Hill Street Blues

From Academic Kids

"Hill Street Blues" was a serial police drama that first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran on primetime into 1987. It received high critical acclaim and while audience figures were never more than acceptable, its innovations proved highly influential on serious dramatic television series produced in North America.



MTM Enterprises (home of Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant) developed the series on behalf of NBC, appointing Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll as series writers. The writers were allowed considerable creative freedom, and created a series which brought together for the first time a number of emerging ideas in TV drama.

  • Each episode featured a number of intertwined storylines, some of which were resolved within the episode, with others developing over a number of episodes.
  • Much play was made of the conflicts between the work and private lives of the individuals. In the workplace there was also a strong focus on the struggle between doing "what was right" and "what worked".
  • The camera was held close in, action cut rapidly between stories, and there was lots of use of overheard, or off-screen dialogue, giving a "documentary" feel to the action.
  • The show dealt with "real-life" issues, and used "real-life" language to a greater extent than had been seen before.

Much drama was created through the pairing of opposites, including:

  • White, Southern "good old boy" Officer Andrew J. Renko and militant black, urban Officer Bobby Hill.
  • Pacifist Lt. Henry Goldblum and militaristic SWAT team leader Lt. Howard Hunter.
  • Calm, articulate veteran desk Sergeant Phil Esterhaus and grubby undercover Detective Mick Belker.
  • Alcoholic Det. J.D. LaRue and recovering narcotics addict Det. Neal Washington.
  • Strong, silent Officer Lucy Bates, who wants to be more feminine, and partner Officer Joe Coffey, always macho.
  • Champion of the oppressed precinct Captain Frank Furillo and political gadfly Chief Fletcher Daniels.
  • Even-tempered Captain Furillo ("Pizza Man") and high-strung defense attorney Joyce Davenport ("Counselor").
  • Urbane, romantic Sgt. Esterhaus and bawdy nymphomaniac Grace Gardner.

Though filmed in Los Angeles, the series was set in a generic location with a feel of a Northern urban centre, with many exterior shots being filmed in Chicago, including the station house, which was the old Lakeview area police station on Chicago's North Side. The show's police cars were painted and marked exactly like Chicago police cars.

The name of the show was based on Pittsburgh's Hill District. Chief writer Steven Bochco attended college at the nearby Carnegie Institute of Technology and used the downtroden Hill District as inspiration for naming the show.

Its influence may still be seen in such series as NYPD Blue and ER. There was also a short lived Dennis Franz spinoff called Beverly Hills Buntz, in which the title character moves from the Hill to Los Angeles.

The distinctive theme tune was written by Mike Post. It was a popular enough theme that it peaked in the top 10 on the Billboard charts for pop singles.

Main characters

Recurring characters

External link


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