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Old 04-07-2010, 11:13 PM
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Hill Street Blues, revisited


I bought my wife the DVDs for Season 1 of Hill Street Blues, and have been watching some of them with her.

One thing I've noticed - the acting mostly sucks! Other than Travanti and Hamel, everyone is obviously reading lines from a script. Shatner could outact most of these. I'm figuring the acting MUST improve later on; wasn't this considered the best drama on TV through the 1980s?

The writing is pretty melodramatic; most current shows seem to have much better scripts.

Also, it's interesting to see all the smoking, drinking, and sexual harassment that occurred onscreen. Those days are gone.
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:35 AM
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Stick with it. It's some of the best TV ever.
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:46 AM
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I miss that show.
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Old 04-08-2010, 01:43 AM
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I used to be able to see the Police Department building (the one that supplied the exterior shots, anyway) out of my office window at UIC. Sadly, it is lost to "progress" these days. Great show, though!......TRM
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Old 04-08-2010, 08:46 AM
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BTW, in the "Roll Call," they use some of the same extras for pretty much the run of the series. There's one large-boned blonde in particular who stands out--but she's not the only one. Have no idea what her name is, and I don't think she ever got an onscreen credit, but she does show up prominently in some background scenes outside "Roll Call" in some eps.
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Old 04-08-2010, 10:02 AM
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Stick with it. It's some of the best TV ever.
Listen to dogbreath. It's a good show.
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Old 04-08-2010, 10:07 AM
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Renko: "Oh my god. Here it is Christmas Eve, and I'm gonna get shot dead in a moose suit."
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Old 04-08-2010, 10:14 AM
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One of my favorite TV shows. Yeah, stick with it.

And if you like comics/superheroes, please note that the Shakespeare of Graphic Novels, Alan Moore - author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Miracle/Marvelman, and so many others - absolutely adores the show. He used its multi-plot approach in much of his writing, but the 20-or-so issue series Top Ten is a direct homage
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Old 04-08-2010, 11:46 AM
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Heh... from the same era, my wife and I watched the first season of St. Elsewhere on DVD and felt the same about most of the acting. We still liked watching it and thought it was a "good show" but I couldn't really recommend it based on the acting chops.
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Old 04-08-2010, 11:50 AM
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Well, it was a cast of mostly-unknowns and it took them a while to find their footing. I can forgive that.


Plus Veronica Hamel circa 1982 was extremely doable.


Plus, heh, I named one of my cats "Whitney", after a character played by Kay Lenz, also doable.

Last edited by Bryan Ekers; 04-08-2010 at 11:52 AM.
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:38 PM
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Belker was always my favorite! That might have been the beginning of my love with 'character actors'.
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:48 PM
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And keep your eye on the pickpocket that Belker is constantly busting. Usually he shows up in one scene at the beginning of the ep, and he gives Belker a fake punny name.
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:56 PM
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Haha...ok, adding this to the list of 'must'watch.

Yay Hulu!

http://www.hulu.com/watch/325/hill-s...#s-p4-n1-so-i0
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Old 04-08-2010, 01:02 PM
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BTW, in the "Roll Call," they use some of the same extras for pretty much the run of the series. There's one large-boned blonde in particular who stands out--but she's not the only one. Have no idea what her name is, and I don't think she ever got an onscreen credit, but she does show up prominently in some background scenes outside "Roll Call" in some eps.
Also, pay attention to the tall black guy Belker arrests in the first episode.

The show was a big jump forward in TV, most notably for its use of story arcs*. Before Hill Street, every show was a self-contained unit. Characters rarely changed. Sometimes there were two-parters, but that was about it.

Hill Street introduced the concept (outside of soap opera). They used four-episode arcs (which was a big jump over shows of the time). The result -- and the multiple plot lines -- were revolutionary.

Neat bit of trivia: Michael Warren (Bobby Hill) played with Lou Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in UCLA and won two NCAA championships as the team's starting guard.

Later, Ed Marinaro joined the cast; Marinaro finished second to Pat Sullivan in voting for the Heisman trophy.

*As was Wiseguy.
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Old 04-08-2010, 01:05 PM
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Not to mention the first heavy use of over-lapping dialogue.

Keep an eye out for Sid the Snitch, who went on to become Ambassador Molari on Babylon 5.
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Old 04-08-2010, 01:14 PM
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Yeah, not even 20 minutes into the pilot and the amount of sexual commentary and touching used as humor is a bit...well, disturbing. I grew up with that, and that way, and I'm just glad it's not considered ok now for a perfect stranger to come up and fondle you, that's all.

(Meat markets don't count )
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Old 04-08-2010, 01:23 PM
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Also, pay attention to the tall black guy Belker arrests in the first episode.


Ok, I'm searching online with no luck; the guy's familiar, his voice even more so, but I can't pin him.

who is it?
  #18  
Old 04-08-2010, 02:33 PM
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It's not that the actor was well known outside the show. Just keep watching the show.
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Old 04-08-2010, 11:25 PM
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Hill Street Blues is a perfect example of the idea that today's gritty and edgy is always tomorrow's dated and hokey. Not that it wasn't a good and truly groundbreaking show (except near the end) its just that it won't seem so by today's standards.

Before Hill Street 70s cop shows were things like Starsky & Hutch, Baretta, SWAT, Hawaii 5-0 etc. Shows which had their charms but seemed utterly ridiculous and laughably stupid by the 80s. Of course those same 70s shows were very edgy and gritty compared to 60s shows like Dragnet or The F.B.I. which seemed the same way (silly) by the 70s (its hard to believe anyone actually took Jack Webb's Joe Friday seriously!)

So of course by the 90s shows like Law & Order, NYPD Blue and Homocide:Life on the Street did the same thing to Hill Street.
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Old 04-08-2010, 11:37 PM
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It's not that the actor was well known outside the show. Just keep watching the show.
Promise to spill the beans shortly? I don't know when I'll find the time to watch the entire episode online.
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Old 04-09-2010, 01:06 AM
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I think by "show", he means "series", not a specific episode. The character in question, a black guy who Belker repeatedly arrests for various scams and thefts and whatnot, appears in numerous episodes.
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Old 04-09-2010, 10:39 AM
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Hill Street Blues is a perfect example of the idea that today's gritty and edgy is always tomorrow's dated and hokey. Not that it wasn't a good and truly groundbreaking show (except near the end) its just that it won't seem so by today's standards.

Before Hill Street 70s cop shows were things like Starsky & Hutch, Baretta, SWAT, Hawaii 5-0 etc. Shows which had their charms but seemed utterly ridiculous and laughably stupid by the 80s. Of course those same 70s shows were very edgy and gritty compared to 60s shows like Dragnet or The F.B.I. which seemed the same way (silly) by the 70s (its hard to believe anyone actually took Jack Webb's Joe Friday seriously!)

So of course by the 90s shows like Law & Order, NYPD Blue and Homocide:Life on the Street did the same thing to Hill Street.
And then came The Wire.
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Old 04-09-2010, 08:41 PM
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Wow, I loved this show back in the day. I just jumped on Hulu and watched the pilot (which I don't think I saw the first time around). Travanti, Hamel were great, as was Michael Conrad/Esterhaus. Great chops, great presence. The rest of the cast was a mix, but they all got better after a while. It was odd seeing all those mustaches and long hairstyles from the early 80's. "Frank, I think you should take a Valium".

A question: in the pilot there was a gang summit at the precinct station. One of the gangs looked like Hasidics with nunchucks. The Irish gang with leprechaun hats was bad enough, but an observant Jewish street gang? I guess this isn't a question so much as a WTF. I guess it was a nod to the 1979 film The Warriors, with its over-the-top gang themes, but really it was like seeing an Amish astronaut or Islamic pig farmer.
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Old 04-09-2010, 09:06 PM
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it was a good blend of drama and comedy. each episode could stand alone as a story though elements tied together tightly through the series. i'm not much of a tv watcher and it was the first show i recall to do that well, a number of popular series do that now.
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Old 04-09-2010, 09:22 PM
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I think by "show", he means "series", not a specific episode. The character in question, a black guy who Belker repeatedly arrests for various scams and thefts and whatnot, appears in numerous episodes.
True, but there was one particular episode that featured him and was a hell of a payoff in Season 4: "The End of Logan's Run."
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Old 04-09-2010, 09:44 PM
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I loved HSB. A young David Caruso played the leader of an Irish gang, and Dennis Franz played two different cops, the first coming to a bad end, I think. Then he came back as Norman Buntz and had a short-lived spin-off, Beverly Hills Buntz, with Sid the snitch.

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Old 04-10-2010, 11:32 AM
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Daniel Travanti reached the peak of his acting career in the "Collision of the Planets" episode of "Lost in Space" where he played a leader of an intergalactic motorcycle gang (one of whom was Joe E Tata) assigned to blow up a planet the Robinson family was on. But Doctor Smith inhaled some fumes from the explosives which turned him into a green haired Samson and thwarted their plans. Now THAT is classic gritty, tough interlaced with humor television .

Veronica Hamel was definitely hot.
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Old 01-02-2018, 09:52 PM
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I did a search that turned up some Getty Images indicating that the blonde mentioned in my post above appears to be an obscure actress named Ilona Wilson. I just saw her in a 'Cannon' rerun on Me-TV.

She was in a bunch of roll call scenes.
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:03 PM
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Promise to spill the beans shortly? I don't know when I'll find the time to watch the entire episode online.
...since its been bumped and its eight years later and it isn't online here downunder legally anywhere...can someone spill the beans?
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:05 PM
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I did a search that turned up some Getty Images indicating that the blonde mentioned in my post above appears to be an obscure actress named Ilona Wilson. I just saw her in a 'Cannon' rerun on Me-TV.

She was in a bunch of roll call scenes.
The question has been eating at you for years?
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:15 PM
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In addition to the actors mentioned previously, I want to give a shout out to James B. Sikking, who played the SWAT commander, Lt. Howard Hunter. Sikking later played Doogie Howser's father, and also played Captain Styles in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:26 PM
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In addition to the actors mentioned previously, I want to give a shout out to James B. Sikking, who played the SWAT commander, Lt. Howard Hunter. Sikking later played Doogie Howser's father, and also played Captain Styles in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
I've always thought the episode in which Hunter attempts suicide led directly to the death of Jon-Erik Hexum a few weeks later.
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Old 01-03-2018, 12:51 AM
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Even hardcore band Black Flag gave a big shout out in "TV Party Tonight". This video is as dated as HSB
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:37 AM
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Alan Moore based his rather excellent comic series Top Ten on Hill Street Blues: the conceit is that in the alternate Earth city of Neopolis, everybody has super-powers, and it's up to the beleagured, overworked "science-hero" cops of Precinct Ten to police them. Less well known than a lot of Moore's work, but clever, meticulous - Gene Ha and Xander Cannon's background art is a game of "spot the reference" - and often very, very funny.

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Old 01-03-2018, 03:46 AM
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Alan Moore based his rather excellent comic series Top Ten on Hill Street Blues: the conceit is that in the alternate Earth city of Neopolis, everybody has super-powers, and it's up to the beleagured, overworked "science-hero" cops of Precinct Ten to police them. Less well known than a lot of Moore's work, but clever, meticulous - Gene Ha and Xander Cannon's background art is a game of "spot the reference" - and often very, very funny.
Yes, WordMan posted that in post #8, back in 2010.
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Old 01-03-2018, 06:15 AM
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Neat bit of trivia: Michael Warren (Bobby Hill) played with Lou Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in UCLA and won two NCAA championships as the team's starting guard.
Another trivia note: Michael Warren is Jessica Alba's father-in-law.
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Old 01-03-2018, 06:16 AM
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Alan Moore based his rather excellent comic series Top Ten on Hill Street Blues: the conceit is that in the alternate Earth city of Neopolis, everybody has super-powers, and it's up to the beleagured, overworked "science-hero" cops of Precinct Ten to police them. Less well known than a lot of Moore's work, but clever, meticulous - Gene Ha and Xander Cannon's background art is a game of "spot the reference" - and often very, very funny.
Didn't Ha used to post on this board?
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Old 01-03-2018, 08:46 AM
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In addition to the actors mentioned previously, I want to give a shout out to James B. Sikking, who played the SWAT commander, Lt. Howard Hunter. Sikking later played Doogie Howser's father, and also played Captain Styles in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
I came in here to mention Howard, my favorite character.

I still remember his line from an episode where he was watching the squad practice for an upcoming charity basketball game: "Judas Priest, I've seen better free throw mechanics from the gol-darn Vietnamese!"


mmm
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Old 01-03-2018, 09:59 AM
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The question has been eating at you for years?
Eh. . . IMDB nerd. In general, we don't like unidentified recurring background people.
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:06 AM
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Promise to spill the beans shortly? I don't know when I'll find the time to watch the entire episode online.
Another recurring (but credited) character. His character is always credited as 'Pickpocket,' and each time Belker busts him, he gives him a different (humorous) phony name. Later. . . .
SPOILER:
The chap does end up dying (forget how), and Belker has an interesting phone call consoling Pickpocket's mother about the death of her son.
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:38 AM
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We are currently watching an episode a night. Gotten to early season 4.

The low bar for acting was set by Ed Marinaro in his early episodes.

For it's time, it had a huge cast with a lot of stuff going on. I think this might have lead to corners being cut which affected the acting.

Take one of my favorites: Charles Haid/Renko.

Haid is the highlight of my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies: Altered States. The rant he gives when backed into a corner and ends up reciting his resume is classic. (NSFW language)

SPOILER:


He does a much better job in AS than at any time in HSB. The jokey Texas drawl is tiring.

And what kind of PD doesn't have the city name anywhere on their uniforms or cars?
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Old 01-03-2018, 01:27 PM
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Yes, WordMan posted that in post #8, back in 2010.
I missed that Still good enough to mention twice, though.
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:05 PM
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One of the weak points we noticed early on is the character of Fay, Frank's ex.

She shows up at the wrong time, whines, annoys Frank, etc. And her subplot rarely connects to anything else. Seemed like a nearly pointless character with no real purpose.

Then I looked on IMDb. Oh .... Bochco's then-wife. So her scenes do have a purpose: get the missus on screen and throw some salary her way.

He also had his son on twice as Frank Jr. and his daughter on once.

Don't make casting and story decisions based on family. (Ozzie and Harriet would have been much better if a real actress played Harriet.)
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:26 PM
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One of the weak points we noticed early on is the character of Fay, Frank's ex.

She shows up at the wrong time, whines, annoys Frank, etc. And her subplot rarely connects to anything else. Seemed like a nearly pointless character with no real purpose.

Then I looked on IMDb. Oh .... Bochco's then-wife. So her scenes do have a purpose: get the missus on screen and throw some salary her way.

He also had his son on twice as Frank Jr. and his daughter on once.

Don't make casting and story decisions based on family. (Ozzie and Harriet would have been much better if a real actress played Harriet.)
Bochco cast her again in his next series, Hooperman, a comedy-drama police series starring John Ritter. Bosson played the precinct captain. It was a different character than she played in Hill Street Blues and, as I recall, she handled it well.
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:40 PM
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I bought my wife the DVDs for Season 1 of Hill Street Blues, and have been watching some of them with her.

One thing I've noticed - the acting mostly sucks! Other than Travanti and Hamel, everyone is obviously reading lines from a script. Shatner could outact most of these. I'm figuring the acting MUST improve later on; wasn't this considered the best drama on TV through the 1980s?

The writing is pretty melodramatic; most current shows seem to have much better scripts.

Also, it's interesting to see all the smoking, drinking, and sexual harassment that occurred onscreen. Those days are gone.
Loved HSB. And don't forget its predecessor, Police Story. The Joseph Wambaugh one, not the Jackie Chan one.
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:42 PM
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. . .She shows up at the wrong time, whines, annoys Frank, etc. And her subplot rarely connects to anything else. Seemed like a nearly pointless character with no real purpose. . .
I always felt that was the purpose of the character; that sometimes your non-work life intrudes in seemingly non plot advancing ways in your work life. The opposite of the usual tv trope of work life intruding in the home life.

mc
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:09 PM
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Bochco cast her again in his next series, Hooperman, a comedy-drama police series starring John Ritter. Bosson played the precinct captain. It was a different character than she played in Hill Street Blues and, as I recall, she handled it well.
Don't forget that she was also in Cop Rock. Wow, that was a real stinker of a show. I actually liked the first 1 or 2 episodes I saw, but the break-into-song routine grated after a while. If I want to watch a musical, I'll watch something by Rogers & Hammerstein, thankyouverymuch.
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Old 01-03-2018, 06:17 PM
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Didn't Ha used to post on this board?
It was Xander Cannon who used to hang out here.
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Old 01-03-2018, 07:21 PM
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I love the theme tune, composed by Mike Post.
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Old 01-03-2018, 08:29 PM
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I love the theme tune, composed by Mike Post.
Post wrote a lot of theme songs for television shows. My favorite was the theme from The Rockford Files.
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