DVD Review Hill Street Blues: The Complete Series DVD Review - Recommended

Kevin EK

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Thank you Jim.

You've just provided a great example of why this series continues to merit attention. Your points are spot on.
And if you dig even farther, you'll find plenty of other really interesting character moments and surprise appearances by actors who would go big on later TV shows and films. (M*A*S*H is also in this category - plenty of guest appearances by actors and directors who would go big much later on).

The Belker/Usual Suspect arc would come to a surprising end - but I guess it's not that surprising if you've been watching the show. Just when you think you know where these guys are going, they throw a hook rather than a jab.

My favorite part of Jablonski's opening monologue for Season 5 is that you can hear the seeds of David Milch's very specific style. It's only a small step from there to the arias Milch would later write for Al Swearingen on "Deadwood."

Tim Robbins would also play a significant guest role in early episodes of "St Elsewhere". This was when he was quite young, and it was a few years before he would really break through with "Bull Durham". (I'm not going to even get into "Top Gun" or "Howard the Duck" when it comes to that...)
 
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bmasters9

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-Frank Furillo (D. Travanti). Excellent acting here, especially when he has to play office politics. He's very believable as the competent, capable captain @ the Hill Street station.
And from what I've heard, he was generally calm, cool and collected-- basically having the patience of Job!
 

The Drifter

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Thanks for the responses, everyone. I actually finished watching HSB late last year, and wrote up a review for S06-S07:

HSB was a superb series. While some may disagree with me on this, S06 & S07 were just as good - if not better - than previous seasons. Though I know some shows fade as time goes by, if anything HSB got better in the last seasons:

-Dennis Franz's Norman Buntz character (S06-S07) was great - unintentionally?! funny & also a nice contrast to the other, more strait-laced officers. That being said, he definitely had a moral code.

-I was surprised that
Officer Coffey got killed in S06, in a completely random way - i.e., he was going to get something to eat/drink, and got shot by a criminal who was robbing the store. Completely unexpected & jarring, but I guess that was the whole point - and this added to the realism of the series.

-It was interesting how Jablonski got essentially forced into retirement for health reasons during these seasons (also very realistic), but still stayed on the show to a great extent - due to his keeping in touch with some of the officers, i.e. Belker & some of the others.

-The episode where Officers Hill, Renko, and Jablonski went hunting (S07) was one of the best of the series. Goldblum was supposed to join them, but kept getting side-tracked,
until he got kidnapped by a killer that the authorities had been hunting for. I honestly thought he was going to die, until he successfully talked the killer into letting him live. Very intense episode.

-I was happy that Fay Furillo was absent for much of S06 & all of S07 (though Frank still had phone conversations off an on with an unseen Fay, notably in the final episode). She was an extremely obnoxious character, and I can see why Frank divorced her. Glad that she got written off the show, since her absence only improved the series.

-Chief Daniels was a real scum-bag & a self-serving politician. He obviously only cared about making himself (and the department) look good, to the detriment of the people that worked for him.

Which is why it was great to see the scene - in the final episode -
where Daniels was throwing Buntz under the bus in front of the TV reporters (even though Buntz had only been trying to clear his name), resulting in Buntz angrily punching out Daniels! Fantastic :) This was possibly the single best scene in the entire series ;)

After I finished with HSB, I tried to watch short-lived Beverly Hill Buntz series, which was a de facto follow-up to HSB, focusing on the Buntz character. Unfortunately, the show has never been available on DVD/Blu-ray. I guess it wasn't popular enough to justify a physical media release. I tried to watch at least some of the show via streaming, but the picture quality on the streams is not that great. So, I think I'll pass on this - for now.
 
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The Drifter

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To add to my last post, note that Dennis Franz actually played TWO characters on HSB.

1) Bad Sal Benedetto: A bullying aggressive thief, criminal, and killer - Bad Sal was a real scum-bag with 0 redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The scene in S03 when he cowardly cold-cocks Larue from behind was a real testament to the fact that he was an unequivocal P.O.S. It was nice to see Hill beat the crap out of Benedetto in a later scene, in retaliation for Bunt's cowardly attack on Larue. And, since everyone involved were LE, you knew that because of their unspoken "code" they wouldn't mention any of this to their bosses ;) Benedetto was later revealed as being the mastermind of a criminal scam that almost got Washington killed - again, a true piece of garbage. The character eventually got killed off.

2) Norman Buntz: Buntz was not as much of a scum-bag as Benedetto was, but was still a jerk at times. Here's an interesting article from 1986 about the Buntz character - interesting to read this; it's a nice time-capsule about HSB & the '80's - apparently Buntz was a fairly ground-breaking character on TV at the time.

http://articles.latimes.com/1986-08-15/ ... ill-street

I also remember DF's cameos in some early '80's Brian De Palma films, specifically as seedy/sleazy characters he played in both Blow up & Dressed to Kill (among others). And, most of these appearances even pre-dated his early HSB role - though his BDP film characters had some similarities to his HSB character(s) ;)

The Belker/Usual Suspect arc would come to a surprising end - but I guess it's not that surprising if you've been watching the show. Just when you think you know where these guys are going, they throw a hook rather than a jab.
Yes, I did think it was sad
that this "Usual Suspect" ended up getting killed. He was a non-violent thief, so - though he was obviously a criminal - was more sympathetic than some of of the other criminals on the series. It was sad how Belker was trying to find the guy's next of kin to notify them of his death.

Oddly enough, I was re-watching Friday the 13th Part 3 right around the time I was watching HSB last year, and noticed this same actor playing a violent biker in the film - LOL.
 
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Scott Merryfield

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-I was happy that Fay Furillo was absent for much of S06 & all of S07 (though Frank still had phone conversations off an on with an unseen Fay, notably in the final episode). She was an extremely obnoxious character, and I can see why Frank divorced her. Glad that she got written off the show, since her absence only improved the series.
Actually, I think that Fay was the one who divorced Frank -- due to his alcoholism. But you are correct that she was a very annoying character.
 

The Drifter

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Actually, I think that Fay was the one who divorced Frank -- due to his alcoholism. But you are correct that she was a very annoying character.
-Well, at the beginning of the series, I thought Frank & Fay were still married on paper - though they were going through a divorce, I didn't think the paperwork was finalized yet. He was already dating Joyce at that point (their relationship started off-screen prior to S01, thought there was a flash-back episode that detailed the beginning of this). It's notable that in one of the holiday episodes, one of Frank's family members mentioned that Frank was miserable while married to Fay, and that his alcoholism was a result of his hating the marriage. I can see why! Fay was always bothering Frank in the office due to not being able to get her act together, and obviously kept wanting to get back together with him - long after he had obviously moved on.

That all being said, it is possible that Fay initially left Frank (prior to S01) due to his drinking.

-Related to this, you bring up another good point about Frank's alcoholism - this really added to the reality of the show. One of my many favorite scenes is towards the end of S01 (I think), when Larue finally went to an AA meeting - and was greeted by Frank, who was also attending the meeting.

However, Frank constantly having to get after Larue re: his drug/alcohol use/lateness/insubordination was unintentionally amusing - Larue was like the little kid who kept getting sent to the principal's office for getting in trouble - LOL.
 
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bmasters9

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Related to this, you bring up another good point about Frank's alcoholism - this really added to the reality of the show. One of my many favorite scenes is towards the end of S01 (I think), when Larue finally went to an AA meeting - and was greeted by Frank, who was also attending the meeting.
Which, IMO, proves that Frank wasn't the hypocrite about J.D. LaRue's drinking-- Frank addressed it in himself by going to that AA meeting, one episode after busting J.D. for the same thing.
 
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The Drifter

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Which, IMO, proves that Frank wasn't the hypocrite about J.D. LaRue's drinking-- Frank addressed it in himself by going to that AA meeting, one episode after busting J.D. for the same thing.
Exactly! And, I think that's why he was coming down so hard on J.D. at times. I.e., Frank had gotten his #$#% together re: his drinking, for the most part (though I do remember 1-2 temporary relapses during the course of the series) so he knew the addiction could be controlled/overcome.

Conversely, J.D. was always screwing up, had constant money problems, etc. At one point, Frank pointed out to him that there were co-workers of J.D.'s who made as much money as he did & supported families on their salaries, etc.; whereas J.D. was single w/no family, and seemed to always be broke.

So, while Frank was sympathetic to J.D.'s plight, he wasn't going to enable him - which was an important distinction.
 
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Jasper70

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That’s why I got Hulu so I can watch the rest of St Elsewhere. I have the first (only) season on DVD. Great show.
 

Kevin EK

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I too have been enjoying that Hulu has made St. Elsewhere available in all seasons.
Although they initially drove me crazy by putting some episodes in the wrong order, and the existing photo markers for each episode are not always accurate as a result.
 

bmasters9

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I too have been enjoying that Hulu has made St. Elsewhere available in all seasons.
Although they initially drove me crazy by putting some episodes in the wrong order, and the existing photo markers for each episode are not always accurate as a result.
"Photo markers"-- is that what you call the pictures beside the episode names that show scenes from the episodes?
 

Kevin EK

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Ben, yes - I'm referring to the photos right next to the episode names. Some of them are still lined up with the wrong ones, as that was where they'd originally put the episode files.

I would love to do a more in-depth review of a series like St. Elsewhere, or Magnum or Miami Vice. NYPD Blue would go a bit long, given how long that show ran, but it would be interesting. Like Hill Street, it had its moment early on, but I don't know that it was particularly fresh in its later days, particularly after David Milch had already left to make Deadwood. NYPD Blue and Homicide have an interesting relationship - in that Homicide was started first, and did some truly innovative filming/editing moves. Homicide was shot with a "fly on the wall" perspective of just going handheld and following characters around, or having the camera in the back seat of a car traveling around Baltimore, with multiple jump cuts in the middle of the scenes. As they say, "documentary style". This calmed down as the series progressed, but in the pilot (directed by Barry Levinson) and key early episodes, you really feel it. When NYPD Blue was set up, it really looks like they tried to play with that "documentary style" as a stylistic choice, but not in terms of actually shooting like a documentary. It just meant handheld coverage that was a bit jumpy, and of course their choice to feature the occasional bits of nudity or profanity. To my eye, Homicide was the more innovative series when it started. Five years later, Homicide was mostly a lot more subdued and NYPD Blue got a lot more interesting - particularly with the way they handled the departure of Jimmy Smits - the episode "Hearts and Souls" is one of the best hours (actually a little longer than an hour...) of television ever made.

But I digress...
 
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Wvtvguy

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I never watched this series during it’s actual run. Not sure why to be honest. I was in grade school so maybe it just didn’t catch my eye. I bought season 1 maybe two years ago but only watched the first episode. I enjoyed it but never watched further. I decided to pull it out and I’m really enjoying it. It seems to play better if you watch a few episodes to get a feel for all the characters and kind of immerse yourself in the world depicted. I’m definitely going to consider getting the full series if the later seasons are as good as what I’ve seen so far.
 
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Rick Thompson

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I too have been enjoying that Hulu has made St. Elsewhere available in all seasons.
Although they initially drove me crazy by putting some episodes in the wrong order, and the existing photo markers for each episode are not always accurate as a result.
I am so tired of hearing about this series being on streaming services I can't get. (My "broadband" service is Verizon Wireless, which is to actual broadband like beef broth is to a steak.) The mastrs are obviously there, so get this series on disk! Shout has done every other successful MTM series other than MTM and Remington Steele, which Fox did, so how about St. Elsewhere? As much as I don't want to be, I'm being pushed more and more to "alternative sources."
 

The Drifter

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Agree 100% . Older shows like HSB, St. Elsewhere (never seen this, but want to at some point), etc. are not typically easy to find on many streaming platforms. And, even if you can find them - they won't necessarily always be available.

I've been streaming for 8 years now, and, yes - it's great in many cases & has definite advantages over physical media. This is especially true when it comes to newer shows which I'm casually interested in seeing - but not necessarily owning.

Conversely, if I really want to see a TV series - especially an older show - I strongly prefer physical media.

I never watched this series during it’s actual run. Not sure why to be honest. I was in grade school so maybe it just didn’t catch my eye. I bought season 1 maybe two years ago but only watched the first episode. I enjoyed it but never watched further. I decided to pull it out and I’m really enjoying it. It seems to play better if you watch a few episodes to get a feel for all the characters and kind of immerse yourself in the world depicted. I’m definitely going to consider getting the full series if the later seasons are as good as what I’ve seen so far.
I had a similar experience. I was in middle school/high school when HSB was on originally (1981-1987), but - other than catching the iconic opening theme song when channel surfing at the time - I never watched a full episode. I only got into the series in the past couple of years via the great DVD releases.
 
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Superatomic

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Agree 100% . Older shows like HSB, St. Elsewhere (never seen this, but want to at some point), etc. are not typically easy to find on many streaming platforms. And, even if you can find them - they won't necessarily always be available.

I've been streaming for 8 years now, and, yes - it's great in many cases & has definite advantages over physical media. This is especially true when it comes to newer shows which I'm casually interested in seeing - but not necessarily owning.

Conversely, if I really want to see a TV series - especially an older show - I strongly prefer physical media.



I had a similar experience. I was in middle school/high school when HSB was on originally (1981-1987), but - other than catching the iconic opening theme song when channel surfing at the time - I never watched a full episode. I only got into the series in the past couple of years via the great DVD releases.
I would recommend getting the complete HSB on DVD. Good extras come with it.
 

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