On paper, they aren't exactly a perfect match. In fact, when Entertainment Weekly gave a compatibility quiz to NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz and Sharon Lawrence, their answers pointed to definite discord: His idea of a great vacation is an outdoor adventure; she'd prefer sightseeing in Paris. He hung with the jocks in school; she ran with the artsy crowd. He won't interfere if he sees a friend making a mistake; she's likely to get involved. But on screen, the actors' antagonistic sensibilities-pit bull vs. French poodle, beer vs. Brie-intertwine improbably, complicatedly, heatedly, sexily.
No matter that the first encounter between Franz's coarse, recovering alcoholic Det. Andy Sipowicz and Lawrence's sophisticated assistant DA Sylvia Costas ended in the now-immortal words ''Ipso this, you pissy little bitch.'' Actually, the original script had Franz saying, ''you pissy little bastard.'' But Lawrence was cast instead of a man, and Franz, whose characters have had few love interests in his 25 years as a Hollywood tough, saw his chance. ''We had this great chemistry from day one,'' says Franz, 49. But then he suffered some mild apprehension. ''I'm thinking, who is going to believe this very intelligent, very attractive woman going for a lug like Sipowicz? How are we ever going to explain this?''
Easy. Lawrence's Sylvia drew out the vulnerability in Franz's Andy, and her soft sensuality rubbed off on him, making Sipowicz the most unconventional detective-sex symbol since Columbo. Lawrence, 32, a onetime North Carolina Junior Miss and a singer-dancer who's putting a cabaret act together, says, ''I get mail from women who totally see the attraction, who see Andy's warm side. And from guys who say, 'Hey, I'm bald, too, what about me?''' Andy, says Lawrence, ''is a nice man underneath. You have to dig deep, but he is there.''
Both Lawrence, who's single, and Franz, who has lived for 12 years with promotion executive Joanie Zeck, say that their unlikely NYPD pairing has altered their romantic outlooks. ''I'm more mature,'' says Lawrence. ''I'm no longer looking for a boy to date, but a man.'' Adds Franz, ''When I see a mismatched couple on the street, I have this respect for the attractive person for being able to look past appearance and find the nice qualities.''