‘Blue Bloods’: The Inspiration Behind the Iconic Family Dinner Scenes

by John Jamison

Reagan family dinner scenes are fan-favorites on “Blue Bloods” for a reason. There’s a certain comfort provided by the whole family getting together to share a meal on Sunday night. And beyond that, people are just excited by the opportunity to see all of their characters in one room. But the inspiration for the scenes may surprise you.

In each episode, the Reagan family gathers around the dinner table. They use the opportunity to go over the events that have transpired. And apparently, late executive producer Leonard Goldberg saw these scenes as the “glue” for the entire show. It’s almost a sitcom-like approach but applied to a crime drama. The result is a touchstone for the “Blue Bloods” characters. It lets fans get to see them at their most vulnerable and allows the audience to relate a little bit.

Interestingly, the inspiration for the dinner scenes came from a famous painting. Most will have seen the “Freedom from Want” image created by Norman Rockwell in the 1940s. It’s an iconic American piece and depicts a family preparing to dig into a Thanksgiving feast.

According to Len Cariou, who plays “Pop” Henry Reagan on “Blue Bloods,” that artwork is why the Reagan family gathers for dinner on an episode-to-episode basis.

“You know where this came from? The Sunday dinner. It was Leonard Goldberg saw – there’s a drawing by Norman Rockwell of a Thanksgiving dinner. And that was his inspiration,” Cariou said during a panel interview at 92Y in 2017. “And he said, ‘I want to have a dinner scene in every episode. That will be the glue that brings it all together after we’ve seen what Donnie does, and what Will does, and what Pop does, and what Tom does.'”

‘Blue Bloods’ Star Tom Selleck’s Favorite Thing About the Script Was the Dinner Scene

Tom Selleck has been playing Police Commissioner Frank Reagan on “Blue Bloods” since 2010. And when he first read the pilot script, one part jumped out at him. He loved that the episode spent eight minutes on the dinner scene.

When he first sat down with late executive producer Leonard Goldberg, he said as much. But he assumed that the network would cut the scenes for something more dramatic. Goldberg assured him that the scenes were central to the show, however.

“He said, ‘No, that is a set piece of the show. So that was a deliberate design of Leonard’s from day one,” Selleck said at 92Y in 2017.

Who knows? Maybe Tom Selleck never joins the show without the dinner scenes. And in a way, we have Norman Rockwell to thank for their presence.