ED de BLASIO : A Shade of Service Blue Behind the Police Woman Stories by Kez Howard (for TVShowpeople, May 1975) Ed de Blasio's responsibilities are varied; but centrally, he must insure that each episode of Police Woman is Police Woman. Week after week, season after season. As a story editor, he regulates plot, characterization, and style to maintain the show's integrity. No mean feat --- considering that, in the construction of any of the scripts, a new writer is likely to hop in mid-stream and pick up where the last writer left off. No one knows a show as intimately as its story editor. He or she is the one to ask about a show's dramatic appeal, where the stories come from, about the "authenticity" of the stories, and how the show is able to entertain. At the mammoth Burbank Studios in Los Angeles, you park your car among slots labeled: "Reserved for Paul Newman,"... "for Burt Reynolds," "... for Faye Dunaway," "... for Yul Brynner," and so on … and then you're taxied via golf-cart through the New York, western, and European streets, to a brick and tinted-glass building that looks like a modern courthouse. This building is the "bridge" of the good ship Columbia, where the decisions are made --- where Columbia Pictures Television produces Police Woman for NBC. Ed de Blasio cordially open his office door, offers you coffee, and sits with you around a coffee table in a living room areas of his office. Ed is compact, in his late- thirties (edit: he's actually 48) and looks and speaks a lot like Tony Franciosa. He's an ex-newspaperman, ex-magazine writer, an ex-editor of detective magazines, who progressed to free-lance TV script-writing (East Side-West Side, The Defenders, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, and others), the became a story editor … and now edits Police Woman. "What can I do for you?" he asks in a friendly fashion.. "We'd like to know what makes the stories on Police Woman tick. Where do they come from, for instance?" "Well … let me put it this way: the first week Doug (Doug Benton, producer) and I were here, we didn't know exactly was a police woman was. We had the basic idea for the police team -- the 'family,' in television jargon -- but we didn't know how it was going to work in terms of stories. We started by doing some research." "After about a week, Doug and I sat down one Saturday morning and came up with sixteen story premises. Just today we counted, and so far, we have used twelve of those original sixteen. Now, some of these were very general, like: 'working with juveniles.' Or: 'a women's prison where Pepper would have to go in for X reason to find out Y thing.' Others were a little more specific. "After we got the approval of NBC and David Gerber (the executive producer) on these ideas, we began to call in writers. We'd show an idea to a writer and ask him, 'Are you interested in this area?' If the answer was yes, we'd get him together with a real cop … and that's the way it started. "In other cases, cops with a great talent for writing and story development have actually done outlines, which we have then given to professional writers for the next stages of writing." "How accurate is the show, in terms of real police work?" "We've actually worked very closely with the cops. We were told to do this at the beginning, and, frankly, I didn't expect it to work out. We met with real police women, and they told us we had captures the right 'flavor' but our actual stories were a little far-fetched. I would go so far as to say that up until this date, 1975, police women do not get involved to the extent Pepper does in major cases. If they're on a major case, there comes a time where they step out and the boys take over. Of course, we can't have that. We can't afford to lose Angie at the end of Act II. "Someone once put it this way: we're projecting a little ahead. Police women are getting more and more involved, and maybe by 1978 or '79 they'll be as involved as Pepper. Policemen and their families watch the show, and they've never complained to us that she should never do what we've shown her doing. They allow for the liberties we have to take dramatically." (Parenthetically, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said that applications from women have significantly increased since Police Woman went on the air, and that some applicants admit that the show inspired them to apply.) "Have you written any of the scripts yourself?" "I wrote the first one filmed, but that was kind of an emergency situation. Time was getting shorter and shorter, and we still didn't have a completed script. What I did was to invent a story based loosely on an actual case I had written up years ago for a detective magazine, but I had never used. The germ of the story I remembered is that in some city (I forgot where) there had been a series of rapes. The rapist -- who was cuckoo -- had picked out the most vulnerable type of victim: a woman whose husband is in the hospital and therefore goes home alone every night. The idea had the necessary elements of excitement and melodrama, with good whodunit possibilities. You know -- 'is it the attendant in the parking lot who says "Good morning, Mrs. so-and-so" to all the women when they get into their cars?' That makes him a suspect and so on. "I wouldn't write that script now; the show has grown more subtle and sophisticated." "Do you have a favorite show, of the ones you've filmed so far?" "Yes, the episode called 'Flowers of Evil.' The episode about the lesbians. It was a very well-written outline done by a detective who had actual knowledge of the case. (I don't know if he worked on the case himself). Like some of these guys, he had a fine writing talent. I remembered being so impressed on the first page, where he said, "It is raining very hard..." I thought to myself, "That's nice, but it will never rain; too expensive." But if you have a good producer like Doug Benton -- when it needs to rain it rains. And the whole story was enhanced from the beginning by that atmosphere. The outline was given to a very good writer, John Block, who just seemed to feel the material. His first draft of the script was practically the draft we shot. The director for that episode, Alex Singer, loved the story from the word go. All the chemistries were perfect for that episode." "Did the lesbian theme give you any trouble?" "Some. The Gay Libbers in New York I believe, got hold of the script and raised quite a fuss. Their objection was that we were portraying all lesbians as killers. Well, you could go o forever with that kind of argument: all red-heads are child beaters and so on. But here was a specific case for the Libbers, and they came on strong. "The network was determined that this very good episode would be shown on the air, but they acquiesced and made a few cuts. Fortunately, they didn't ruin it. It still comes across as a good story, beautifully done." "How much influence over the scripts do your stars have?" "You hear a lot of horror stories about the superstars. But I've been lucky. My first job was in England, with Strange Report, with Anthony Quayle, who's a fantastic actor and a fantastic person. Then Arthur Hill, who played Owen Marshall, is another superb actor and a gentleman, like Quayle. I thought my luck couldn't hold out. "But Angie is so professional, so lovely. Once, she asked me to come down to the set because there were a few lines she wanted altered. Your temperamental star would have just balked. But Angie knows the importance of the script and wanted me to be there to do the doctoring. Now, that's a pleasure, because you know you're working with professionals. Earl, too, is a great pleasure to work with, thoroughly professional." A head pops in at the office door; the gentleman sees that Ed is tied up and, catching his eye, murmurs: "Soon as you're free..." then pulls the door closed behind him. "That was Doug Benton," Ed says, smiling. "We'd better let you get back to work. One last question: what's your attitude toward the quality of the scripts, the show?" "Well, there has to be good material to begin with, good stories. As with any series, not every script can be first rate. There are days when you have to rush things through. We'll get something really special … oh, maybe every fifth or sixth episode. What maintains a show, really, is the 'family' -- our four people whom the audience feel comfortable being with, sharing dangers with. The four people who make you feel that, if you don't have company next Friday, there's some good company for you to tune in to."