Public Morals is the new flagship of the TNT network. Created by Edward Burns, starring Edward Burns, and written by Edward Burns are what the headlines about the show trumpet. Set in the early to mid 1960’s, the is the story of a particular NYPD police department – the Public Morals Division.
These cops know all about the laws against prostitution and gambling, public intoxication – crimes yes, but in their eyes, these were crimes without victims. People everywhere want to have fun, and the Public Morals division, as they said, were not there to either prevent, or eradicate these activities.
Rather they were their to manage these activities. As had been done for a hundred years. As Burns’s character, Detective Terry Muldoon would say:
Think of us as landlords. If you want to do business, you’ve got to pay the rent.
What they called rent was actually something else. There were no checks changing hands. There was either cash on the barrel head or the barter system. They’d bust a high stakes poker game, and keep the money on the poker tables while sending the players home with a warning.
Talk about money for nothing.
Or they might get comped at the Russian Tea Room because they made sure the hookers working the streets on the West Side steered clear of that particular section of West 57th Street. Ditto for the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South when they made sure that bookies did not set up shop and do business at the hotel’s bar.
So who were these coppers? The main two were Terry Muldoon (played by Burns) an Irish cop who was the son of an Irish cop. He still lived in the same Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood where he grew up. He was married and had three kids. Yes, the apartment he and his family lived in was small, and cramped, and despite his wife’s protests about the dangers of city living, they stayed put. Clearly Terry Muldoon kept most of his off-the books activities from his wife.