When I was a teen every time I came across Hill Street Blues I would find myself stopping to watch it, and would even set the VCR to record it (when I remembered to). I always found it interesting in the way that it worked to show the police officers of the Hill Street precinct in Chicago.
There was a humanizing aspect that the show gave the characters and the way some viewed it as a vocation or a calling, while others simply saw it as their job. From there it was watching the characters interact and how things impacted them through the course of the episode, and series.
So I figured, let’s watch the series from the get-go.
Series creators Steven Bochco and Micheal Kozoll penned the series opener, Hill Street Station which premiered on 15 January, 1981. I had a couple of issues right off the top, the series seemed to take the ideas of police brutality, sexual harassment, and a very troubling domestic call, as well as some profiling in stride and that really bothered me.
That and, honestly, when I was young I remember it being a fairly serious show, but this initial episode almost makes it feel like melodrama verging on a hint of satire.
Through the course of the episode, we’re introduced to Captain Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) who clashes, publicly with the public defender, Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel), while struggling with his ex-wife (Barbara Bosson), Sgt. Mick Belker (Bruce Weitz) who seems to be a bit of a loose cannon (and was my favorite character when I watched growing up, the very Republican, gun-loving Lt. Howard Hunter (James Sikking) who leads the tactical team, Detective Goldblume (Joe Spano) and officers Bobby Hill (Michael Warren) and Renko (Charles Haid) alongside a slew of others.
The first episode sees a robbery that has gone bad, leading to a massive tactical situation with the precinct attempting to broker a deal with the local gang and save the lives of some hostages, all of which spirals out of control.
And the episode is capped with officers Renko and Hill getting jumped and shot by a local gang, ending up in critical condition in the hospital.
I don’t think everything has stood the test of time, but the sense of humor that permeates some of the characters, even when heightened with the melodrama, makes for some enjoyable moments.
We’ll keep watching…
Presidential Fever first aired on 17 January, 1981, and was also written by Bochco and Kozoll.
This episode sees both Renko and Hill back on the job, and there is the suggestion that a month has passed since the last episode. They’ve both recovered, but because neither reached out to the other while in the hospital, they’re not sure where their partnership sits.
Furillo who is trying to make things work with Davenport gets pulled into a huge mess as there is a rumor the president is going to come and tour the precinct and the area; something that will necessitate a temporary truce between the gangs, one of which is led by David Caruso.
Throw in a stray dog that Goldblume brings into the station, a hunt for a pair of suspected serial rapists (hello Merritt Butrick!) overseen by Belker, a station makeover, and a pair of newly assigned patrolmen who want to exact a little vengeance on some residents for the way they were treated, and Furillo has his hands full.
It’s a stronger episode than the first, building the characters a little further, but is still leaning into the comedic aspects of the melodrama.
It’s going to be an interesting ride. But remember, let’s be careful out there…