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New York Undercover is a one-hour police drama that aired on the Fox television network from 1994 to 1998. The series stars Malik Yoba as Detective J.C. Williams and Michael DeLorenzo as Detective Eddie Torres, two undercover detectives in New York Citymarker's 4th Precinct who were assigned to investigate various crimes and gang-related cases. The cast also included Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn as their boss, Lt. Virginia Cooper, and Lauren Vélez, who joined the cast in the second season as Nina Moreno, fellow detective and love interest to Torres.

New York Undercover is notable for being the first police drama on American television to feature two people of color in the starring roles. In contrast to the popularity of NBC's "Must See TV" on Thursday nights in the 1990s, many African-American viewers flocked to FOX's Thursday night line-up of Living Single, New York Undercover, and Martin. In fact, these were the three highest rated series among Black households (in this respective order) for the 1996-1997 season.

About the show

Besides solving each week's case, the show, produced by Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, also explored the private lives of its characters. For example, Det. Williams struggled to raise his young son, Gregory (George O. Gore II), while Torres was shown to be fighting family and other related problems, including having to cope with his father's drug addiction and HIV-positive status and a childhood friend turned gang leader.

At the beginning of the third season, a new detective, Tommy McNamara (Jonathan LaPaglia), was introduced as a principal character. In the third-season finale in May 1997, Torres and Moreno were married. However, in that same episode, Torres and McNamara were both killed by a gang of bank robbers. Many viewers believe that these events—particularly the death of Torres and the departure of Michael DeLorenzo—caused New York Undercover to "jump the shark," since the friendship of Williams and Torres was a major dynamic of the series.

New York Undercover returned with a new cast for its Fourth and final season in January 1998. Williams and Moreno were assigned to a new unit, resulting in D'Arbanville-Quinn being dropped from the cast. Joining the detectives were Lt. Malcolm Barker (played by Thomas Mikal Ford), Det. Nell Delaney (Marisa Ryan), and Det. Alec Stone (Josh Hopkins). The new unit eventually captured the last bank robber responsible for the deaths of Torres and McNamara.


Each episode of the first three seasons of New York Undercover featured several hip hop and R&B songs for its soundtrack, with noted musician-producer James Mtume serving as musical director. Each episode during Seasons 1 through 3 began with a montage of scenes leading up to the crime to be investigated. These sequences were notable for the absence of any dialogue or sound effects and are accompanied instead by music, usually hip-hop or R&B. This method of introducing the plot was dropped in the fourth season.

At some point during each episode, one or more of the principal characters would end up at Natalie's, a popular New York R&B café owned by Gladys Knight's character Natalie, where a popular artist would perform a set. Among the artists featured on the show during its run were Aaron Neville, New Edition, Amel Larrieux, Johnny Gill, Levert, The O'Jays, Montell Jordan, Aaliyah, Chaka Khan, Groove Theory, Erykah Badu, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, George Benson, Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, Xscape, The Notorious B.I.G., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, 112, Monifah, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, George Clinton, Brandy, Tevin Campbell, the P-Funk All-Stars and others. The two exceptions were a first-season episode, where The Notorious B.I.G. performs at a rap concert, and the two-episode third-season premiere, where Kirk Franklin and the Family portray a church choir.

In the first-season episode "The Eyewitness Blues," Salli Richardson portrays a popular singer in need of police protection from a professional killer. This is the only episode from the first three seasons without a musical performance by a recording artist. In this episode, Richardson does the singing herself.



J.C. (Malik Yoba) and Gregory (George O. Gore II) are the only characters depicted in all four seasons. Also, Yoba is the only actor to appear in all 89 episodes.

Before making his appearance as Emil Skoda on New York Undercover, J.K. Simmons guest starred as Sgt. Treadway in the episode "Unis". Two of the Law & Order police psychiatrists -- Elizabeth Olivet (played by Carolyn McCormick) and Emil Skoda (played by Simmons) -- made crossover appearances on New York Undercover, placing the series firmly in the Law & Order universe. In fact, numerous actors made appearances in two or more episodes portraying different characters, including Paul Calderon, Jude Ciccolella, Steve Harris, Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones, Jesse L. Martin, and Mekhi Phifer. Before joining the cast in Season 2 as Nina Moreno, Lauren Vélez appeared in the first-season episode "Olde Tyme Religion" as a believer in Santeria.

Supermodels Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell both portrayed romantic interests for J.C. Additionally, in one of his first acting roles, male model Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje appeared in the first-season episode "Downtown Girl."


Awards and nominations

New York Undercover won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Drama Series in both 1996 and 1997. Malik Yoba won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for starring in this series in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

For their supporting roles as recurring characters on the show, Fatima Faloye and Ice-T were awarded the NAACP's awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, respectively, in 1996.

Syndication and DVD release

Reruns of the series currently air on TV One and Sí TV cable networks. In 2008, the series began airing on Sleuth. Since January 1, 2008, New York Undercover has been aired on RTL's digital RTL Crime channel which shows reruns of RTL and American crime series such as Alarm für Cobra 11, The Clown and Forensic Files.

To date, NBC Universal has no plans to release the series on DVD at this time due to conflicts over music rights costs.


  1. "Hip-Hop Cops", TV Guide, Oct. 15, 1994, at p. 29.
  2. "How Blacks Differ From Whites in TV Show Choices", Jet, Mar. 17, 1997, at p. 54.
  3. New York Undercover in Jump The Shark

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