Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Steven Bochco

We send out birthday greetings today to Steven Bochco, who turns 66.

Bochco's name has not been in the entertainment press all that frequently these days as his involvement with television seems to have diminished of late. But, I'm not sure there's anyone in the business who's had a greater impact, over the past 20-25 years, on the face of television than Bochco.

Bochco started his career at Universal Pictures as a writer and was involved with series like Ironside, Columbo and McMillan and Wife. After a short stint at CBS, Bochco created a groundbreaking police drama for NBC--Hill Street Blues. The series, which Bochco also wrote and produced, aired from 1981 to 1987. It was the first gritty police drama set in New York, featured an ensemble cast, and broke new ground given the language, storylines and overall tone and manner of the show. It received critical acclaim and garnered a total of 98 Emmy Awards during its run.

His next move was to 20th Century Fox where Bochco co-created and produced L.A. Law, which aired on NBC from 1986 to 1994. Another acclaimed award winner, L.A. Law captured the 1980s pop culture priorities of money, looks and power and achieved even higher ratings than that of Hill Street Blues.

Bochco's final impactful hit was NYPD Blue. Like Hill Street, NYPD Blue was controversial in its content and approach--it was the first network, prime time drama which was designed to compete with the more adult fare being found on cable networks. And, in perhaps the series' most controversial and/or well-known moment, we were exposed to actor Dennis Frantz's bare bottom.

Bochco created quality television--well written, well acted--but his more impactful legacy may be the way television changed along the way. Network programming became more open in the use of slang and off-color language coupled with the pushed boundaries of what could be seen in prime time.

Happy Birthday today to Steven Bochco...

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