Hill Street Blues (1981) – Jungle Madness, and Hearts and Minds

The two-hour finale to Hill Street Blues inaugural season first aired on 26 May, 1981. It was written by series creators Steven Bochco, Michael Kozell and story editor Anthony Yerkovich.

There’s a lot going on, Washington (Taurean Blacque) and LaRue (Kiel Martin) are running up leads and suspects in the shooting by a racist officer, and he may be telling the truth. But LaRue’s drinking and gambling are getting in the way. Bates (Betty Thomas) is dealing with her partner, who has developed feelings for her.

Renko (Charles Haid) and Hill (Michael Warren) are continuing to deal with the single mother who is leaving her kids alone at home so that she can step out, Belker (Bruce Weitz) is working a pawnshop sting operation, and Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) and Davenport (Veronica Hamel) are having trouble sneaking around to carry on their relationship.

Despite its two-hour runtime things run pretty quickly, Bates makes a decision that is going to have tragic consequences by the end of the episode, Renko’s relationship with his teacher (Mimi Rogers) implodes, and Furillo gives J.D. an ultimatum, clean up or get off the Hill, but will he listen?

The precinct proves that the white cop that killed the black kid was actually right, but his history and the way it plays out publicly doesn’t do the precinct any favours, it’s another white cop getting off for killing another young black man.

I love that the series is starting to really tackle things like this and it’ll be interesting to see how storylines like this play out in future episodes. And the single mother story that Hill is involved with plays out brutally as well.

Despite its melodrama, the series has made a helluva first start, having put behind it some of the more disturbing aspects like Esterhuas’ (Michael Conrad) love life, and dealing with things on the job, about the job, and the perception of it.

Let’s see what happens in season two.

The second season of Hill Street Blues got underway on … written by…

I may have spoken too quickly about Esterhaus’ relationship. But things start with a literal bang when a shooting takes place in booking, when a suspect gets his hands on a gun and wants to take out the woman he’s abusing.

We learn pretty quickly that Lucy’s partner, Coffey (Ed Marinaro) survived the events of the finale, but there doesn’t seem to be any romantic overtures happening this time around.

Danny Glover (!) shows up as a con that has been released from prison and returning to the neighborhood, and while he’s placing nice with Furillo, word on the street suggests that he has plans…

And speaking of Furillo, it’s his birthday and everyone wants to spend time with him, but when he lays everything out for Davenport, things don’t go the way he wants them to.

Howard (James Sikking) continues to be borderline racist, and oh so republican. While Hill, Renko, Bates, Coffey and Goldblume (Joe Spano) find themselves looking for a missing child as well as on the hunt for a purse snatching orangutan.

And in true 80s fashion it also gives viewers a popular warning of the time, one that parents delivered to every kid: don’t play in abandoned fridges!

Season two is underway, let’s see where it takes us!

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