Hill Street Blues (1981) – Politics as Usual, and Can World War III Be an Attitude?

Series creators Steven Bochco and Micheal Kozoll pen Politics as Usual which first aired on 22 January, 191. The presidential visit is on the horizon, and Howard (James Sikking) is less than thrilled with how Captain Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) is handling the situation and negotiating peace treaties with the local gangs for the walking tour.

Hill (Michael Warren) and Renko (Charles Haid) are still having a tough time dealing with their shooting, and the way it’s impacted their friendship until it comes to a cathartic confrontation. Belker (Bruce Weitz) continues to be hassled by his mother while booking perps, and LaRue (Kiel Martin) agrees to a payoff from a correct cop played by Dan Hedaya who then turns around and puts Internal Affairs on him when LaRue tries to return the money.

Throw in Furillo’s tempestuous relationship with Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel) while still trying to even things out with his ex-wife, Fay (Barbara Bosson), who gets herself arrested in this episode, and you have a lot going on.

There’s a bit of racism at play in Renko’s handling of an accident, something Hill confronts him on, and there’s still a heavy lean into the melodrama, even as the episode brings in a shakey cam for the foot chase LaRue finds himself in at the beginning of the episode.

It’s entertaining, has some funny moments, and also shows how some things have changed, and some have sadly stayed the same.

I like that they are planning on exploring police corruption, but also hope they take on the systemic racism in the system as well as the sexual harassment that seems to be popping up every now and again (and we’re only three episodes in!).

Can World War III Be an Attitude? was also written by Bochco and Kozoll. It first aired on 24 January, 1981. Bad news hits the precinct when the president cancels his walking tour, and the local gangs take it personally, ripping up the peace treaties, and destroying all the work the police had been working towards over the past two years.

There are a lot of troubling exchanges around the character of Bates (Betty Thomas) in this episode. Howard attempts to recruit her for his tactical team. Not because of her abilities and skills, but because he needs to recruit a woman for the team. Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) sees she’s upset, and instead of commenting on good of a cop she is, tells her he’s always found her attractive and almost asked her out… and there’s the physical harassment she undergoes as well.

None of it is really addressed, and she takes it in stride, and it’s infuriating. And Esterhaus seems to be involved in a relationship that is a little uncomfortable as well, and mentioned and used for comedic purposes.

Meanwhile, Furillo asks Joyce to represent LaRue, as Macafee (Hedaya) is really painting a picture of him as a corrupt cop something Furillo is now convinced Macafee is lying about. LaRue’s poor finances may have tempted him to take the money, but he returned it, and his lack of cash flow prevents him from hiring a lawyer. Joyce is coming around.

Oh and Charles Fleischer guest stars as Malibu, a heist man who is creat at maintenance and repairs.

It’s occasionally very smart, makes some pointed commentary, frequently funny, and oh, so melodramatic.

Let’s be careful out there…

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