In the first season review of Hill Street Blues I talked about the Steven Bochco family tree of producers and show runners that got their start on this show. This season does a lot to remind us that a great many actors made their mark with this program. Such future stars as Danny Glover, David Caruso, Brent Spiner, and Dennis Dugan all made their first heavy mark on Hill Street Blues. Dugan’s Captain Freedom episodes are some of the most remembered shows of the series run. This particular arc is a great example of how the show could be funny, emotional, and action packed, and still have more heart than any show on at that time. This season set pays good homage to that story arc with commentaries and a short featurette. None of the show’s quality slips in season 2. In fact, expect things to keep getting better.
Captain Furillo (Travanti) runs one of the toughest precincts in the inner city. The streets are inundated by gang violence. Furillo also often finds himself under fire by city politics, a bitter ex-wife, and even his own girl: ADA Davenport (Hamel). The squad includes veteran sergeant Esterhaus (Conrad), scrappy biter Belker (Weitz), redneck cop Renko (Haid), playboy detective LaRue (Martin), gung ho SWAT leader Hunter (Sikking), Detective Goldblume (Spano), Detective Washington (Blacque). A more diverse and entertaining cast has never been assembled anywhere.
Each episode of Hill Street Blues is presented in its full frame original broadcast format. I am a bit disappointed in the transfer. This season does look a little bit better than the first did still some episodes are better than others. Expect average transfers with washed colors. Black levels are still pretty weak.
The Dolby Digital 2.1 Mono track is marginally better than the video. Fortunately the audio doesn’t need to excel for us to enjoy these classics. Dialogue is always clear, and for me that’s all I care about. Musical cues have always been subdued on this series, so are reproduced faithfully enough here. There is no distortion present that I could discern.
Commentaries are back on two of the Captain Freedom episodes. The stories are worth watching twice. On the second run listen to the commentaries; they are quite informative..
The three two-sided discs are found in slim cases inside a small box. There is no booklet or sleeve available here. Episode information is provided on the case back.
The features can be found spread out over the set.
“The Hill Street Blues Story” is a short 5 minute talk by Steven Bochco and Kozol. Mostly they talk about how stories are handled in the writing room.
“Belker Unleashed” can be found on Disc 1 Side B. It’s a short but very entertaining look at one of the show’s more colorful characters and Bruce Weitz who plays him.
“Confessions of a Captain Freedom” The much anticipated Captain Freedom story arc gets a nice look here. This short feature can be found on Disc 2.
Charles Haid and his Renko character get the 5 minute treatment with “A Cowboy On The Hill” found on Disc 3.
Rounding out the extras on Disc 3 is an entertaining gag reel.
You’re still reading this review? I’d have thought by now you’d be watching this impressive second season of Hill Street Blues. I must say there hasn’t been a show on television I have watched over as often. I can’t even watch Star Trek this many times. For some reason it just never gets old. There are so many interesting characters and storylines that it always feels fresh. OK, so it is dated. After all, watching Belker peck away at his typewriter brings back painful memories of the pre-PC days of yore. Still, you won’t find a better cop show anywhere. I am thrilled to see the extras aren’t being skimped on here. So pick it up. What else you gonna do with that “pocket full of quarters”?