Yep. Amid drivel like Charlie's Angels and Flipper,
http://www.hulu.com has the first season of Hill Street Blues
available for on line viewing. The claim of limited commercial
interruptions is accurate.
Winner of numerous awards, and bestowed with critical acclaim, it was,
perhaps. too much for the average TV viewer. But, for the person
looking for more than a typical drama where action was the main point,
who could keep track of 13 major characters (14 after Ed Marinaro
joined late in the season), multiple simultaneous story lines, and
didn't expect a complete wrap in 30 or 60 minutes, it was ideal.
Careful listening was required. Unlike typical practice, actors often
didn't speak their lines while perfectly framed in the picture, or
with cutaways to follow the conversation. Instead, the camera
followed the actors around, or the actors walked through the camera
view, or sometimes just turned their backs on it. This was one of the
first shows to use this technique, and I remember watching one of the
early episodes and being struck by the feeling of being in the scene.
Roll call, with Sgt. Esterhaus trying to disseminate important
information - along with information that wasn't important but which
someone above him thought was - felt just like the pre-shift meeting
at any blue collar job. Some people tried to catch a few extra winks,
some were fighting off their hangover, and then there were the
wretched bright eyed and joyful in the morning types, munching their
carry out breakfasts between quips. America still had a lot of blue
collar jobs back then, with meetings just like roll call, lacking
only, erroneously, the admonition "be careful out there".
But the real tingle, for those who know what they're seeing means, is
watching the Dodge Grand Monacos move in the title sequence. The blue
door goes up, and out blasts a real full sized Dodge, a world away
from the wimpy Tauruses or tippy Explorers chosen by today's police
The big Dodge hits a bump, and settles down after one cycle. where a
civilian Impala or LTD of the era would stagger and fall to its knees
like a rat slapped by Hulk Hogan. At near 5000 pounds in police trim,
the Dodges do power slides and stay almost flat, a move that would
have had even the police versions of the Impala or LTD chunking their
And watching real police cars blast through the streets of an aging
rust belt city - where people did real work, not just push electrons
around - somehow seems about as right as things can be. I think I'll
buy one of those torsion barred road hog Mopars - I drove them as late
as the 90s - if gas ever drops to $2.00 a gallon.