Entertainment TV Co-creator of Hill Street Blues Steven Bochco dies aged 74
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Co-creator of Hill Street Blues Steven Bochco dies aged 74

Steven Bochco during 1989 Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Getty
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Steven Bochco, a producer whose boundary-pushing series such as Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue helped define the modern TV drama, has died aged 74.

Bochco had been battling a rare form of leukemia for several years. He had a transplant in late 2014 that was credited with prolonging his life.

Working with different collaborators, Bochco co-created some of TV’s most popular series for more than 20 years while helping to create a television template featuring large ensemble casts, serialised storylines and edgy content.

The recipient of numerous industry awards, including the Humanitas Prize and Peabody honours, Bochco was nominated for an Emmy 30 times in his capacities as producer and writer, winning 10.

More recently Bochco co-created mystery crime-drama Murder in the First, which began its run on TNT in 2014.

Bochco launched such series as Hill Street Blues – a ground-breaking, Emmy-winning cop show – and L.A Law for NBC before entering into a landmark 10-series deal with ABC in the late 1980s.

The relationship produced some clear hits (NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser, M.D) and notable failures, including the musical police drama Cop Rock and the serialised courtroom drama Murder One, which followed a single murder trial over an entire season.

Maintaining a high profile, Bochco wasn’t above engaging in public spats and power struggles, from complaining about his treatment by network executives to tussling with recalcitrant stars.

In one of the highest-profile tiffs, his rift with David Caruso during the first season of NYPD Blue led to the actor’s exit, a considerable gamble for a series in its first season. Bochco replaced him with former L.A Law co-star Jimmy Smits, and the program went on to run 11 years.

Although Bochco often consciously pressed against boundaries and seemed to delight in testing censors, he recalled that the breakthrough storytelling style of Hill Street was born more out of necessity than design.

“We had so many characters that we realised we couldn’t service 10 or 11 characters within the confines of a single episode, so the only way that we could really do justice to the size of the world was by creating storylines that spilled over the margins,” he told the New York Times.

Steven Ronald Bochco was born in New York, the son of a violin virtuoso. He attended NYU and subsequently Carnegie Institute of Technology, receiving a degree in theatre.

He started his writing career in the 1960s. Credits included Columbo, with an episode directed by Steven Spielberg, who also came up through the ranks at Universal Television.

With Hill Street Blues, Bochco and co-creator Michael Kozoll broke the dramatic mould, featuring a huge ensemble cast and gritty narrative while juggling various subplots.