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The cliffhanger of "NYPD Blue," the most intriguing of the May sweeps, is resolved at 10 tonight on Channel 7 in a compelling season opener.

It's highlighted early by some terrific tense scenes between partners Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) and Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits), who have spoken little in the interim four months.

Apparently, they figured the less they knew about what each other did in May, the better. These partners love each other enough to lie for each other, but they would prefer it if they didn't have to.

You've undoubtedly heard ABC's promos asking the inflammatory question, "Is Andy a killer?"

Like many viewers, Simone believes Sipowicz may have killed Joey Salvo (Peter Onorati), the criminal the FBI had forced Simone into playing along with in an undercover operation.

Simone got that idea because after Salvo was hit in May with three bullets, Sipowicz drove by to have a brief and harried discussion with his shaken partner.

The clear implication was that Sipowicz, who was angry with the way Simone had been set up by the FBI and the NYPD, had taken matters into his own hands.

In May, I speculated that Sipowicz might have worried enough about his partner to follow Simone and may have arrived on the scene after the murder.

In an interview back then, executive producer David Milch advised me, "If you search your heart, you'll know what happened."

It's good advice again tonight.

Written by Milch, the opener includes several good twists about the games -- sometimes vengeful -- that policemen, FBI agents and cops play.

Milch chose to get the murder plot out of the way quickly rather than prolong it for a few more episodes. At the same time, the episode looks to the future by setting up two possible weddings and a new romance between a conniving cop and a previously by-the-book prosecutor. That romance is the episode's least plausible element.

Naturally, Milch spiced his script with its share of comical dialogue, this time focusing on current events. There's also some partial nudity.

Note to those who watch for the nudity: You will see more of Smits' behind than the body part of Kim Delaney that director Mark Tinker discussed after winning an Emmy.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

Producer Joe DiPasquale of Quest Entertainment called to advise yours truly that actor Andrew McCarthy has been signed to star in a movie about Keith Lussier's life.

DiPasquale said his mother alerted him to the story of a Cheektowaga father who had to wage a custody fight in court to keep his adopted daughter, Brittany, after his wife died.

A Lockport High School and Syracuse University graduate who produces movies in Los Angeles, DiPasquale said CBS has commissioned the untitled movie. The film should air this season.

In summer 1994, Lussier was embroiled in a nationally publicized battle to regain custody of Brittany, the Korean-born child who was taken away by an adoption agency after his wife died of cancer.

The former potato chip salesman from Cheektowaga eventually won his court fight with the Love the Children agency. He has remarried and moved to the Philadelphia suburb of Lansdale.

Thanks, Channel 2, for reminding me how silly local news can be. On Sept. 22, the station actually did a live interview near the top of the news with the manager of a local Media Play.

The big news? The store was about to put copies of Elton John's revised version of "Candle in the Wind" on sale. That's the one with special lyrics for the late Princess Diana. The report seemed to be a self-parody of local news.

Inquiring minds want to know: Why does Channel 4 carry the same reruns of "NYPD Blue" at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Channel 2 carry the same reruns of "The X-Files" at 7 p.m. Saturday that are airing on cable's FX on weeknights? The cable network doesn't have exclusivity, enabling the shows' syndicators to sell them to local markets for weekend airing, too.

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