Hill Street Blues: Season 1 [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Created by Steven Bochco and one of television's most influential series, Hill Street Blues was not your father's cop show. The Emmy-winning pilot episode, "Hill Street Station," immediately established the series as less a police procedural than an up-close and personal "interface with the police experience." To establish gritty, documentary-like realism, the show featured sequences, such as the pre-credit roll call, that were filmed with a hand-held camera. There was chaotic, overlapping dialogue. There were sudden, shocking bursts of violence that claimed popular characters. Story lines were not wrapped up at the end of the hour, but instead, unfolded serially throughout the season. It's no wonder that Hill Street, while championed by most critics, was initially not embraced by viewers. It was, in the beginning, one of television's lowest rated shows, its case not helped by NBC's criminal practice of juggling it in its primetime schedule). But there is justice in Hollywood. Hill Street Blues won the Emmy for best drama in its first season. Also honored were several members of the ensemble, including Daniel J. Travanti as the compassionate and incorruptible Precinct Capt. Frank Furillo, Michael Conrad as the avuncular Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (whose cautionary, "Let's be careful out there," became the show's pop culture signature), and Barbara Babcock as the wildly sexual Grace Gardner, who rocks Esterhaus's world (particularly in the episode that earned her statuette, "Fecund Hand Rose").
There were no big stars on Hill Street Blues (or, for that matter, no little stars, as one of the cast members jokes during a near-hour-long reunion featurette included as a bonus feature on this three double-sided disc set). Each was an indelible character, among them Charles Haid as cowboy cop Andy Renko, Veronica Hammel as sexy public defender Joyce Davenport, Bruce Weitz as the untamed, animalistic Belker, Keil Martin as LaRue, whose descent into alcoholism is one of the season's most compelling dramatic arcs, and James Sikking as the gung-ho Howard Hunter. Once daring, Hill Street Blues seems almost quaint today, with none of the graphic sex or language that scandalized NYPD Blue (in one episode, a captured cat burglar, portrayed by a pre-L.A. Law Michael Tucker, makes a reference to "wolf pee-pee"). The ethnic portrayals, too, are not exactly nuanced. But the human dramas at the heart of Hill Street still make for arresting television. --Donald Liebenson --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
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Although it does come over as being somewhat dated now and does not have the gritty realism of, say 'The Wire'(superb!), it is still a thoroughly engaging watch and will definitely bring a smile to anyone who enjoyed it first time around.
However, as great as it is to have the first two seasons on DVD; what isn't so great and has been mention in other reviews of these products, is the mindless and idiotic way these have been re-edited when transferred from the original tapes to DVD; so much so, that it has rendered some of parts of the story almost unintelligible if the viewer is not familiar with the original TV series.
My opinion of these DVD sets is that they are still worth purchasing for the nostalgia trip, but prepare to be irritated by the moronic editing and the possibility that the remaining seasons may never be released on DVD.
I grew up with these cops and as the last reviewer stated, I never thought it would arrive on DVD. It's been a long wait, but worth it.
Still showing on More4; catch it if you're a fan, if you've never seen it watch it to find out why it is the best.
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