Let’s Be Careful Out There: “Hill Street Blues” Turns 30

30 years ago, on January 15, 1981, Hill Street Blues premiered. The series redefined the “cop genre,” yet was nearly canceled for low ratings!  The series was the lowest-rated series that NBC had ever renewed (ranking at #87 of 96 of all prime-time shows).  This first season then set the record for most Emmy nominations (21) and wins (8) in a single season.  Created by Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll and produced by fabled MTM Enterprises, Hill Street Blues would win the Emmy for Best Drama series for four consecutive years.

Star Daniel J. Travanti describes the series in his Archive of American Television interview:

“First of all, it’s not a cop show. It’s a complex, satirical, social commentary: an entertaining, goofy, serious, suspenseful, funny, wrenching series of tales about complex individuals of varying personalities, some of whom have heroic qualities– all of whom have flaws of one sort or another, greater or smaller, who happen to be in police work.  Who do their best to do that difficult work of apprehending suspects and punishing the guilty while being fair and honest, or trying to be, and avoiding corruption.  It’s about people, complex people, embroiled in complex emotional relationships and tough, tough work, who happen to be in uniform.  That’s all.  And it has what almost no other American series has ever had: satire.  It deliberately makes fun of social problems in order to call attention to them by way of suggesting improvement.”

The sincerest form of flattery, SCTV’s “Benny Hill Street Blues”

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