Hill Street Blues (1981–1987)

TVSeries


Hill Street Blues (TV Series 1981–1987)

The original "ensemble drama," this is the story of an overworked, under-staffed police precinct in an anonymous inner city patterned after Chicago. We follow the lives of many characters, from the lowly beat and traffic cops to the captain of the precinct himself. This is the show that blazed the trail followed later by such notable ensemble dramas as "St. Elsewhere" and "L.A. Law."
USA
IMDb   8.1 /10
TheMovieDb    7.6 /10
RottenTomatoes  97 %
FilmAffinity   7.2 /10
Creators
Creator Steven Bochco
Creator Michael Kozoll
Information
Release Date1981-01-15
Runtime1h 0min
GenreCrime, Drama, Mystery
Content RatingTV-14 (TV-14)
AwardsWon 26 Primetime Emmys. Another 33 wins & 109 nominations.
CompanyMTM Enterprises
CountryUSA
LanguageEnglish
Capt. Frank Furillo 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Officer Bobby Hill 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Sgt. Mick Belker 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Lt. Howard Hunter / ... 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Lt. Henry Goldblume / ... 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Det. Neal Washington 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Detective J.D. LaRue / ... 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Officer Lucy Bates / ... 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Officer Andrew Renko / ... 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Joyce Davenport 144 episodes, 1981-1987
Lt. Ray Calletano / ... 108 episodes, 1981-1987
Officer Joe Coffey 104 episodes, 1981-1986
Fay Furillo 102 episodes, 1981-1986
Leo Schnitz / ... 93 episodes, 1981-1985
Sgt. Phil Esterhaus 71 episodes, 1981-1984
Chief Fletcher Daniels 71 episodes, 1981-1987

Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues is an American serial police procedural television series that aired on NBC in prime-time from January 15, 1981, to May 12, 1987, for 146 episodes. The show chronicles the lives of the staff of a single police station located on Hill Street in an unnamed large city. The "blues" are the police officers in their blue uniforms. The show received critical acclaim and its production innovations influenced many subsequent dramatic television series produced in the United States and Canada. In its debut season, the series won eight Emmy Awards, a debut season record later surpassed only by The West Wing. The show won a total of 26 Emmy Awards (out of 98 Emmy Award nominations) during its run, including four consecutive wins for Outstanding Drama Series.


Background

MTM Enterprises developed the series on behalf of NBC, appointing Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll as series writers. The writers were allowed freedom to create a series that brought together a number of fresh ideas in TV drama. Each episode featured intertwined storylines, some of which were resolved within the episode, with others developing throughout a season. The conflicts between the work lives and private lives of the characters were also significant.

The series featured a strong focus on the workplace struggle between what is right and what works. Almost every episode began with a pre-credit sequence (or teaser) consisting of (mission) briefing and roll call to start the day shift. From season three on, a "Previously on..." montage of clips of up to six episodes preceded the roll call.

Almost all episodes took place over the course of a single day, many concluding with Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) and public defender Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel) in a domestic situation, often in bed, discussing how their respective days went. The series dealt with real-life issues and employed professional jargon and slang to a greater extent than had been seen before on television.

Each week after roll call, from Season 1 until Michael Conrad's death, partway through Season 4, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would say, "Let's be careful out there." Sgt. Lucille Bates continued the tradition through the end of Season 4, as a tribute to Michael Conrad. From Season 5 until the show's end, Sgt. Stan Jablonski concluded his roll calls with, "Let's go out there and do it to them before they do it to us."


Production

Hill Street Blues employed what was, at that time, a unique style of camera usage for weeknight television productions, such as filming close in with action cuts rapidly between stories. Rather than studio (floor) cameras, handhelds were used to enhance this style. Overheard, off-screen dialogue aurally-augmented the "documentary" feel with respect to the filmed action of a scene.

Although filmed in Los Angeles (both on location and at CBS Studio Center in Studio City), the series is set in a generic unnamed inner-city location with a feel of a U.S. urban center in the Midwest or Northeast. Bochco reportedly intended this fictional city to be a hybrid of Chicago, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh.

The program's focus on failure and those at the bottom of the social scale is pronounced, in contrast to Bochco's later project L.A. Law. Inspired by police procedural detective novels such as Ed McBain's 1956 Cop Hater, the show has been described as Barney Miller out of doors. The focus on the bitter realities of 1980s urban living was revolutionary for its time.


Music

The theme music for "Hill Street Blues" was written by Mike Post, featuring Larry Carlton on guitar. It was released as a single and became a major US hit, reaching #10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in November 1981. It was also an Adult Contemporary hit in the US and Canada. The tune has no lyrics.


Seasons

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Pilot: Brandon Tartikoff commissioned a series from MTM Productions, which assigned Bochco and Kozoll to the project. The pilot was produced in 1980, but was held back as a mid-season replacement so as not to get lost among the other programs debuting in the fall of 1980. Barbara Bosson, who was married to Bochco, had the idea to fashion the series into four- or five-episode story "arcs". Robert Butler directed the pilot and developed a look and style inspired by the 1977 documentary The Police Tapes, in which filmmakers used handheld cameras to follow police officers in the South Bronx.

Butler went on to direct the first four episodes of the series, and Bosson had hoped he would stay on permanently. However, he felt he was not being amply recognized for his contributions to the show's look and style and left to pursue other projects. He would return to direct just one further episode, "The Second Oldest Profession" in season two.

Season 1: The pilot aired on Thursday, January 15, 1981, at 10:00 pm, which would be the show's time slot for nearly its entire run. The second episode aired two nights later; the next week followed a similar pattern (episode 3 on Thursday, episode 4 on Saturday). NBC had ordered 13 episodes and the season was supposed to end on May 25 with a minor cliffhanger (the resolution of Sgt. Esterhaus' wedding). Instead, growing critical acclaim prompted NBC to order an additional four episodes to air during the May sweeps. Bochco and Kozoll quickly fashioned this into a new story arc, which aired as two two-hour episodes to close the season. In the first season's original ending, Officer Joe Coffey (Ed Marinaro) is shot dead during a vehicle stop. However, later on the producers decided that Coffey should remain, so the scene was edited to show him being seriously wounded and taken to hospital. (The character would eventually be killed in the sixth season.) This echoes the shooting and resurrection of Renko and Hill at the beginning of the season, providing unintentional thematic bookends to the first season.

In early episodes, the opening theme had several clearly audible edits; this was replaced by a longer, unedited version partway through the second season. The end credits for the pilot differed from the rest of the series in that the background still shot of the station house was completely different; it was also copyrighted 1980 instead of 1981. Ranking 87th out of 96 shows, it became the lowest-rated program ever renewed for a second season at the time. However, it was only renewed for ten episodes. A full order was picked up partway through the season.

Season 2: A writers strike pushed the start of the season forward to October 29, meaning that only 18 episodes were completed that year. Kozoll was now listed as a consultant, signifying his diminished role in the show. He later stated he was already feeling burnt out, and in fact was relying more on car chases and action to fill the scripts. A less muted version of the closing theme was played over the end credits.

Season 3: Kozoll left the show at the end of season two, replaced for the most part by Anthony Yerkovich (who later created Miami Vice after leaving Hill Street Blues at the end of this season) and David Milch. This was the show's most popular in terms of viewership, as it finished at #21. This was also the birth of "Must See TV", as the show was joined by Cheers, Taxi and Fame. The network promoted Thursdays as "the best night of television on television." Michael Conrad was increasingly absent from the show due to his ongoing, and ultimately unsuccessful, battle with cancer.

Season 4: Following his death on November 22, 1983, Michael Conrad's final appearance was broadcast halfway through the season in February 1984 in a memorable send-off episode, "Grace Under Pressure". Det. Harry Garibaldi (Ken Olin) was introduced at the end of the season as a temporary replacement for Det. J.D. LaRue (Kiel Martin) who was supposedly suffering from mononucleosis. The show won its fourth and final Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series this season.

Season 5: The show changed drastically this season, entering a somewhat "soap opera-ish" period according to Bochco. New characters included Sgt. Stanislaus Jablonski (Robert Prosky) and Det. Patsy Mayo (Mimi Kuzyk). Det. Garibaldi was now a regular, while Fay Furillo became a full-time member of the squad room as a victim's advocate. Bochco was dismissed at season's end by then-MTM President Arthur Price. The firing was due to Bochco's cost overruns, coupled with the fact that the show had achieved the 100-episode milestone needed to successfully syndicate it.

Betty Thomas won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series this season. However, at the awards ceremony, Barry Bremen, aka "The Great Imposter", rushed the stage ahead of Thomas and claimed she was unable to attend. He then claimed the award and left the stage, confusing viewers and robbing Thomas of her moment in the sun, although she returned and spoke after the ad break. Presenter Peter Graves suggested that the imposter was "on his way to the cooler."

Season 6: Major changes occurred as Det. Mayo, Det. Garibaldi, Lt. Ray Calletano (René Enríquez), Fay Furillo (Barbara Bosson) and Officer Leo Schnitz (Robert Hirschfeld) were all phased out at the start of the season, and Joe Coffey left near the end. The sole addition was Lt. Norman Buntz, played by Dennis Franz, who had played a different character, the corrupt "bad guy" Detective Sal Benedetto, in several season 3 episodes. Buntz and Benedetto were doppelgängers. Peter Jurasik played a new recurring character ("Sid the Snitch"), who often teamed with Buntz. In a 1991 interview on Later with Bob Costas, Ken Olin claimed these characters were removed so the new show-runners would receive royalties. Bosson's departure, however, was voluntary. She left after a salary conflict with the new executive producer who, according to the actress, had also wanted her character, Fay, to go back to being a shrewish "thorn in her ex-husband's side".

The season premiere opened with a roll call filled with officers never before seen on the show, briefly fooling viewers into thinking the entire cast had been replaced. It was then revealed that this was, in fact, the night shift. The action then cut to the day shift pursuing their after-work activities. Another unique episode from this season explained through flashbacks how Furillo and Davenport met and fell in love. This was the first season that Travanti and Hamel were not nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress in a Drama Series.

Season 7: Up until now, each episode of the series started with the morning roll call. Episodes from season 7 break away from tradition, showing characters at home or working. The roll call becomes a minor part of the beginning. Some episodes don't show roll call at all.

Officer Patrick Flaherty (Robert Clohessy) and Officer Tina Russo (Megan Gallagher) joined this season in an attempt to rekindle the Bates/Coffey relationship of years past. Stan Jablonski became a secondary character part way through this season, and when Travanti announced he would not return the next year, the producers decided to end the show in 1987. The program was also moved to Tuesday nights almost midway through the season after nearly six years to make way for L.A. Law on Thursdays. During this season the show featured the first lesbian recurring character on a major network; the character was a police officer called Kate McBride, played by Lindsay Crouse.

This was the only season that Bruce Weitz (Det. Mick Belker) was not nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Only Betty Thomas was nominated, making her the sole member of the cast to be nominated all seasons. This was the only season for which the show was not nominated for Outstanding Drama Series.

Broadcast history and Nielsen ratings

SeasonTimeslotRatings
1 (1980–1981)Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. (January 15–22, 1981)
Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. (January 17 – March 21, 1981)
Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. (May 19–26, 1981)
#87
2 (1981–1982)Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.#27
3 (1982–1983)#21
4 (1983–1984)#32
5 (1984–1985)#30
6 (1985–1986)#33
7 (1986–1987)Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. (October 2 – November 27, 1986)
Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. (December 2, 1986 – February 10, 1987)
Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. (March 3 – May 12, 1987)
#42

The series later aired in reruns on TV Land, Bravo, AmericanLife TV, and NuvoTV. It has been running since September 2015 on Heroes & Icons network. Seasons one through seven can also be viewed on Hulu and Star. Season three can be viewed as streaming video on commercial sites and is also available in many countries from Channel 4 on YouTube.


Setting

Series producers deliberately left the exact city in which the series was set vague and a variety of methods are employed to imply different general locations. The call letters of local TV stations were usually obscured to avoid showing whether they began with "W" (the Federal Communications Commission designation for stations east of the Mississippi River) or "K" (signifying a station west of the Mississippi River). An episode in season three specifically mentions a radio station of WDPD, suggesting a city east of the Mississippi. However, in bar scenes throughout the series, characters are frequently shown drinking bottles of beer that strongly resemble Coors Beer. Coors did not obtain national distribution until 1986, and as a result of national distribution laws was not available east of the Mississippi until that year, implying the location is west of the Mississippi.

Though most of the series' scenes were filmed in Los Angeles (on location and at CBS Studio Center in Studio City), the series' introduction shows exterior shots entirely of Chicago and Cutaway shots from Chicago were used in production, with police cars painted to resemble the color schemes of Chicago Police Department patrol vehicles. Chicago's 7th District Police Station is frequently shown in cutaway shots and also during the closing credits. (This station was closed by the Chicago Police in 1998 and later repurposed as the headquarters for the University of Illinois at Chicago police.)

The first episode of season three shows both a TV camera labeled "WREQ", and a shot of a Regional Transportation Authority Highliner train arriving at the Chicago and North Western Terminal. However, in the penultimate episode of season 2, a street sign for Los Angeles Street – a major thoroughfare in downtown LA – is visible outside the fictitious Hotel Doane.

There are several mentions through the series of characters going down to "the shore", which implies a lake or oceanfront setting. One indication of setting within the show was given by the Southern-accented character Officer Andy Renko when he stated in the season one episode "Politics as Usual": "Just drop that cowboy stuff. I was born in New Jersey, never been west of Chicago in my life." In Season 1 episode 12, Captain Frank Furillo informs Lieutenant Howard Hunter that the armored vehicle he was test driving has been found "in the East River", implying New York. In Season 2, Episode 3, Sergeant Phil Esterhaus references guarding "the national guard armory in Newark", implying a location in or near New Jersey. Season 2 episode 18 shows an elevated train on which "CTA" can clearly be seen, suggesting Chicago. Throughout the series, characters occasionally mention well-known Chicago street names, such as Michigan Avenue, or other Chicago-related landmarks, such as the Blue Line subway and Mercy Hospital. Both of the characters played by Dennis Franz employ a heavy "Chicago midwestern" accent, also employed by Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers, a film set in Chicago.

In a Season 5 episode, during an undercover detail, Detective Belker is knocked unconscious by a criminal and stashed in the luggage compartment of an interstate bus. A package labeled "Springfield ILL" (using the old three-letter Postal Service state abbreviation) is next to him. When he is finally freed from the compartment and told he is in Springfield, it is still daytime and after he rides a bus back to his origin, it is now early evening and the other detective at his detail is not alarmed when Belker explains his absence as "following a tail", implying the distance was not very great (Springfield is roughly 3 hours drive from Chicago via I-55).

Show writer Steven Bochco attended college at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh. The run-down, shabby, drug-ridden impression of Pittsburgh's Hill District that Bochco acquired was apparently part of the inspiration for the show. He intended the setting to resemble several cities, including Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo.

Although the city is never named, the state flag for Illinois is visible over the judge's left shoulder in the courtroom scenes in Season 2, Episode 5 "Fruits of the Poisonous Tree", suggesting the location is Chicago.


Title

Hill Street Blues refers to the blue uniforms worn by many police officers in the United States and, by extension, the depressing nature of inner-city police work. The phrase is uttered only once in the series, apart from introductions such as "Previously on Hill Street Blues." It is spoken by Detective Emil Schneider (Dolph Sweet) in the first-season episode "Gator Bait." Schneider says it in a slightly mocking tone, in reference to officers Hill and Renko, who he feels are out of their league at a particular crime scene. The precinct bowling team is the "Hill Street Blue Ballers".


Cast

Officers are listed by the rank they held at first appearance on the program; some officers later held higher ranks.

Main characters

  • Capt. Francis Xavier "Frank" Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti, 1981–87)
  • Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel, 1981–87)
  • Sgt. Philip Freemason Esterhaus (Michael Conrad, 1981–84)
  • Det. Michael "Mick" Belker (Bruce Weitz, 1981–87)
  • Sgt. Henry Goldblume (Joe Spano, 1981–87)
  • Ofc. Robert "Bobby" Hill (Michael Warren, 1981–87)
  • Ofc. Andrew "Andy" Renko (Charles Haid, 1981–87)
  • Sgt. Howard Hunter (James B. Sikking, 1981–87)
  • Ofc. Lucille "Lucy" Bates (Betty Thomas, 1981–87)
  • Det. John D. "JD" LaRue (Kiel Martin, 1981–87)
  • Det. Neal Washington (Taurean Blacque, 1981–87)
  • Lt. Raymundo "Ray" Calletano (René Enriquez, 1981–86)
  • Ofc. Joe Coffey (Ed Marinaro, 1981–86)
  • Fay Furillo (Barbara Bosson, 1981–86)
  • Sgt. Stanislaus "Stan" Jablonski (Robert Prosky, 1984–87)
  • Det. Harry Garibaldi (Ken Olin, 1984–85)
  • Det. Patricia "Patsy" Mayo (Mimi Kuzyk, 1984–85)
  • Lt. Norman "Norm"/"Guido" Buntz (Dennis Franz, 1985–87)
  • Ofc. Patrick Flaherty (Robert Clohessy, 1986–87)
  • Ofc. Tina Russo (Megan Gallagher, 1986–87)

Other characters

  • Chief Fletcher Daniels (Jon Cypher, 1981–87)
  • Ofc. Leo Schnitz (Robert Hirschfeld, 1981–85, promoted to series regular in final season)
  • Grace Gardner (Barbara Babcock, 1981–85)
  • Jesús Martinez (Trinidad Silva, 1981–87)
  • Capt. Jerry Fuchs (Vincent Lucchesi, 1981–84)
  • Attorney/Judge Alan Wachtel (Jeffrey Tambor, 1982–87)
  • Captain Freedom (Dennis Dugan, 1982)
  • Assistant D.A. Irwin Bernstein (George Wyner, 1982–87)
  • Ofc. Robin Tattaglia Belker (Lisa Sutton, 1982–87)
  • Det. Sal Benedetto (Dennis Franz, 1983, promoted to series regular in final two seasons as Lt. Norman Buntz)
  • Gina Srignoli (Jennifer Tilly, 1984–85)
  • Det. Manny Rodriguez (Del Zamora, 1985)
  • Celeste Patterson (Judith Hansen, 1985–86)
  • Sid "The Snitch" Thurston (Peter Jurasik, 1985–87)
  • Hector Ruiz (Panchito Gomez, 1981–85)
  • Judge Lee Oberman (Larry D. Mann, 1983–85)
  • "Buck Naked" flasher (Lee Weaver, 1981–87)
  • Daryl Ann Renko (Deborah Richter, sometimes billed as Debi Richter, 1983–87)
  • Chief Coroner Wally Nydorf (Pat Corley, 1981–1987)
  • Shamrock Leader Tommy Mann (David Caruso, 1981–1983)
  • Blood (Bobby Ellerbee, 1981–84)
  • Doris Robson (Alfre Woodard, 1983)

Guest actors

Hill Street Blues featured many guest actors who were cementing their careers in TV & Film. It also occasionally featured well-known character actors. Notable guest actors include:

  • Terry Alexander
  • Jonathan Banks
  • Michael Biehn
  • David Caruso
  • Don Cheadle
  • Vance Colvig
  • Bryan Cranston
  • James Cromwell
  • Hector Elizondo
  • Martin Ferrero
  • Laurence Fishburne
  • Jonathan Frakes
  • Robin Gammell
  • Andy Garcia
  • Paul Gleason
  • Crispin Glover
  • Danny Glover
  • Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • Linda Hamilton
  • Penny Johnson Jerald
  • Anne-Marie Johnson
  • Jane Kaczmarek
  • Stanley Kamel
  • Terry Kiser
  • Michael Lerner
  • Whitman Mayo
  • Barney Martin
  • Paul McCrane
  • James McDaniel
  • Frances McDormand
  • Chuck Mitchell
  • Chris Noth
  • Edward James Olmos
  • Chazz Palminteri
  • Joe Pantoliano
  • Felton Perry
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • CCH Pounder
  • Daphne Reid
  • James Remar
  • Ron Rifkin
  • Tim Robbins
  • Mimi Rogers
  • Leo Rossi
  • Saul Rubinek
  • Joe Santos
  • Dwight Schultz
  • Helen Shaver
  • Ally Sheedy
  • Brent Spiner
  • Dolph Sweet
  • Lawrence Tierney
  • Jennifer Tilly
  • Meg Tilly
  • James Tolkan
  • George Wallace
  • Tracey Walter
  • Forest Whitaker
  • Alfre Woodard

Critical reception

Initially, Hill Street Blues received rave reviews from critics alongside dismal Nielsen ratings. Early schedule switching did not help: the show was broadcast once weekly on four different nights during its first season alone but gradually settled into a Thursday night time slot. The NBC Broadcast Standards Unit deemed it "too violent, too sexy, too grim." The producers described the show as "an hour drama with 13 continuing characters living through a Gordian knot of personal and professional relationships." John J. O'Connor in a May 1981 review charted its growing popularity and called it "a comfortable balance between comedy and drama".

The choice to include African-Americans as mainstays in the core ensemble cast and to feature several inter-racial and inter-ethnic cop partnerships drew notice and praise, as did the overlapping plots and examinations of moral conundrums such as police corruption, racism, alcoholism and both interpersonal and institutional forgiveness.

The show was very influential, with many others imitating its use of handheld cameras, ensemble casts and multiple overlapping story lines lasting for several episodes, set in urban decay. Alan Sepinwall wrote in 2014 that it "is on the short list of the most influential TV shows ever made. Whether through shared actors, writers, directors or through stylistic and thematic complexity, its DNA can be found in nearly every great drama produced in the 30-plus years since it debuted". He compared Hill Street Blues to Casablanca, which was so influential on other films that "if you come to see it for the first time after a lifetime of watching the copies, it could be at risk of playing like a bundle of clichés—even though it invented those clichés".

In 1993, TV Guide named the series The All-Time Best Cop Show in its issue celebrating 40 years of television. In 1997, the episode "Grace Under Pressure" was ranked number 49 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. When the list was revised in 2009, "Freedom's Last Stand" was ranked number 57. In 2002, Hill Street Blues was ranked number 14 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, and in 2013 TV Guide ranked it #1 in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time and #23 of the 60 Best Series.

Awards

  • Shares the record for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series wins (4, 1981–84) with Mad Men (2008–11), L.A. Law (1987, 1989–91), Game of Thrones (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019) and The West Wing (2000–03).
  • It has been nominated for the most Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (16) and Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (13).
  • The series shares the Emmy Award record for most acting nominations by regular cast members (excluding the guest performer category) for a single series in one year. (Both L.A. Law and The West Wing also hold that record). At the 34th Primetime Emmy Awards, for the 1981–82 season nine cast members were nominated for Emmys. Daniel J. Travanti and Michael Conrad were the only ones to win (for Lead Actor and Supporting Actor respectively). The others nominated were Veronica Hamel (for Lead Actress), Taurean Blacque, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz, and Charles Haid (for Supporting Actor), and Barbara Bosson and Betty Thomas (for Supporting Actress).
  • At the 34th Primetime Emmy Awards, for the only time in Emmy Award history all five nominees in an acting category (in this case, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series) were from a single series.
  • The pilot episode, "Hill Street Station" was awarded an Edgar for Best Teleplay from a Series.
  • "Hill Street Station" is the only episode in television history to have won the two major best director (Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series) and the two major best writer awards (Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Drama).
  • Over its seven seasons, the show earned 98 Emmy Award nominations, an average of 14 nominations per year.
  • Betty Thomas was the sole cast member nominated in every season and the only one to be nominated in the last season.
  • In 1997, the episode "Grace Under Pressure" was ranked number 49 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. When the list was revised in 2009, "Freedom's Last Stand" was ranked number 57.
  • In 2007, Channel 4 (UK) ranked Hill Street Blues No. 19 on their list of the "50 Greatest TV Dramas."

Home media

20th Century Fox released the first two seasons of Hill Street Blues on DVD in Region 1 in 2006. Both releases contain special features including gag reel, deleted scenes, commentary tracks, and featurettes.

On December 5, 2013, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1. They subsequently released Hill Street Blues: The Complete Series on DVD on April 29, 2014.

In late 2014, they began releasing season sets; they have subsequently released seasons 3–7.

In Region 2, Channel 4 DVD released the first two seasons on DVD in the UK in 2006.

In Region 4, Shock Records released the first three seasons on DVD in Australia on December 4, 2013, and the remaining four seasons on April 30, 2014.

On December 4, 2013, Shock Records also released a complete series set.

SeasonEpisodesRelease Date
Region 1Region 2Region 4
The Complete 1st Season17January 31, 2006March 25, 2013December 4, 2013
The Complete 2nd Season18May 16, 2006
The Complete 3rd Season22November 4, 2014
The Complete 4th Season22March 3, 2015April 30, 2014
The Complete 5th Season23May 26, 2015
The Complete 6th Season22September 8, 2015
The Complete 7th Season22January 12, 2016
The Complete Series146April 29, 2014December 4, 2013

Spin-off

Beverly Hills Buntz

Beverly Hills Buntz aired on NBC from November 5, 1987 to April 22, 1988. It was a half-hour comedy, a hybrid between light private eye fare and a sitcom. The main character, Norman Buntz (Dennis Franz) quit Hill Street, moved to Beverly Hills with Sid "The Snitch" Thurston (Peter Jurasik), and became a private investigator. 13 episodes were filmed, of which only nine were broadcast.


In popular culture

Hill Street Blues has inspired parodies, storylines, characters, and cultural references in numerous media vehicles.

  • The Simpsons episode "The Springfield Connection" (S6E23), where Marge becomes a cop, uses and ends with a mix of The Simpsons and Hill Street Blues themes.
  • Southern rock band 38 Special released a music video for their song "Back Where You Belong" starring the band members as bumbling plainclothes police officers pursuing a female suspect. An affectionate homage to Hill Street Blues, the video begins with a morning roll call scene in which a police sergeant implores the band members to "be extra careful out there today."

Computer game

In 1991, Krisalis Software (developed by Simeon Pashley and Rob Hill) released the computer game Hill Street Blues, based on the TV show. The game runs on the Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS platforms and places the player in charge of Hill Street Station and its surrounding neighborhood, with the aim of promptly dispatching officers to reported crimes, apprehending criminals, and making them testify at court. If certain areas have less serious crimes unresolved, such as bag-snatching, they soon escalate to more serious ones, such as murder in broad daylight. The game is still available for download at computer game sites and outlets, and has received mixed reviews.