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Hollywood Responds to the Passing of Steven Bochco, One of TV's Most Influential and Prolific Producers

By Brian Richards | Obituaries | April 2, 2018 |

By Brian Richards | Obituaries | April 2, 2018 |


Steven Bochco, one of the most prolific and legendary writer/producers to have ever worked in the television industry, died yesterday due to complications from leukemia, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 74 years old.

There aren’t nearly enough words to describe how influential and successful Bochco was with the work he did and the television shows he worked on and helped create. Shows such as Hill Street Blues, which was one of the very first police procedurals to humanize the police officers and detectives featured in the stories being told about them and the crimes they would investigate.

Shows such as L.A. Law, which dealt with the attorneys at a high-powered law firm, the cases they would handle in court, and how their personal lives were affected as well. It used its episodes to tackle many social issues such as the 1992 Los Angeles riots, capital punishment, and the rights of the LGBTQIA community, while also being very influential in affecting how the country viewed lawyers. How influential? According to one attorney who was interviewed for a New York Times article published back in 1990: “Any lawyer who doesn’t watch ‘L.A. Law’ the night before he’s going to trial is a fool.”

Doogie Howser, M.D., which was not the first medical drama or even the most groundbreaking medical drama to appear on television, but it was definitely the first medical drama to focus on a doctor who used his incredible genius and intellect to practice medicine at only 16 years old (played by Neil Patrick Harris in the role that made him famous), and also show us that despite his intelligence, he was still a kid and everything he saw and did as part of his career affected him greatly and taught him lessons that were impossible to forget, many of which Doogie would type into his computer diary at the end of every episode.

Despite the much-deserved acclaim and attention it got, 24 was not the first television series to tell one complete story from beginning to end over the course of an entire season. One of the first shows to do that was Murder One, which followed a high-profile murder case throughout the season, and attorney Theodore “Ted” Hoffman (played by Daniel Benzali) defending a young and famous Hollywood actor (played by Jason Gedrick) accused of committing the murder.

And then there was NYPD Blue, which (thanks to Bochco and co-creator David Milch, who would go on to create Deadwood) broke plenty of ground on television in plenty of ways and caused plenty of controversy because of them. Because of the incredibly harsh language used by the detectives that would earn most feature films an R-rating. Because of the nudity displayed onscreen during one of the show’s many sex scenes between characters. Because it was an unflinching look at what it was like to be a detective with the New York Police Department and how much of a personal and professional toll it could be on the detectives who were on “the job.” And its influence can be felt in almost every other police procedural that followed, from Homicide: Life On The Street to The Shield to The Wire. (You can now watch NYPD Blue on Hulu, which was announced one day before Bochco’s passing)

Bochco’s work on Columbo, in which he wrote the script for the pilot episode “Murder By The Book” to be directed by a young up-and-coming director named Steven Spielberg, is definitely nothing to scoff at either, as both of them ended up getting noticed by Hollywood thanks to the quality of the episode.

Once news broke that Steven Bochco had died, many people who had either worked with him, wrote about him and his shows, or were just inspired by him and shows took to Twitter to express their thoughts:

That encounter between Steven Bochco and Chevy Chase occurred on an episode of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher back in 1997, which you can view below at the 16:19 mark:

Steven Spielberg also had this to say about Steven Bochco upon hearing of his passing, according to Deadline Hollywood:

“Steve was a friend and a colleague starting with the first episode of Columbo in 1971 that he wrote and I directed. We have supported and inspired each other ever since and through many deep mutual friendships we have stayed connected for 47 years. I will miss Steve terribly.”

Not every show that Bochco worked on was a success, and some of them made people doubt him and what he was capable of bringing to the table as newer and younger writers came up and made their presence felt (Hooperman, Capitol Critters, Total Security, and of course, Cop Rock). But many of the things that we loved about television then and many of the things we love about television now are because of him and his work. And how they inspired others and made both the people who create television and the people who watch television recognize and respect what television is capable of as an art form. And that same recognition and respect came long before cable television convinced many of us that it was their shows (and not the shows airing on network television) responsible for that recognition and respect.

And for that, we should be eternally grateful.

May he rest in peace.

Brian Richards is a Staff Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.