Hill Street Blues (1982/1983) – Santaclaustrophobia, and Gung Ho

It’s the holiday season on the hill, and lots of things are going on at the precinct. Santaclaustrophobia, written by Steven Bochco, Anthony Yerkovich, and Jeffrey Lewis, first aired on 16 December, 1982.

Belker (Bruce Weitz) is undercover as a bell-ringing Santa, but a young kid keeps spoiling things by revealing he’s a cop.

Hill’s (Michael Warren) father shows up, which isn’t something that makes him very happy. They have a horrible relationship, and his father (James McEachin) doesn’t play above board, he’s a deadbeat and only shows up when he needs cash. Renko (Charles Haid) who has had his own issues with his father, reminds Hill he’s only got the one. But it may not reach him.

Washington (Taurean Blacque) is still dealing with the shooting of the shopkeeper a few months back. He knows he did everything by the book, but an innocent man died at his hand. He tries to make some form of amends with the man’s widow (Nicole Mercurio), but it doesn’t go very well.

Frank (Daniel J. Travanti) and Joyce (Veronica Hamel) are scheming a ski-trip getaway for the holidays, and Hunter (James Sikking) and a number of the cops help out at a children’s gig, handing out songs, presents, and then running down some baddies in their holiday costumes.

It’s not quite a standalone episode because there are story threads still playing out, but it’s an interesting take on a holiday story. The characters continue to develop, and sure there are still issues of racism and sexism prevalent the series is really something.

Gung Ho begins 1983 on the hill with an episode written by David Milch, Jeffrey Lewis and Michael Wagner. It first aired on 20 January, 1983.

Most of the precinct falls ill after ordering takeout from a new Chinese place called Gung Ho. But there are still a number of things for the unit to deal with. It’s Lucy Bates’ (Betty Thomas) birthday, and Coffey (Ed Marinaro) has arranged for an embarrassing little interruption at work with a stripper, which clues everyone into the fact that it’s her birthday.

She is upset with him about it, and you can still there is a bit of attraction going on between the pair of them despite their intentions to keep everything professional.

There is also a storyline involving a far-left extremist group which stirs up some trouble when arrests and interrogations are carried out. It seems the group was involved in a bank robbery that turned deadly, but will they turn on one another or band together collectively to continue representing their interests?

And Belker is working undercover with a pair of rookie cops at a local arcade. When one of them is shot in a diner incident, Belker and the other, Robin Tataglia (Lisa Sutton) console each other, and discover a healthy measure of attraction that could lead to romance.

Honestly, Belker deserves it. He was always my favourite character on the show, and remains as such, he needs a bit of a respite from all the horrible things that are happening. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Until next time, let’s be careful out there!

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