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NYPD Blue's opening shot is a white-on-black warning label: "This police drama contains adult language and partial nudity. Viewer discretion is advised." A self-imposed rating on the part of ABC, the show's broadcaster, it originated in response to the police drama's "controversial" use of (limited) profanity and partial nudity, a singular departure for conservative, "family-oriented" U.S. television networks and their advertisers. The addition of a viewer advisory, initiated by network and advertising caution, played on the show's controversial status, turning it to promotional advantage. From its debut, the series began to be watched by many viewers curious about the fuss, and the warning label continues weekly, displayed like a badge of honor by a cutting-edge program, breaking the rules and challenging the status quo.
Pribram, E. Deidre Ph.D., "Viewer Discretion Advised: Moral and Emotional Codes in NYPD Blue" (1997). Faculty Works: Communications. 11.