Steven Bochco, producer of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue and Doogie Howser, M.D., dies at 74 of leukemia.
From The New York Times: "Steven Bochco, Producer of ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘NYPD Blue,’ Di...
From the New York Daily News: "Steven Bochco, ‘Hill Street Blues’ and 'NYPD Blue' Creator, Dead a...
The Wrap has a nice writeup about Bochco's influence: "Steven Bochco’s Legacy: 4 Ways ‘NYPD Blue’ Co-Creator Changed TV"
I was inspired to write my own restrospective of Steven Bochco's career "Steven Bochco Held a Mirror to America's Way of Policing"
Enjoyed your article. I always loved Hill Street Blues, and I agree with you about Homicide: Life on the Street. For whatever reason, I never watched NYPD Blue.
Dennis Franz blew me away on Hill Street before he was in NYPD Blue. First as bad cop Sal Benedetto and then as regular Lt. Norman Buntz. His greatest scene as Buntz, IMO, was when he was tied to a chair. Like the raging bull he was, he got on his feet and charged the kidnapper, smashing him through a window.
Thanks. I was a devoted fan of Hill Street Blues. I never missed it -- which was hard, because that was back when VCRs were new technology, and I didn't have one. Not to mention, that was before DVRs, On Demand, and the boxed set; if you missed an episode of your favorite TV show, you had to wait months and hope the network would rerun it. (Isn't it great, living in the future?)
So there were times when I was the obnoxious guy who would visit someone and watch their TV, because I just had to see what was happening on Hill Street that week.
When NYPD Blue came along, the critics were gushing over it. I did watch it through much of the first season, but lost interest. Apart from the shock value of the rougher language and the oh-so-carefully edited nude scenes, NYPD Blue seemed to me not very special at all.
Homicide: Life on the Street, though, was trying to give us something different. First, setting it in Baltimore -- and actually filming it there -- was fresh, giving us a new environment to explore. That's why I said setting NYPD Blue in New York automatically made it stale; every other cop show is set in New York or Los Angeles. Plus, NYPD Blue wasn't actually made in New York, which was strike two.
Visually, Homicide was different, with its bleak, washed-out colors and the quick jump cuts to punctuate its scenes.
It was also different in its casting. They didn't want a bunch of handsome leading men types, but a lot of ordinary looking schmoes, including Ned Beatty and Jon Polito from The Legion of "Hey, It's That Guy!" Character Actors. Great actors, all -- Melissa Leo has gone on to win an Oscar and Andre Braugher has won two Emmys -- but not a bunch of pretty boys.
And the stories. Much of Homicide's first season and a fair chunk of the second is pulled from the source book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, by David Simon, a Baltimore Sun reporter who spent a year documenting the work of the Baltimore PD homicide detectives. It's a good read.
Braugher's on Brooklyn Nine-Nine these days, and last week's episode was a shout-out to the classic Homicide episode "Three Men and Adena," the one where Pembleton and Bayliss spend all night in the interigation room with an Ayrabber,* trying to get him to confess to the murder of a child. And then there's "Every Mother's Child," which should have won an Emmy. Nothing NYPD Blue did could hold a candle to that one.
* In Baltimore, the Ayrabs were guys who came through neighborhoods on horse-drawnt carts full of fresh produce and flowers for sale. This was a tradition developed back in the days when you had to go to separate stores for everything -- the green grocer for fruits and vegetables, the fishmonger for fish, the butcher for meats, the florist for flowers, the bakery for bread -- and before all those things were put under one roof in modern supermarkets. So, the Ayrabs came to you. The Ayrabber tradition persists, although it's dying out. The stables where the horses are kept were condemned last year and alternatives are farther out.
Hill Street was one of the few cop shows that I watched regularly. Good stuff.
I know me an CK have talked about it before, but Homicide is one of my all-time favorite shows, and Pembleton is one of my favorite characters in any medium.