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Remembering Steven Bochco

Historian and critic David Bianculli pays tribute to the late producer’s groundbreaking work and lasting legacy

David Bianculli

WRITER-PRODUCER STEVEN Bochco, who passed away on April 1 at age 74 after a battle with leukemia, was one of the most influential creators in this or any other era of television. He redefined the drama in 1981 with Hill Street Blues and then redefined it again in 1993 with NYPD Blue. He had plenty of other hits—L.A. Law (1986–1994), Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989–1993)—and his output extended to Murder in the First (2014–2016). Even his wild-swing misses, like 1990’s musical Cop Rock, were fascinating failures.

Bochco approached the medium on his own terms. He took inspiration from the frantic filmmaking style and sprawling cast lists of Robert Altman, the vérité looseness of docs like Alan and Susan Raymond's The Police Tapes—a gritty 1977 chronicle of the South Bronx—and the continuing, overlapping storylines of daytime soaps. At every turn, he changed rules and challenged conventions.

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April 16, 2018