Prolific TV writer/producer Steven Bochco, the man who effectively gave birth to the modern cop drama and arguably the father of the current ‘Golden Age of Television’, died Sunday in his sleep after a battle with cancer. He was 74.
Bochco notably created several critical and commercial hits that redefined the rules of television – making it a home for complex characterisation, rich storytelling and pushing boundaries of what could be shown. Introducing the now commonplace idea of ‘auteur TV’, he was the first to introduce serialisation to primetime drama series and procedurals.
Previously the approach of a large ensemble cast with multiple narratives and multi-episode story arcs had only been the domain of soap operas (ala “Dallas”) with all other shows adopting a standalone episode only approach to better sell in syndication. Bochco often combined that with fast pacing, flawed & very human characters, dense dialogue and a documentary shooting style.
Though he worked on a few other shows and films initially, from the iconic “Columbo” and “Ironside” to the sci-fi cult classic film “Silent Running,” he broke out in a big way with the legendary “Hill Street Blues” which was nominated for a total of 98 Emmy Awards throughout its seven-season run.
He followed that up with the even more popular “L.A. Law,” the hit “Doogie Howser M.D.,” and then teamed with eventual “Deadwood” creator David Milch on the great “NYPD Blue” which ran for eleven seasons. Other celebrated works included the legal drama “Murder One” which effectively introduced the idea of a ‘season long case’ story arc to procedurals (and starred Bocho’s first wife Barbara Bosson), along with “Over There” and “Brooklyn South”.
He briefly worked on “Commander in Chief” and his last show was TNT’s “Murder in the First,” but about a decade ago he effectively stepped back from producing TV saying he was getting too old and that “what’s passing for primetime drama these days isn’t very good”. At the time he also said the new home for quality prime time drama is cable.
In all he personally won ten Emmys, four Peabody awards and the Humanitas Prize in his time, along with numerous other honors.