LOS ANGELES – The script supervisor announced the number and name of the last shot of the last scene of the last episode of the last season of “NYPD Blue.”

“31, “Goodbye,’ ” she said.

The director and executive producer, Mark Tinker, called out from behind the twin 12-inch black-and-white monitors set up in the world’s best-known precinct bathroom adjacent to the world’s best-known squad room.

“All right, here we go,” Tinker said. “We’ll give Dennis action first.”

He meant Dennis Franz, the one actor who had been there from the beginning and had remained the emotional focus over the whole 12-year run. Now, as the clock clicked past 8 p.m. on Friday, he was the lone actor in the final scene.

“Action, Den,” Tinker now said. “And camera – action.”

Absolute silence

The set on Stage 9 at the Twentieth Century Fox lot in Los Angeles’ Century City was packed with actors and production people whose work was already done and who had remained for this true-life drama played out on the same stage where “M*A*S*H” had shot its final episode. They were absolutely silent as the cameras rolled and Tinker stared intently at the tiny screens.

The bell rang as before, but perhaps as it never would again on this set. After a dozen years of story meetings and script writing and rewriting and casting and set-building and rehearsing and shooting and editing, it was all coming down to a slight difference in how fast or slow the crew moved the camera. “And action, Den – and camera,” Tinker said.

Holding its breath

The set once more went silent and it seemed Stage 9 itself was holding its breath. “And cut,” Tinker then said. “That’ll do it.”

At 8:42 p.m., Tinker had just spoken the words signaling the moment they all knew was coming when they drove through the rain to the lot that morning.

“Welcome to the last day of all time, folks,” Tinker had said at the start. “This is it.”

Franz arrived on set, and before the rehearsal for the next-to-last big scene in the squad room he reached across the desks to shake hands with fellow “cop” Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

“One last time,” Franz said.

During the rehearsal for the final squad room scene, actors Jacqueline Obradors and Bonnie Somerville fought back real tears. They then embraced another executive producer on the set, retired NYPD Detective Bill Clark, who had ensured the authenticity that kept the show going year after year.

His eyes welled with the most authentic of tears as those around him hugged and took pictures of each other. Then it was time for the actors to push aside the real drama and step back into the characters for whom this was only another shift.

“Remember, folks, despite the reality, tomorrow is another day here in the squad,” Tinker said.

As the scene was lit, Franz stood with Tinker and wondered aloud what tomorrow actually held for people who had worked so long together in a business ruled by the moment.

“What’s everybody going to do?” Franz said. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Tinker said.

There were still two scenes to shoot and those in attendance included most prominently Steven Bochco, the top producer, who created the show along with David Milch. The next-to-last scene was done two hours later and everyone applauded as Tinker called out the names of the actors whose work on the show was now forever done.

‘31, Goodbye’

“OK, let’s get the last piece, folks,” Tinker then said.

The script supervisor called out “31, “Goodbye”‘ and at 8:42 p.m. the shot known in Hollywood as “the martini shot” – the final shot of the final scene of the final episode of the final season that ends March 1 – was done. Franz was now the one who got the applause and he blew out the candles on a cake that was set out as if for a 12-year-old’s birthday.

He was nobody but himself as he spoke words of love and respect. He then spoke for everyone involved in this show that now follows “M*A*S*H”into history, words that are just what a real NYPD detective would most dearly want to feel are true as he leaves the squad for good.

“We can hold our heads up so high and be proud of what we’ve done,” Franz said.

(c) 2005, New York Daily News.

Visit the Daily News online at http://www.nydailynews.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099).

AP-NY-02-16-05 0626EST


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