Steven Bochco died at the start of April. I, for one, mourned his passing hugely. Mainly, I have to say, as the main man behind the greatest TV show in the history of TV shows ever, anywhere at any time on the planet. If you wish to disagree don’t bother. I am right and you are wrong. So there.
Hill Street Blues changed TV drama forever – and, clearly, for the better.
Never before had anyone produced a show with an ensemble cast that the viewers cared about. There had always been one, two or, perhaps, three main stars along with a supporting cast. Shows focused on the main stars. That was what worked.
An ensemble cast only tended to happen in ‘soap operas’ because that worked for soap operas, but only for soap operas.
Bochco had other ideas and along came Hill Street Blues.
It never made it very far up the viewer rating chart and is, probably, the lowest viewer rated show ever to get awarded a second season – then a third and on to the final seventh. Undoubtedly the number of prestigious awards it garnered saved it from being dropped and, for that, we should all be eternally grateful.
Huge stars made early screen appearances in Hill Street Blues.
David ‘CSI Miami’ Caruso played ‘Tommy’ – leader of The Shamrocks street gang. Danny ‘Lethal Weapon’ Glover appeared in three episodes as a gang warlord released from prison murdering his way back up to warlord again.
Andy Garcia popped up as did Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption among his later film rolls) as a rookie cop bullied into committing suicide.
Linda ‘Terminator’ Hamilton played Officer Joe Coffey’s girlfriend and Michael ‘Starship Troopers’ Ironside appeared very briefly.
Yes. You are right. I am an anorak. Some people go train spotting or plane spotting or collect stamps. I’m an unashamed Hill Street Blues anorak. I adore it as much today as I did in the 80’s.
The characters, without exception, are played to perfection by an extraordinarily talented ensemble cast.
I have met others who claim to love the show but I’m invariably disappointed when I discover they can’t remember/didn’t see the episode when a cow is found in an apartment and finally, off screen, lands on a passing motorists car while being winched from the building’s roof. You discover this when Officer Andy Renko (Charles Haid) is being interviewed on TV and the TV is on in the station house.
The initial idea for the show came from Paul Newman’s excellent movie ‘Fort Apache: The Bronx’ and you can certainly see how that movie was something of an inspiration for Bochco.
However, after the initial inspiration, Hill Street Blues came alive in its own right.
Captain Francis Xavier Ferrillo (Daniel J Travanti), Sgt Phillip Freemason Esterhuis (Michael Conrad).
I’d better stop now. I can reel off the entire cast list of all seven series and most of the guest actors too – well, those who went onto be quite famous in the movies anyway.
“Dispatch, we have a 9-11, armed robbery in progress – see Surplus Store – corner of People’s Drive and 124th street” and then the magnificent theme music courtesy of Mike Post.
Mick Belker:”SIT HAIRBALL!”
Sgt Stan Jablonski:”Let’s do it to them before they do it to us” –
Capt. Furillo: “Look at this! You got the address wrong on the warrant.”
Sgt. Esterhaus: “Captain, we never shoulda stopped doing these in pencil.”
Capt. Furillo: “So when the man understandably objects to being arrested, Earps here hits him with a board!”
Officer Earps: “We had to, boss. We couldn’t get his attention.”
Thank you, Stephen Bochco, and thank you for reading this, you can go now – AND HEY! Let’s be careful out there.