Despite critical acclaim, Hill Street Blues
could not get arrested ratings-wise its first season. Far from being careful out there, the superb second season did nothing to tinker with the integrity of this groundbreaking series to make it more audience friendly. Multiple storylines, overlapping dialogue, gritty language, and a pseudo-documentary style capture the palpable chaos and tension of what one character calls "the rat-infested, poverty-stricken urban reality." From the precinct-house shooting rampage that opens the season to a hijacked hearse in the season-ending episode, Hill Street Blues
deftly walks the line between police procedural and personal drama, further fleshing out its gallery of compelling and colorful characters. Belker (Bruce Weitz) is still a growling mad dog who takes bites out of perps. But in one of the series' most memorable story arcs, he forms a surprising bond with the delusional costumed citizen Captain Freedom (Dennis Dugan), Public defender Joyce (Victoria Hamel)'s steamroller persona breaks down when a colleague is murdered and the case is thrown out because of a technicality.
Other dramatic developments: LaRue (Keil Martin) falls off the wagon and endangers his partner, Washington (Taurean Blacque), during a drug bust ("Zen and the Art of Law Enforcement"); Goldblume (Joe Spano) gets personally involved in the case of an abusive slumlord ("Of Mouse and Man," featuring future Miami Vice star Edward James Olmos as a threatened tenant); Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) is still bedeviled by sexual siren Grace Gardner (Barbara Babcock); and Precinct Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti, who earned his second Emmy for Best Actor) and Joyce bring their clandestine affair out into the open. Other ongoing storylines involve realistic depictions of police corruption and inter-partner race relations. Hill Street's second season fulfilled the promise of its auspicious first, and repeated as TV's Outstanding Drama Series at the Emmy Awards. No roll call of classic, trendsetting TV series would be complete without it. --Donald Liebenson
'Let's be careful out there'. So ends each roll-call session at the Hill Street station house. In Hill Street Blues - Season 2, the relentless barrage of crime continues--beginning when an ex-gang leader returns and reclaims his place at the top of the Black Arrow gang.