Before Hill Street Blues, conventional cop show wisdom dictated that there should just a handful of core characters, one or two plotlines, and everything in the way of crisis and crime should be wrapped up neatly at the close of each episode. But Hill Street Blues changed all that, and the hour-long dramas that came after it—even if they had nothing to do with men in blue—were inspired by this notorious breaker of old TV rules.
It was early 80’s president of NBC Fred Silverman who brought up the idea of a different cop show, a show that focused on the cops’ lives a bit more than the cops’ work. For the task, the network hired producers Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco and gave them total creative control. Producer Bochco had written for several Columbo television movies, and had clear ideas about what he wanted for his new venture.
The station house would be noisy and some of its inhabitants uncouth. There wouldn’t be any typical all-perfect, all-the-time characters either—each would have his or her flaws. And though there would of course be crimes to solve, the show’s focus would be those characters. Investigations and cop goings-on were often worked out over the course of several episodes, instead of self-contained in just one episode, and sometimes, just like in real life, the cases would never be solved at all and bad guys would get off scott-free.