The big news attending NYPD Blue's sixth season was the imminent departure of series star Jimmy Smits, who played Det. Bobby Simone, the new husband of Det. Diane Russell (Kim Delaney). While the particulars of Simone's exit were kept secret from the public, it became obvious from the season opener onward that Bobby was not long for this world; having developed a serious illness, he needed an immediate heart transplant, and even then the doctors could guarantee nothing. It was in the season's fifth episode, "Hearts and Souls," that the saga of Bobby Simone was terminated fatally, much to the shock and dismay of millions of the series' fans. Bobby's replacement was Det. Danny Sorenson, played by former child star Rick Schroder. Although both the grieving Diane and Bobby's irascible partner, Det. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz), initially resented Sorenson's presence, Danny quickly proved his mettle both on and off the job. But in time-honored NYPD Blue tradition, young Mr. Sorenson brought with him some heavy emotional baggage, which would be revealed bag by bag over the next three seasons, culminating in yet another "shocker" of a climactic episode. Elsewhere, the 15th precinct's gay Anti-Crime Unit assistant John Irvin (Bill Brochtrup, who was moved up from recurring-character to regular) developed a close friendship with the squad's new PAA, Dolores Mayo (Lola Glaudini), a troubled young woman who ultimately quit her job and turned to prostitution. It was Dolores' death during a weekend trip to Atlantic City with wealthy drug dealer Malcolm Cullinan (Todd Waring), coupled with the murder of Sipowicz' old nemesis, shady private eye Mike Roberts (Michael Harney), that led to the series' violent sixth-season finale, a courtroom shoot-out which claimed the life of Andy Sipowicz' wife, ADA Sylvia Costas (Sharon Lawrence). Once again, NYPD Blue copped a handful of Emmy awards. This years' recipients included series star Dennis Franz, recurring guest actress Debra Monk (as Sipowicz' ex-wife, Katie), and director Paris Barclay, the latter two earning their statuettes for their work in the pivotal episode "Hearts and Souls."
by Hal Erickson synopsis