NBC executives supported the series in its infancy despite a lack of viewers; in 1981, it became the lowest-rated series ever renewed for a second season. When it was renewed, it was not renewed for the entire season, it was only renewed for 10 episodes. It was only picked up for the full season after ratings improved.
Regarded as a hallmark in American dramatic television. First dramatic series to incorporate long shots and handheld shots and continuous storylines. Nominated for 21 Emmys for its first season - a record despite having low ratings.
The theme music to the show written by Mike Post became a hit song and won a Grammy. Post said that when he was writing the theme, at first he wanted the music to match the gritty visuals he was shown. He then decided to instead do the opposite, to create a theme that was beautiful, that "took you away" from what you were seeing a bit.
Originally, Hill and Renko were supposed to die in the shooting in the drug house in the first episode. When it was decided that the series needed more uniformed cops to justify its title, several finished or in-production episodes were reworked to show that they had survived and to bring them back; other uniforms' parts were expanded as well.
Though it was never officially established in which city the show took place, it was long thought to take place in 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".
Contrary to popular belief, it was Renko who was supposed to die in the pilot while Hill survives. Charles Haid was originally a guest star in the pilot as a favor for Steven Bochco. When Haid's NBC hospital drama pilot was not picked up for the 1980-1981 season, he asked if Renko could be resurrected and made into a regular in the series.
The opening credit sequence was shot in Chicago, while the episodes were shot in Los Angeles. Location scouts said it was hard to find L.A. locations for the show because the locations could not have visible palm trees. (At least the first episode (possibly as many as the first three) was shot on location in Chicago)
The Police Station exterior shots was a real Chicago Police station. Now no longer used by The City, it was once the home of the 7th district, located near the old Maxwell Street Market, and is called the Hill Street Blues Station. It is now used by The UIC police. During Prohibition, this precinct had a reputation as the most corrupt precinct in the US. Its Captain once distributed his personnel list to the Mob bagmen who delivered the payoffs because they handed money to every cop in the place indiscriminately, and cops from other stations were showing up on payoff day.
The TV Show Hill Street Blues ties its name origin back to the Hill District. Steven Bochco, a series writer for the show, attended college at the nearby Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and based the show on the neighborhood. 2002 NYT