Published On: Mon, Apr 2nd, 2018

Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco dies

Emmy-winning TV producer Steven Bochco, who created the hit 1980s show Hill Street Blues, has died at the age of 74.

He died in his sleep on Sunday after a long battle against leukaemia.

Bochco is credited with changing the face of US TV drama, starting the heyday of NBC and ABC with crime shows such as LA Law, NYPD Blue and the medical comedy Doogie Howser, MD.

The success of these network shows in the early 1980s paved the way for the creation of the so-called Golden Age of Television a decade later, when premium cable programmes such as The Sopranos broke the mould.

Hill,Street Blues cast in 1981
Image: The Hill Street Blues cast in 1981

Bochco’s most successful show was Hill Street Blues, a documentary-style cop show focused on a single precinct, which scored a record 27 Emmy nominations in its first year.

The acclaimed producer went on to win a total of 10 Emmy awards and four Peabodys throughout his career.

What made Hill Street Blues such a groundbreaking show was the continuous narrative, which gave each character its own personal arc.

Until then, US TV drama had consisted mostly of drama series and sitcoms with freestanding episodes, with little thread.

Dennis Franz with Steven Bochco
Image: NYPD Blues star Dennis Franz with Steven Bochco

Bochco once recalled a fan telling him that Hill Street Blues was the first TV series with a memory.

Audiences now have grown accustomed to following a TV show weekly, or even binge watching from start to finish – a trend set by Bochco nearly three decades ago.

After Hill Street Blues, he was offered the job of entertainment president on CBS, but turned it down for the chance of producing 10 different shows throughout six years at ABC.

Out of that deal would spring shows such as Murder One, City Of Angels and his most popular show NYPD Blue – the spiritual sequel to Hill Street Blues, starring Dennis Franz.

Bochco
Image: Bochco with Bill Mechanic, Forest Whitaker, Danny DeVito and George Lucas

On Monday, dozens of actors and showrunners shared their condolences on Twitter, with House Of Cards creator Beau Willimon writing: “As a kid, Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law were rituals in my house.”

“All of us who grew up watching great TV and have benefited from the ground he broke owe pioneer Steven Bochco a debt of gratitude,” he added.

Comedian and movie producer Judd Apatow wrote: “Steven Bochco sat with Jake Kasdan and myself before we started Freaks and Geeks and let us grill him for advice. We used all of it.”

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“Absolutely one of the biggest influences on Buffy (and me) was HILL STREET BLUES,” wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.

“Complex,unpredictable and unfailingly humane. Steven Bochco changed television, more than once. He’s a legend. All love to his family, R.I.P., and thank you.”

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