Tuesday 28 January 2020

Tributes as 'Hill Street Blues' creator Bochco dies at 74

Steven Bochco. Photo: AP
Steven Bochco. Photo: AP

Rachel Alexander in New York

Steven Bochco, a pioneering TV writer and producer known for creating 'Hill Street Blues' and a string of other hits, has died at the age of 74.

A spokesman said Mr Bochco died in his sleep after a battle with cancer.

Cast of Hill Street Blues.
Cast of Hill Street Blues.

Phillip Arnold told 'USA Today': "Steven fought cancer with strength, courage, grace and his unsurpassed sense of humour. He died peacefully in his sleep with his family close by."

Stars of the small screen paid tribute to his work and described his influence on their careers.

Joss Whedon, creator of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', said: "Absolutely one of the biggest influences on Buffy (and me) was 'Hill Street Blues'. Complex, unpredictable and unfailingly humane. Steven Bochco changed television, more than once."

Mr Bochco, who won 10 primetime Emmys, created several hit television shows including 'LA Law', 'NYPD Blue', and 'Doogie Howser, MD', which launched the career of Neil Patrick Harris.

Premiering in January 1981, 'Hill Street Blues' challenged and sometimes confounded the meagre audience that first came across it. Then, on a wave of critical acclaim, the series began to click with viewers, while scoring a history-making 27 Emmy nominations its first year.

During its seven-season run, it would win 26 Emmys and launch Mr Bochco on a course that has led to dozens of series and earned him four Peabody awards, in addition to the 10 Emmys.

'Hill Street Blues' had a sprawling universe of engaging yet flawed characters, a zippy pace and layers of overlapping, scripted dialogue, shot in a documentary style.

But what really set the show apart were the multiple narratives that interlaced each episode with those that came before and after.

With the rare exception of the few prime-time soaps, almost every series up to that time - whether comedy or drama - made each episode freestanding, with a reset button for the one that came next.

Mr Bochco once recalled a fan telling him that 'Hill Street Blues' was the first TV series with a memory.

Mr Bochco grew up in Manhattan, the son of a painter and a concert violinist. On arriving in Los Angeles after college, he wrote for several series at Universal Studios.

Then he got a big break: writing the screenplay for the 1972 sci-fi film 'Silent Running'. But Mr Bochco said the disrespect he confronted as the writer soured him on writing for the big screen.

"Once you've delivered the screenplay they don't want you around, because you're gonna get in the way of someone else's vision," Mr Bochco told the Associated Press in an interview two years ago.

Irish Independent

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