`Nypd' Promotion Leads to `Morals' Debacle

Article excerpt

SOMETIMES, it doesn't pay to get promoted.

After 10 years in Los Angeles doing theater, guest shots and the occasional straight-to-video movie, Bill Brochtrup finally got his big break. A recurring role on "NYPD Blue" as good-hearted gay receptionist John Irvin went over so well, producer Steven Bochco made the actor and the character a regular on his new sitcom "Public Morals."

It seemed like the ideal next step, until the series premiered and disappeared on the same infamous night, leaving Brochtrup and John Irvin unemployed. "I don't know if we've been officially, officially released, but it's done," the actor said over a Studio City lunch. "What are you going to do?" As he has for years, Brochtrup did theater. This week, he finished a run in the play "A Quarrel of Sparrows," an eight-week "limited engagement" that ran seven weeks longer than his supposedly permanent job. The humor is not lost on him. Brochtrup says the demise of "Public Morals" was not exactly a shock ("The general critical response was not great," he says, in a moment of polite understatement), but the timing could have been better. The cast got the unofficial word as they were taping a funeral scene. "Everyone was in mourning. We even had a big coffin on the set . . . There was a lot of black humor." Few viewers are mourning "Public Morals," but it would be a shame if the show's demise also meant the end of John Irvin. John was a unique character, not just for a cop show, but for any show. He had a quiet, gentle strength - a civility that never became precious or fey - that is as rare on TV as it is in real life. Happily, Brochtrup says "NYPD Blue" producer David Milch is looking for a way to bring John back. "The character's not finished. I'm not being cagey, I just don't know what's going to happen. We're discussing it, but there really hasn't been an answer. I know they're very fond of the John Irvin character. I believe they're fond of me and my work. I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility we'll see John back in some capacity on `NYPD Blue.' But I don't know what or when." Whatever happens to John, Brochtrup feels lucky to have fallen in with Bochco and company. …