The concept of Hill Street Blues sprung from the fertile mind of Steven Bochco, although most people accept that it may not have been the success that it was, without the help of Writer Producer Michael Kozoll. It was launched on the unsuspecting world in January 1981 and ran for over six years, finally ending its run in 1987. By which time he was a star!
But what about the man? He was born Steven Ronald Bochco in Manhattan, on 16th December 1943. His father Rudolph, a Russian immigrant, was a concert violinist. His mother, Mimi had emigrated from Lithuania at the age of 14. Steven in a back handed complement described her as “an artist, designer and hustler” He has an elder sister Stage name Joanna Frank who would later play Sheila Brackman the long suffering wife of Douglas Brackman in LA Law. Brackman was of course played by Alan Rachins who has been married to Joanna in real life since 1978. Steven trained as a playwright at Carnegie Tech, where he first met HSB Stars Barbara Bosson, Bruce Weitz and Charles Haid. He also became friends with Michael Tucker, who would later guest on HSB and take a big role in LA Law. After he graduation in 1966, he and Michael Tucker drove to Los Angeles to look for work. At first work was hard to find but he got a break when he was asked to co-write the film The Counterfeit Killer (1968). He also meet the film’s production manager Abby Singer who would later become head of production for Hill Street Blues.
He married Barbara Bosson in 1970 and the couple had two children before divorcing in 1997. He joined Universal Studios as an assistant story editor where he spent 12 years gathering experience, climbing up the ranks and working on numerous TV shows. By 1976 Steven was not only writing, but producing program. It was during 1976 that he produced his first 'Cop Show' Delvecchio staring Taxi's Judd Hirsch. Amongst the cast regulars was a young Charles Haid, a George Wyner (playing an Assistant District Attorney again) and one Michael Conrad. There was also an episode featuring Kiel Martin and lastly there was a story editor called Michael Kozoll. It was while working at MTM (Mary Tyler Moore) Enterprises NBC television's president Fred Silverman asked MTM to come up with a modern crime drama quoting the 1981 film Fort Apache, the Bronx. It was from this request that Bochco and Michael Kozoll sat down and devised Hill Street Blues, even though they were both "sick to the back teeth with police productions". Steven later remarried to Dayna Kalins in 2000 and Dayna now produces under the name Dayna Bochco.
On Hill Street
In an interview given to Pamela Douglas and reproduced in her excellent book Writing the TV Drama Series. Steven says "When you end up creating a show with seven, eight, nine character — in response to that, ask yourself how can you appropriately dramatize that many characters within the framework of an hour television show? And the answer is that you can't. So you say, okay, what we have to do is spill over the sides of our form and start telling multi-plot, more serial kinds of stories. Even though any given character may not have but three scenes in an hour, those three scenes are part of a 15-scene storyline that runs over numerous episodes. So that was simply a matter of trying to react to the initial things we did. The show began to dictate what it needed to be. Probably the smartest thing that Michael [Kozoll] and I did was to let it take us there instead of trying to hack away to get back into the box. We just let it spill over".
After Hill Street
After HSB Steven moved to 20th Century Fox, and, with Terry Louise Fisher they created another ground breaking series called LA Law for NBC. It was so successful it even took Hill Street’s coveted time slot. About LA Law Bochco once said,“It is the polar opposite thematically to Hill Street, where the failure of the system led to despair here it led to the dream life". As well as starring his old college friend Michael Tucker and his wife Jill Eikenberry, it also featured Bochco’s sister, Joanna Frank. Bochco was then offered the presidency of CBS television’s entertainment division, but now truly independent signed a deal with ABC to deliver 10 shows, six in the first eight years of the contract.
As we all know he went on to have an incredible career with many other TV successes apart from LA Law, including Murder One and NYPD Blue. He was both a Producer and a Writer, he even tried acting once, appearing as 'Number 3' in a police line up, in a 1981 episode of Hill Street. His son, Jesse Bochco, by wife Barbara Bosson, became producer/director on NYPD Blue and directed the pilot episode of Raising the Bar. Jesse was of course no stranger to TV having appeared as Captain Furillo's son, Frank Jr. with Bosson playing his mother during some episodes of Hill Street Blues.
Towards the end of his incredibly successful career in TV he started to become disillusioned with network television. saying "The network executives stay the same age and I keep getting older and it creates a different kind of relationship. When I was doing my stuff at NBC with Brandon Tartikoff and Hill Street, we were contemporaries. When we sit down now, they're sitting in a room with someone who's old enough to be their father and I'm not sure they want to sit in a room with their fathers."
During 2014 Bochco was diagnosed with leukaemia, requiring a bone marrow transplant later that year. He died in his sleep on Sunday from the disease on April 1, 2018 aged just 74.
There is an in depth article on him by the University of Southern California Click here to view