car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page

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Roll Call –12:00 AM

Hill Street BluesI spent the majority of the day watching the first seven episodes from Season One of Hill Street Blues.  I’ve been a very big fan of the show for about five years now.  I came across reruns of it accidentally one afternoon while I was still in culinary school,about the same time I discovered Nigella Bites on the Style Network.

The influence of Hill Street Blues has been enormous.  Fans of L.A. Law,NYPD Blue,St. Elsewhere,ER,and Chicago Hope owe a lot to HSB‘s trailblazing approach to ensemble drama.  Hill Street owes M*A*S*H a favor for adopting the mixture of black humor and drama,but the multiple story-arc format is unique to HSB.

One of the great things about ensemble drama is the opportunity for each viewer to develop an affinity (or loathing) for a regular character.  Hill Street hooked me from the beginning the way no other ensemble show has before or since.  I immediately came to like Detective Belker and Captain Furillo,while detesting Lieutenant Hunter.  While I still like Furillo and Belker,I’ve also come to enjoy Detective Goldblume and the Hill/Renko partnership.  The Hill/Renko story lines in particular are great,which is ironic,because those two characters were supposed to die in the pilot.  And,for the record,let me say that Joyce Davenport,played by Veronica Hamel,is an outstanding female lead.

Much has been made of the filming technique used to create the atmosphere of the show.  To create a documentary feel,everything was shot using hand-held cameras instead of the typical floor models.  What most people don’t know is that an even more revolutionary method was considered –the original plan for the show called for black-and-white filming.

In my rather extensive DVD collection,there are only six television series,M*A*S*H (Seasons 1-4 at this point,though I want to complete the set),Six Feet Under (also Seasons 1-4),Kung Fu (Seasons 1 &2),The Honeymooners (the “Classic 39 episodes”),Fawlty Towers (all 12 episodes),and now Season One of Hill Street.  Each is different in its own way,but all are outstandingly written and have phenomenal casts.

Even luckier for me,Season Two of Hill Street Blues becomes available the 16th of this month.  If you’re at all inclined,I strongly recommend going out and picking up both seasons.  You might be surprised how well a show that debuted in 1981 holds up today.

3 comments to Roll Call –12:00 AM

  • Uncle Mo

    Great series.

    And even though you detested Hunter,weren’t you choked up,at least a little,during his suicide scene?

  • Wyl

    Oh,yes indeed. The way a guy like LaRue could make the difference in a situation like that was a great bit of television.

  • [...] Of course,we know where my love of Hill Street Blues has lead me.  After finishing off Season Two,which exhausted all the episodes currently released on DVD,I started looking for something else to fill the occasional hour that doesn’t see me reading or surfing baseball news.  I dithered in a choice between The X-Files and NYPD Blue,finally choosing the latter because I knew both Steven Bochco and Mike Post were involved in the show. [...]

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