“Hill Street Blues” was an American television law enforcement drama that aired on NBC for seven seasons (1981–87). The show received great critical acclaim, winning four consecutive Emmy Awards for outstanding dramatic series, and it is recognized as a pioneer in the gritty crime and police television genre.
“Hill Street Blues” recounted a day in the life of the officers at the Hill Street police precinct, located in a crime-ridden urban ghetto in an unnamed American city. Each episode began with a morning roll call and ending with a late-night summary of events. The show placed a premium on good writing, and its scripts were recognized for their artistry, innovation, complexity, and hard-hitting realism. The series dealt with real-life issues and employed professional jargon and slang to a greater extent than had been seen before on television.
The award-winning ensemble cast included Daniel J. Travanti as Captain Capt. Francis Xavier “Frank” Furillo, Veronica Hamel as public defender Joyce Davenport, Michael Conrad as Sgt. Philip Esterhaus, Bruce Weitz ad Det. Mick Belker, Joe Spano as Sgt. Henry Goldblume, James B. Sikking as Sgt. Howard Hunter. Rounding out the cast were Betty Thomas, Robert Prosky, Ed Marinaro, Det. Kiel Martin, 1981–87, Taurean Blacque, and René Enriquez.
The show was overseen by producer Steven Bochco, who later repeated his success with other series, most notably, “L.A. Law” (1986–94) and “NYPD Blue” (1993–2005). The innovative and edgy style of “Hill Street Blues” employed handheld cameras that lent it a documentary-style authenticity. Fast-paced editing ratcheted up the tension while linking together the show’s numerous plotlines. “Hill Street Blues” offered sophisticated, multilayered narratives with the daily crime investigations that occupied much of the characters’ lives. But much of the show’s success could be attributed to its depiction of the psychological drama and moral ambiguities that played out on a personal level for those characters.