Hill Street Blues on DVD Overview
Hill Street Blues is a police drama television show that was first aired on the NBC television network in 1981. The Hill Street Blues TV series ran for 146 episodes. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a police precinct in an unnamed American city, the Hill Street Blues television series received high critical acclaim and its innovations proved highly influential on serious dramatic television series.
Hill Street Blues debut season was honored with eight Emmy awards, a debut season record surpassed only by The West Wing. The Hill Street Blues TV show received a total of 98 Emmy Award nominations during its run.
Hill Street Blues Season Episodes on DVD
Amazon.com essential video – Created by Steven Bochco and one of television’s most influential series, Hill Street Blues was not your father’s cop show. The Emmy-winning pilot episode, “Hill Street Station,” immediately established the series as less a police procedural than an up-close and personal “interface with the police experience.” To establish gritty, documentary-like realism, the show featured sequences, such as the pre-credit roll call, that were filmed with a hand-held camera.
There was chaotic, overlapping dialogue. There were sudden, shocking bursts of violence that claimed popular characters. Story lines were not wrapped up at the end of the hour, but instead, unfolded serially throughout the season. It’s no wonder that Hill Street, while championed by most critics, was initially not embraced by viewers. It was, in the beginning, one of television’s lowest rated shows, its case not helped by NBC’s criminal practice of juggling it in its primetime schedule). But there is justice in Hollywood. Hill Street Blues won the Emmy for best drama in its first season. Also honored were several members of the ensemble, including Daniel J. Travanti as the compassionate and incorruptible Precinct Capt. Frank Furillo, Michael Conrad as the avuncular Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (whose cautionary, “Let’s be careful out there,” became the show’s pop culture signature), and Barbara Babcock as the wildly sexual Grace Gardner, who rocks Esterhaus’s world (particularly in the episode that earned her her statuette, “Fecund Hand Rose”).
There were no big stars on Hill Street Blues (or, for that matter, no little stars, as one of the cast members jokes during a near-hour-long reunion featurette included as a bonus feature on this three double-sided disc set). Each was an indelible character, among them Charles Haid as cowboy cop Andy Renko, Veronica Hammel as sexy public defender Joyce Davenport, Bruce Weitz as the untamed, animalistic Belker, Keil Martin as LaRue, whose descent into alcoholism is one of the season’s most compelling dramatic arcs, and James Sikking as the gung-ho Howard Hunter. Once daring, Hill Street Blues seems almost quaint today, with none of the graphic sex or language that scandalized NYPD Blue (in one episode, a captured cat burglar, portrayed by a pre-L.A. Law Michael Tucker, makes a reference to “wolf pee-pee”). The ethnic portrayals, too, are not exactly nuanced. But the human dramas at the heart of Hill Street still make for arresting television. – Review by Donald Liebenson
Amazon.com DVD Review – Despite critical acclaim, Hill Street Blues could not get arrested ratings-wise its first season. Far from being careful out there, the superb second season did nothing to tinker with the integrity of this groundbreaking series to make it more audience friendly. Multiple storylines, overlapping dialogue, gritty language, and a pseudo-documentary style capture the palpable chaos and tension of what one character calls “the rat-infested, poverty-stricken urban reality.” From the precinct-house shooting rampage that opens the season to a hijacked hearse in the season-ending episode, Hill Street Blues deftly walks the line between police procedural and personal drama, further fleshing out its gallery of compelling and colorful characters. Belker (Bruce Weitz) is still a growling mad dog who takes bites out of perps. But in one of the series’ most memorable story arcs, he forms a surprising bond with the delusional costumed citizen Captain Freedom (Dennis Dugan), Public defender Joyce (Victoria Hamel)’s steamroller persona breaks down when a colleague is murdered and the case is thrown out because of a technicality. Other dramatic developments: LaRue (Keil Martin) falls off the wagon and endangers his partner, Washington (Taurean Blacque), during a drug bust (“Zen and the Art of Law Enforcement”); Goldblume (Joe Spano) gets personally involved in the case of an abusive slumlord (“Of Mouse and Man,” featuring future Miami Vice star Edward James Olmos as a threatened tenant); Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) is still bedeviled by sexual siren Grace Gardner (Barbara Babcock); and Precinct Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti, who earned his second Emmy for Best Actor) and Joyce bring their clandestine affair out into the open. Other ongoing storylines involve realistic depictions of police corruption and inter-partner race relations. Hill Street’s second season fulfilled the promise of its auspicious first, and repeated as TV’s Outstanding Drama Series at the Emmy Awards. No roll call of classic, trendsetting TV series would be complete without it. – Review by Donald Liebenson
Additional seasons of the Hill Street Blues TV show are not yet available on DVD.