Hill Street Blues
The Complete First Season
Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Conrad, Charles Haig,
Veronica Hamel, Joe Spano, Barbara Bosson, Bruce Weitz,
Michael Warren, Taurean Blacque, Rene Enriquez
3 double-sided DVDs
17 episodes plus extra
Fox Home Video 2006
850 minutes

Hill Street Blues ruled the airwaves in the eighties and immediately coined the phrase “Let’s be careful out there!”. This Steven Bochco cop drama and cop comedy immediately had the cast, story structure, and perfect balance of drama and comedy that made the show a must watch television show. Another strength is Hill Street Blues rewarded regular viewers with storylines that overlapped three or four episodes while casual viewers could enjoy the drama and comedy of a single episode without feeling left out.

For those unfamiliar with Hill Street Blues, it was Dragnet meets Barney Miller meets Taxi. This was a gritty drama that also enjoyed having a few running gags either within an episode, like remarks about a stain on Frank Furillo’s suit, or over a few shows like the constant histrionics of Fay Furrilo or Esterhaus’ complicated love life. It is immediately clear from the pilot episode, Hill Street Station, that Hill Street Blues features a brilliant ensemble cast and original and clearly defined characters. The audio commentary track for the pilot episode with Steven Bochco, James B. Sikking, and Joe Spano reveals that many characters viewers came to love were not scheduled to last very long but the actors’ talents forced the producer and writers to keep them on the show. You also learn Renko was supposed to die at the end of the pilot, Charles Haig had been cast in another series, but was resuscitated when the latter’s series did not come through.

The fortress or us against the world mentality pervasive to Hill Street Blues was an echo of how many people felt in the eighties. Hill Street is the toughest neighborhood of what everybody clued in was Chicago with an East River. The station is understaffed, overworked, underfunded, and Captain Frank Furillo is the only one holding everything together as best he can. A lot of credit has to go to Daniel J. Travanti for choosing to deliver such a quiet, subdued performance as Furillo because you then immediately believe this man is the rock the others are clinging to.

The originality of Hill Street Blues resides not only in its many characters, giving a new meaning to ensemble casting, but also that you get a view of police work from the top down and the bottom up. Unlike previous and other television cop shows that focused only on the detectives (Barney Miller, Dragnet, Law and Order) or on the blues (Adam 12), you got to see everyone and everything. Hill Street Blues also quickly established that although at times heroic, these were not cop heroes but human beings doing a sometimes dirty job they usually believed in.

There are so many great characters in Hill Street Blues that it is hard to pick a favorite. Belker, the growler, was great, as was his usual sidekick the purse-snatcher with the varying names. Gung-ho Howard Hunter of the EAT, the special forces team, was also a great mix of comedy and drama. His adventures with his tank near the end of season one are definitely great. Esterhaus’ adventures with his two ladies are also of constant interest.

Hill Street Blues is a must see and must own television cop show DVD set.

Episode List:

Disc 1

Hill Street Station (Pilot)
Presidential Fever
Politics As Usual
Can World War III Be An Attitude?
Double Jeopardy
Film At Eleven

Disc 2

Choice Cut
Up In Arms
Your Kind, My Kind, Human Kind
Life, Death, Eternity, ETC.
I Never Promised You A Rose, Marvin

Disc 3

Fecund Hand Rose
Rites of Spring Parts 1 and 2
Jungle Madness Parts 1 and 2