action with the family story, adding just enough rough edges to produce a vague feeling of authenticity. And that's about as much as you can hope for from a network television production (Blue Bloods appears on CBS in the US) that has to appeal to a mass audience without really offending anyone.
This happens to be a pretty good way to also describe The Big Bang Theory, an enormously popular American sitcom that's about to start its fourth season here, on WarnerTV (Wednesdays at 9.30pm). Brought to us by the men responsible for Two and A Half Men and Dharma & Greg, The Big Bang Theory follows four cyber-nerd friends who are geniuses when it comes to maths and robotics but utterly inept at anything social - especially when women are involved. The Emmy-winning show is full of surprisingly zingy one-liners, which are undercut somewhat by an over-the-top laughter track and hammy acting that is perhaps meant to make the programme palatable to the scientifically illiterate.
The season opener sees Wolowitz exploring the sexual potential of a robotic arm, Sheldon embarking on the world's most awkward first date, and Penny having her active love life exposed through basic calculus. For very brainy subject matter, it's all very brainless stuff - but perhaps better for it.
Those disappointed by The Big Bang Theory's lack of quantum integrity could always tune into National Geographic the night before, for the first episode of Beyond the Cosmos (Tuesdays at 10pm), which promises to explain the real Big Bang.