The talent pool of TV creators grows ever larger with the medium's endless expansion across linear and streaming services, but a talent like Steven Bochco only comes around once or twice a generation, if we're lucky. Sadly, the man partially behind such hard-hitting primetime dramas as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue has passed away at the age of 74.
On Sunday, April 1, Steven Bochco passed away in his sleep after a long battle against cancer, according to Variety. He had been suffering with a rare form of leukemia for several years, and his prolonged health in most recent years has been attributed to a medical transplant he received in late 2014. At the time of this writing, no details have been released.
Born to a painter and a concert violinist in New York City on December 16, 1943, Steven Bochco set himself for a life within the entertainment industry, graduating from the then-named Carnegie Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with an MCA Writing Fellowship. Throughout the 1970s, he cut his teeth writing for popular series such as Columbo, McMillan & Wife and more, and after short-lived creations like Paris and Bay City Blues, Bochco's career really took off in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1981, Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll created the highly acclaimed police drama Hill Street Blues, one of the first major TV series to heavily incorporate serialized storylines into the case-of-the-week procedural elements, and the long-running award magnet is widely credited with being a forerunner for the modern TV drama. Five years into Hill Street Blues' run, Bochco teamed with Terry Louise Fisher for the star-studded legal drama L.A. Law, which was an even bigger ratings hit, and had the awards recognition to back those numbers up. And Bochco's third biggest claim to fame was the controversial NYPD Blue, co-created in 1993 with Deadwood's David Milch. Beyond the quality of the writing itself, the twelve-season cop drama is well-remembered for Bochco's behind-the-scenes spat with rising star David Caruso, who left NYPD Blue after a single season, which allowed Dennis Franz to enter the spotlight.
Among the outpouring of memory-filled messages from Hollywood, former L.A. Law star Blair Underwood shared how thankful he is for Steven Bochco's influence in his life and career.
NYPD Blue vet Sharon Lawrence also took to social media to say that Bochco is a major reason why she loves watching TV and working in the industry.
In a statement to Variety, filmmaker Steven Spielberg reflected on his long friendship with Bochco, which goes back to one of Spielberg's early directorial efforts. In his words:
Steve was a friend and a colleague starting with the first episode of Columbo 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.
Outside of that trio of magnificence, Steven Bochco had a host of other series that he'd created and written for over the years, with Neil Patrick Harris' medical dramedy Doogie Howser, M.D. _possibly being the biggest of the bunch. (It was co-created by David E. Kelley.) Bochco also co-created the John Ritter-starring _Hooperman, the Mariel Hemingway-starring Civil Wars, the infamously short-lived musical drama Cop Rock, the animated comedy Capitol Critters, the crime drama Murder One, the legal drama Raising the Bar, and most recently, the TNT crime drama Murder in the First.
We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Steven Bochco in their time of mourning. For what it's worth, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and Doogie Howser, M.D. are all available to stream on Hulu.