The “Blue Bloods” dinner scene is one of the many reasons the show has lasted more than 10 years. It gets the entire Reagan family together each episode, for better or worse, and often finds four generations interacting at the dinner table. Whether the audience realizes it or not, the knowledge they’ve picked up throughout the episode is what makes these scenes so effective. Frank Reagan actor Tom Selleck calls it a “secret,” and he let the fans in on it during a 2017 interview.
The audience knows more than each of the characters sitting at the dinner table. They have the entire picture of events in their heads, which leads to a sense of anticipation or excitement as the Reagan’s reveal bits and pieces of information to each other.
The Dinner Scenes: More Than Just a ‘Recap’
In literature, this device is called dramatic irony. It’s been effective since people first started telling stories. And family-based crime dramas like “Blue Bloods” are no exception to the rule. Instead of getting together to rehash what occurred in the episode, the dinner scene adds more layers to the characters. Tom Selleck talked about it during an interview on “CBS This Morning” a few years ago.
“They’re not a recap of what the show has transpired in. ‘Cause, it’s usually in the third act, but the audience – it provides the audience with a secret,” Selleck said. “They know what Will’s done, and Bridget’s done during the show, or I’ve done and what we’ve been going through, so when a subject comes up, they’re holding a little bit of a private knowledge of ‘that’s not going to go very well.”
It’s that feeling of suspense you get when something needs to be said, but it won’t go over very well. Half of the excitement comes from having the background knowledge in the first place. Sure, there’s a place and a time for launching big surprises on the audience. Oftentimes, however, surprising the characters themselves is just as entertaining.
The ‘Blue Bloods’ Star Remembers a Similar Device From His Classic Show
Fans of Frank Reagan actor Tom Selleck will remember his days on “Magnum P.I.” Throughout the 1980s, the “Blue Bloods” star played the most iconic role of his career as a private investigator in Hawaii.
“I really do think that – in ‘Magnum,’ – it was, he had a narration he always shared with the audience, a private conversation. I think those things are very useful,” Selleck continued in the 2017 interview.
So it obviously wasn’t the same setting, character, or exact execution. But the narrations that Magnum provided the audience achieved the same thing as the “Blue Bloods” dinner scenes. In terms of giving the audience background information that elevates the following interactions, at least.