Norman Buntz, the gruff (and somewhat ethically questionable) detective from "Hill Street Blues" (1981) leaves the anonymous inner city and heads to the sunny climes of Southern California ... See full summary »
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." Written by
Though it was never officially established in which city the show took place, it was long thought to have been Chicago. In fact, at least one location shot included an elevated train with the letters "CTA" on the front. "CTA" stands for "Chicago Transit Authority". See more »
When the various characters speak into the radio microphone in their patrol cars, they seldom press the "transmit" switch, and Andy Renko is occasionally seen speaking into the back of the microphone. See more »
Bear with me on a bit of background: For a full decade as a penniless hippie, I didn't have a TV. None of my friends did either. To our minds, TV was a puerile waste of time, pablum for the masses, a substitute for life. Besides, we couldn't afford one. When I settled down tho & my son started going to school, his friends talked constantly about TV programs he knew nothing about. So he wouldn't feel culturally deprived, we decided to get him a little black & white set for his room. Thereafter, whenever I came home from work, I knew where to find my wife & son both in his room glued to the tube.
One evening I was leaning in the doorway waiting for a commercial so I could talk to them & I got caught up in what they were watching some tough portly mustached detective had been captured by a lunatic with a shotgun & bound to a chair. Tense! When the commercial did come, I said, "Hey, this is a pretty good movie, what is it?" "That's not a movie", they told me, "it's Hill Street Blues, a TV series!" No way, I thought, they had to be pulling my leg. I couldn't believe TV had reached that level of sophistication. They'd taken your standard soap opera format, where no one character predominates & the interwoven stories carry over from episode to episode, & applied it to cops. Cops lead what has got to be hands-down the most bizarre lifestyle imaginable & the viewer's sense of involvement is certainly heightened by knowing that at any moment one of your favorite characters might be gunned down. The show was brilliant & I was hooked. From there on, I watched every episode of HSB I possibly could.
Years later, suffering thru a near-suicidal post-divorce funk, coming home to the aching loneliness of an empty apartment with not even a dog anymore to wag his tail in greeting, too depressed even to look up old friends let alone make new ones, I found myself watching the show again. They were showing HSB reruns 5 nights a week just then, so I got to spend an hour each evening with all these familiar faces I'd come to know so well & care about, my own grief momentarily forgotten amidst their trials & tribulations. It's the only thing I can recall with any pleasure from that period & it's not much of an exaggeration to say HSB pulled me thru.
So now that the series is finally being released on DVD, I'm pre-ordering it as fast as it comes out. Seeing it again now, I'm much more aware of its flaws improbable scenes like the EATers shooting up that liquor shop in the very first episode & other contrived situations that strain to produce a few chuckles. Yet I like it all the more for that; it transcends such flaws so easily. Watching it now for maybe the 4th or 5th time, I'm still amazed at the depth & range of characterization, not to mention the added kick of spotting well-known actors like Danny Glover, Forest Whitaker & David Caruso who appeared on the show before they made it big. More sophisticated shows now like NYPD Blue, ER & Sopranos may make HSB seem dated by comparison, but they would never even have existed if HSB hadn't led the way. Not for nothing was it one of the longest-running dramas on TV.
I still don't think much of TV, but Hill Street Blues will always hold a special place in my heart.
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