Hill Street Blues: The Complete First Season

DVD Reviews | Feb 28th, 2006

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Starring Daniel J. Travanti, Taurean Blacque, Michael Conrad, Rene Enriquez, Charles Haid, Veronica Hamel, Joe Spano, and Bruce Weitz
Written By:
Directed By:
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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“Let’s be careful out there.” I don’t remember watching “Hill Street Blues” when it aired or as re-runs. That’s probably because I was only a year old when it came out and was more interested in He-Man and G.I. Joe at the time. Looking back on this show that I had heard of, and had recognized some of the actors, I get the feeling that “Hill Street Blues” has held up to the test of time extremely well.

Unlike many of the cop shows out there nowadays where the action is over the top and the drama oozes from the plot like molasses, “Hill Street Blues” focused on the people in the precinct and not just the action surrounding the precinct. In fact, you’re lucky if you manage to get an action scene that lasts more than five minutes. But that’s all right. The people are the best part about this series and probably the reason that it won so many awards in its day. Instead of watching a gruesome murder followed by a ten-minute chase scene on the rooftops, you’ll catch a glimpse of a body in a body bag and you’ll get an insiders seat into the workings of an inner-city police force. You get to see just how things work almost as if you’re actually on the Hill Street payroll.

The characters in “Hill Street Blues” are just that…characters. Sometimes, I would find myself thinking, “I know someone like that.” I don’t think that the show would have been so great if not for the strong core cast as well as the equally strong supporting characters. I liked the variety in the characters that each had their own unique personality, beliefs, and opinions to share with the audience. Two of my personal favorites are Capt. Frank Furillo played by Daniel J. Travanti and Sgt. Phil Esterhaus played by Michael Conrad. Frank Furillo was the glue that held the place from falling to pieces. He wasn’t your typical police captain either. Instead of going after and seeking to eliminate the gangs in his district, he would negotiate and work out peace treaties both between the police department and between the gangs themselves. I pitied the poor guy on the show though because his ex-wife was a major psycho nutcase. As for Sgt. Esterhaus, he too was a different kind of policeman. He was a confidant for any and all who stepped foot inside the police headquarters. Phil Esterhaus was part poet, part romantic, and part exhibitionist. As I said before, no two characters were alike and they were grounded in reality. Characters such as Mick Belker, the crazy half man, half wolf, the cowboy and realist Andy Renko, the boozer and womanizer known as J.D. LaRue and even the departments’ own John Rambo, Howard Hunter grazed the viewers presence.

With most modern police drama’s focusing on action and violence, “Hill Street Blues” dealt with a more realistic approach with little over the top action and graphic violence. The writing from episode to episode varied slightly but overall was excellent. What I enjoyed the most was the shows ability not to draw out events that are part of the story but really don’t need shown. There are many occasions where say for example, one of the “blues” needed to get away for some much needed soul searching or where one of their own passes away and, instead of dedicating an entire episode or half an episode to the man in the mountains or to a funeral and the deceased depressed colleagues, the point is mentioned near the end of the episode or at the beginning of the next episode and life continues on. Mentioning a deceased colleague brings me back to the point of the realism of “Blues”. It seemed that the Hill Street Police Department would lose one of their own almost every episode be it from their own recklessness and stupidity, medical conditions, or plain old cold-blooded murder. Being located in one of the meanest and most crime-ridden communities in the city, the Hill Street Blues had their work cut out for them each and every day which could also be their last.

Overall, having no knowledge of “Hill Street Blues” other than “Isn’t that a cop show?”…I found myself enjoying the show immensely. The characters were great, the writing was excellent, and other than that late 70’s/early 80’s look to the show, “Blues” held its’ own back in its’ time and could hold its’ own against the slew of police dramas that flood TV land today. There really wasn’t anything about the show that I didn’t like other than on the back of the box, it shows a picture of Dennis Franz from NYPD Blue fame even though he wasn’t even on the series until two years into the show. I guess that’s a selling point for future sets, but with the group of characters that make up “Hill Street Blues”, in my mind, he’s not the star of the show.

All 17 Season One Episodes on 3 Discs
Audio Commentary
Roll Call: Looking Back At “Hill Street Blues”

English, Spanish, French language and subtitles
Dolby Digital Mono

1.33:1 Full Frame Double-Sided DVD


Favorite Scenes: Hill Street Station, Can World War III Be An Attitude?, Up In Arms, Film At Eleven
Rating: NR
Running Time: 850 minutes
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