Let’s all synchronize our calendars. There’s an important date, and it’s coming upon us quickly. Shout Factory is about to release one of the most influential series in television history. We’re talking Hill Street Blues, and the complete 7-season series is coming to home video on Tuesday April, 29th. It’s an event worth celebrating, and we here at Upcomingdiscs are going to help you get through these final days with character profiles from the show. I’m hard at work binge-watching episodes as fast as I can to have a full detailed review waiting for you on the 29th. I know. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Let’s start at the top, shall we? Captain Francis Xavier Furillo, played by Daniel J. Travanti.
The first time I saw Travanti, I was a kid watching Lost In Space. He was playing an outer space hippie/biker on a space bike in the episode Collision Of The Planets in 1967. For the next 13 years he would pop up from time to time on a television show here and there as a quick guest star. I never really thought much about him or the character he played then until I saw him for the first time as Captain Furillo on Hill Street Blues. Needless to say, the actor had come a long way. From space hippie to precinct captain, Travanti had finally come down to Earth.
Furillo earned the respect of both his officers and even the gangs in his precinct with a history of showing toughness mixed with fairness. He did not suffer fools lightly and could come down on an officer like a hammer when they messed up. Yet, when the chips were down, he always had his officers’ backs and would fight with the tenacity of a pit bull if one of his officers were threatened. He took their injuries and deaths personally.
Like the actor who played him, Furillo suffered from alcoholism. Throughout the series his drinking problem would come back to haunt him. He was human, and he fell off the wagon, but he always picked himself up and got back on. He would be blackmailed by superiors who had intimate knowledge of his problem. Furillo used his flaws to become a better leader. He could recognize the same problem in other officers and did his best to bring them out of the same pit of demons.
Plagued by a nagging ex-wife which would provide some of the show’s humor, his humanity would show through again. The guy had the same troubles as regular guys. He had child support and alimony payments that stretched his own budget. His vulnerability showed when he worried about the son he was only able to see for visitations.
Furillo breaks the mold for every police captain that came before him. We get to see him as a husband, boss, friend, lover and son. Travanti managed to incorporate all of those things into a complex character that helped to change the face of television. And it won’t be long before you’re going to get to relive those moments as I am now.
144 episodes in one set plus hours of extras. If you happen to see my wife, tell her I’ll be out of the theater on April 29th, will you?