As confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, TV writer and producer Steven Bochco—one of the creators of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, and NYPD Blue—has died. Bochco was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago, but a then-anonymous stem cell donation in 2014 did manage to prolong his life. Bochco was 74.
Known for being—as THR puts it—a “strong-willed” person, Bochco was able to forge hit shows by doing what he felt was needed rather than listening to the studios and networks he was working with. This allowed for memorable flops, specifically 1990's police drama musical Cop Rock, but it also set him up for legendary successes like L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, and NYPD Blue. Over the course of his career, Bochco won 10 Emmy Awards and a handful of Peabody Awards and Writers Guild Awards, and he also popularized the idea of a primetime TV show having a large ensemble cast and multiple ongoing story arcs.
Born in New York City in 1943, Bochco got his start in TV by working with Universal during the summer when he was a student at NYU. He got a job with the studio straight out of college, and he later wrote for Columbo for multiple seasons (his first episode was “Murder By The Book,” which was directed by Steven Spielberg and earned Bochco his first Emmy nomination). He began working for MTM in 1976, which asked him to create a series for NBC about the personal lives of police officers.
Bochco came up with Hill Street Blues, which was one of the lowest-rated shows across all networks the year it premiered, but it won eight Emmys and eventually survived for seven seasons on NBC—though Bochco was fired after five when he reportedly refused to cut costs. He then signed a deal with Fox and co-created L.A. Law with Terry Louise Fisher, eventually handing the reins over to one of his writers, former Boston attorney David E. Kelley, so he could focus on a development deal with ABC.
To fill a hole left by Aaron Spelling, ABC gave Bochco $10 million for 10 new shows, giving him the ownership over his own shows that he didn’t have with Hill Street Blues. Many of his ABC shows weren’t hits (again, see Cop Rock), but it did result in Doogie Howser and NYPD Blue, the latter of which was Bochco’s controversial-at-the-time attempt in the early ‘90s to replicate some of the nudity and language that cable dramas were allowed to get away with. The show was an instant hit, partially because of the controversy surrounding its grittier approach to police dramas, and it eventually won 20 Emmys over its 12 seasons.
NYPD Blue was ABC’s longest-running hourlong drama until Grey’s Anatomy came along, but Bochco’s output after that wasn’t quite as impactful. He worked on more cop shows and legal dramas, including Brooklyn South, City Of Angles, Civil Wars, and Raising The Bar, as well as FX’s short-lived Iraq War drama Over There.
Bochco is survived by his wife, his sister, and his children.