Customer Reviews: Hill Street Blues Season 1
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on October 14, 2005
I loved this show when it premiered and watched it eagerly every week. I was in the Air Force then and remember this show being one of the absolute best on television. To those who are quick to forget, Hill Street Blues set the precedent for cop shows to come. By killing off key characters occasionally the show had a sense of stark, gritty realism that made most of the cop shows of it's time seem like 'Car 54'. This show was in the forefront of bold, daring originality. True, when Michael Conrad died there WAS a decline in the show because he was such a well-loved character, but the show retained it's greatness nonetheless. In MY book Hill Street will always be remembered as the show that all other cop shows, and even non-cop shows, tip their hats to.
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on November 13, 2005
Fans of this show wanted it so badly that the VHS release that was published a few years ago goes for as much as $200 in the amazon sellers (original price was around $30).

Anyway, it's been worth the wait, as this promises to be a real good DVD set: Not only the episodes are there (of course), but also commentary tracks, deleted scenes, a roll call featurette...

So...anyway, was this a good season? For starters, it was a short one: Only 17 episodes. But what episodes! Worth every minute! I won't spoil them for you though, whether you are an old fan who don't remember the show or someone who heard so much about it that are going to get the DVDs to watch the show for the first time.

Even if you aren't a Hill Street fan, you might want to pick this set just for the incredible guest star list... people that a few year later became real stars, with their own shows: Ken Olin (thirtysomething), David Caruso (NYPD Blue), Dwight Schultz (A-Team), Mimi Rogers (lots of things).
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on July 18, 2006
When this series was first on in the '80's, it was pre-VCR for me. I loved it so much that I carried a portable TV with me in the car (ran off the cigarette lighter) to be able to catch each episode up until it's finish because I had to be in work at the hospital at 11:00p.m., which was when HSB finished for the evening. Also because I was such a fanatic for the show, I made little notes in a pad about dialogue snippets, plot elements, etc.

Time passed and because I never saw the show in reruns, I mostly forgot about it, except for a vague memory that I loved it dearly.

Then Season One comes out on DVD and my love affair starts all over again!!! I've seen very few dramas that combine such superb writing, acting and editing skills as HSB. The characters are immortal and stay with you long after. If you're a fan from the original broadcast run like I was, you'll have a great time having your memory rejogged by all the teriffic supporting characters and situations from the first time you saw them.

I just finished Seasons 1 & 2 and I couldn't be happier with the extras included, the transfer quality and the more-than-reasonable price for one of my TOP TEN TV SHOWS OF ALL TIME!!!

Can't wait for Season #3!
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on March 27, 2006
Like so many of you who have written reviews, I too have waited nearly 20 years for this release. I was 12 when I first got hooked on HSB and I have to admit that I was worried that it would not live up to all the praise I have heaped upon it over the years. Boy, was I surprised -- the show is even better than I remember! Of course, it helps that I now understand some of the jokes and innuendo that went over my head then.

The characters, the writing, the direction and the actors are all superb. Dan Travanti is still so compelling as the moral center of the show -- Frank Furillo's humility and humanity are so real that you cannot help but be drawn into the never-ending saga of the Hill Street precinct. Of course, his scenes with Veronica Hamel are shockingly steamy given that this was filmed in the early '80s. It is hard to believe that some of this stuff got past censors -- but thank God for Bochco -- he must have given them some headaches. Joyce Davenport was my hero -- such a strong female character, who obviously had good looks but did not rely upon them for her success. The seven-year development and evolution of the love story between Furillo and Davenport makes the relationship one that continues to resound today.

I could go on and on about all the characters that you will come to love if you watch this dvd -- Esterhaus, Hill and Renko (can you say those names separately?), LaRue and Washington, Bates and Coffey, Belker, and the others. The incredible writing and depth of these characters puts every show that is currently on television to shame. But they all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to this ground-breaking show. When the West Wing won its fourth emmy and was being compared to Hill Street Blues, the producers of the West Wing didn't want anyone to make that comparison because the West Wing, as good as it is, is no Hill Street Blues.

As for the DVD, I too wish that Fox had made more of an effort in the production -- more commentary, liner notes and extras would be great. I hope for more as they release future seasons. Previously unseen footage or interviews would be great.

All in all -- this is 5 stars. If you somehow missed this in its first run, or were too young to watch -- give yourself a gift. You will watch the pilot and honestly, you will never be the same. I envy you the experience to watch this for the very first time.
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on April 3, 2006
I was in college when Hill Street Blues originally aired, and I remember life in the dorm coming to a halt on Thursday nights because everyone wanted to watch it. I had never seen the show, so I didn't bother getting all worked up about it and usually found something else to do. Now, 25 years later, this set fell into my lap and I am happy to say that I finally understand what all the fuss was about. The one thing that strikes me is that when the end credits roll after each episode, I always look up at the clock because I can't believe it's over already. This is one of the most engaging shows I've ever seen and I highly recommend it to those who never experienced it the first time around.
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on December 4, 2005
Wow! My question is why did it take so long? You could get Beverly Hillbillys, Petticoat Junction, Space 1999, and God knows what other awful television shows now for years, but not this, perhaps the most groundbreaking dramatic series of the past twenty years. Sure, compared to The Sopranos, The Shield, Deadwood, and earlier, Homicide, and of course, NYPD Blue, this is pretty tame stuff. But put in the context of its time, and given that without it, the shows mentioned above wouldn't exist, the fact that Hill Street Blues may come across as a little dated does not alter one iota its brilliance. I still remember watching the first episode, the pilot, and my jaw dropping open in the opening, soon to become regular, moment of the show, the roll call, when Sgt. Esterhaus (the great Michael Conrad) asks the assembled morning shift to dispose of unauthorized weapons. And out come an assemblage of guns, knives, brass knuckles, etc., to make any law-and-order believing cop lover cringe. Two minutes into the series and you knew you weren't in the world of any cop show you'd ever seen before. You knew you were about to see realism, at least in the television sense of it, taken to places you'd never known. The multi-plots, the gritty documentary visual style, the overlapping dialogue ala Robert Altman, the diverse cast, the characters who were defined by the imperfections, the view of law enforcement as an imperfect system driven by forces like politics, the relationship between the primarily white police and the mostly black and brown people it served, all was fresh and new and startling. Few network shows, then and now, dared to take the chances this show did. It's about time that we get to revisit the Hill Street Precinct again and its wonderfully quirky cast of beleaguered cops and their infinitely complicated, alterantivey funny and tragic lives. A must see for anyone who cares about the best of what television as a serious dramatic medium can do.
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on October 15, 2005
By far, one of the best "Cop" shows ever to hit the little screen. For those who have never seen these episodes the relelase of the VD first season can only be topped by the release of the remaining seasons so people can have this in their library of quality TV Cop shows. This series was the most True-To-Life action packed drama series that the current shows emulate today. The down time while on patrol, the paperwork and the personality clashes are more real than anything ever shown on TV. Glad to see it FINALLY has come to DVD. Let's remember......"Let's Be Careful Out There!"
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on March 27, 2006
As everyone else has said you can't fault the series itself the stories still hold up (even though it's a bit strange to see everyone having to use call boxes instead of cell phones).

However Fox should hang their heads in shame as to how shoddy this release is, firstly it's double sided DVD's which I can understand on some product that they're sure is going to sell low figures but HSB is one of the most requested DVD releases there is. So releasing double sided DVD's just seems to be a way for Fox to make as much profit as they can

Secondly the picture quality is pretty awful, was HSB recorded onto Video rather than film ? it certainly looks that way and Fox have spared every expense in-order to bring a cleaned up picture.

Hopefully this is just a result of the series having such an underwhelming debut and that as the series gained more popularity later episodes moved to better quality stock and the picture does improve

That said, a great series and I look forward to Season 2
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on February 5, 2006
It's been a long wait. 19 years to be exact, and it's been a long 19 years!

I've recently been working my way through all the Sopranos box sets. The Sopranos is a good show. Like HSB it's a drama come soap opera. But HSB is in a different league to The Sopranos. Much is said about how revolutionary HSB was at the time. But the sad truth is that it is still revolutionary today. Other shows have may have borrowed from it's formula, but they have all without exception diluted the mix.

For example:

1) Characters. I cannot think of any other show with as many characters as HSB. And what is interesting is that these characters appear almost fully formed from the get go. And each and every character is a complex fully formed person. Contrast this with the Sopranos where Pauli and Silvio have yet to have a single storyline devoted devoted to either of them in the first 4 series... The Sopranos, NYPD Blue etc all spend far to long dwelling on a core group of characters. In HSB the action would dart about a lot more.

2) Storylines. HSB would always run several storylines of varying lengths and complexities concurrently. They would each have different themes such as compassion, humour, tragidy, love interest, whatever. Characters would be seemlessly threaded in and out of these storylines, with one new stroy line being created, and one existing storyline being resolved each epiosde. There would also be a minor very short story line that started and concluded within the each episode, enabling it to stand alone. NYPD Blue failed to do this to the same extent. The reason being the lack of characters to play with. NYPD Blue worked to a far less chaotic pattern, with everything being much more formulaic and predictable. I cannot think of any other show with the same depth of plotting as HSB. In contrast very little happens in an entire season of the Sopranos.

3) Character terminations. With a lot of characters to lay with, HSB was never scared to kill a few off. Sometimes more than one at a time, and usually with little or no warning.

4) Humour. The humour in HSB was much more sophisticated and complex than in any other show. There was humour than only the audience was privvy to, humour that was exchanged between the characters, and also practical jokes. Only the best sitcoms show humour on all these levels. But with HSB there is no canned laughter, the humour doesn't feel like it's been written by a writer. It's realistic. And every episode would contain humour, and sadness in different plot threads.

5) Long running and resurfacing plot threads. Many other shows will introduce a certain character trait or plot thread purely to run a particular story. With HSB it was the other way round. If a character had a flaw, then this would resurface over and over again. And plot threads would suddenly be raked over, and temp ressurected months later.

6) No stars. HSB was pretty much a level playing field. Only Furrillo got slightly more screen time than the other characters.

7) Action at all levels. HSBs encompassed characters at all levels withing the police precinct. Everything from the janitor to the captian. And all their lives are seen as equally important as far as the plots went.

8) It felt real. It was like watching a really exciting and interesting documentary. You felt absorbed into the show. It didn't ever seem contrived. No other show has achieved this fine balance, let along maintained it for 7 seasons.

9) It never got stale. The last episode was as good as the first.

10) It's a slice of time. It's pre-mobile phone, pre-internet, pre-AIDS, pre-9/11, 1980s.
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on December 28, 2005
Well, what can I say that's not already been said about this terrific show....The only tv programme thats ever had me in get so involved with the characters....I'm now a police officer in London and this show still depicts what life is like as a police officer....Here's hoping Fox bring out the whole series, please!!
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