Hill Street Blues: The Complete Second Season Review
Hill Street Blues Season 2 continued the slow-burning success of its debut year by simply carrying on as normal. Storylines that were begun in the first season were brought into this and were dealt with more fully. And not forgetting that as much of what keeps one's interest in Hill Street is the conflict between the cops and their personal weaknesses, Season 2 builds on this by having Renko and Hill falling out again, JD LaRue drinking once again and the romance between Bates and Coffey interfering with their work on the beat. And once again, Fay continues to interrupt Furillo's day at Hill Street whilst his evenings are spent with Joyce Davenport in bars and restaurants where they can keep their relationship a secret. However, most of this was dealt with in my review of Hill Street Blues Season 1 and so this only expands upon that with an episode guide and a review of the extras.
Hearts and Minds (48m30s): After an explosive opening - the morning roll call ends with a shootout in the station - it's business as usual at Hill Street. Or as close to business as usual as it can get when there's a purse-snatching orangutan on the loose. Belker, best suited to handling the monkey, gets the job of bringing it in. Meanwhile, Furillo turns 40 but has the headache of dealing with a returning gang member who is now acting with a crusading moral agenda. He celebrates with a dinner with Joyce but tells her that he wants much more than a dinner in a restaurant where no one will see them. Esterhaus, on the other hand, wants a break from romance, fearing that his back can no longer take such a punishing sexual regime.
Blood Money (47m41s): Much like so many of the bums, prostitutes and drunks that hang around Hill Street, the orangutan decides to stay but upsets Esterhaus by slurping a milkshake during roll call. His time at Hill Street might be short. With Goldblume wanting out on the street - he worries about becoming a pencil-pusher - he goes undercover driving a taxi cab and meets a lonely woman. Meanwhile, LaRue and Washington investigate the murder of a prostitute while Furillo remains troubled by the return of Jess John Hudson, suspecting that he is behind the theft of a huge cache of weapons.
The Last White Man on East Ferry Avenue (47m48s): "Please be reminded that this creature is material evidence in a criminal case and, as such, is due all rights and privileges of a ward of the court. Uh, said rights and privileges, however, do not include happy hour guest appearances at Madigan's Bar and Grill, midnight forays to Mike's Submarines nor unauthorised overnights at the homes of certain unnamed officers!" The orangutan is still at Hill Street but is now being made to feel at home. LaRue, though, tells Belker that he's glad to see him dating again. But out on the street and after the retaking of the weapons cache Jesse John Hudson is looking for the informer in his gang. Hill and Renko are also looking out for weapons, this time a shotgun being wielded by an old white man who's feeling isolated amongst the black families moving in around him.
The Second Oldest Profession (47m43s): Having testified, if that's the right word, against his owner on charges of theft, the orangutan receives the congratulations of the department and, for his efforts, is moved to Syd's Jungle Safari Park where he can see out his day. After the roll call, during which Esterhaus mourns the death of an undercover cop, the officers hit the streets but due to her allowing a junkie prostitute to shoot up before being brought in, Bates almost loses her arrest through overdosing. Meanwhile, Jesse John Hudson, now released on bail, vents his frustration on his lawyer whilst Frank and Joyce discuss their separation, wondering if it was the right thing for them to do.
Fruits of the Poisonous Tree (48m41s): With the orangutan gone, it's back to normal at Hill Street, with Esterhaus dealing with a little housekeeping before sending his men out onto the street. Meanwhile, LaRue shows off his acting chops when he goes undercover as a drunken bum, nailing a thief by leaving a bill sticking out of his pocket. But when Washington and LaRue are accused of entrapment, the precinct's viewing of Monday Night Football is put on hold. Elsewhere, Furillo fears that an all-out gang war is imminent when a ten-year-old girl is killed in a drive-by shooting.
Cranky Streets (48m45s): It may be time to down tools when the city council call off all negotiations with the police association. With emotions already running high, Esterhaus doesn't help matters when he reads out a communique from the police association, explaining that the council, on hearing their keynote demands related to wages and the cost of living, laughed in their faces. Leaving the station, the cops grumble but are still careful out there! Out on the beat, Hill covers up for an old friend, Officer Nash, who uses excessive force during an arrest. Meanwhile, Coffey arrests a family friend and Fay introduces her new fiance to Frank.
Chipped Beef (48m00s): Esterhaus suggests to the cops that not to work on their spelling may lead to members of the public doubting their intelligence. Concluding his roll call, he reminds them that blackmail, being the crime, is different from a black male. Elsewhere and after the Nash cover-up, Captain Furillo confronts Hill and Renko whilst Belker goes undercover as a Hasidic rabbi to catch a gang of ATM robbers. Finally, Fay announces that her engagement to Hal is over and confides in Joyce the worries that she had during her marriage to Frank.
The World According to Freedom (47m56s): When there's a bloody massacre at a nightclub, Frank Furillo calls in all of the local gang leaders - unfortunately, there is no room for Shamrock (David Caruso) this season - to bring any conflicts to an end. Even they appear horrified by the shootings, the murder and gang rape but Furillo suspects some knowledge of the crime by those with whom he's sharing a room. Belker, meanwhile, makes a friend when he meets Captain Freedom but finds an arrest thwarted when the self-styled superhero interferes. LaRue goes undercover in the holding cells to get a confession out of the suspects but is unable to intervene when an arson suspect drives an accused child molester to suicide.
Pestolozzi's Revenge (47m45s): Many of the officers are nursing hangovers at the 7:12 roll call on the morning after the wedding of Mr and Mrs Pestolozzi at the Kubiak Lodge. And for one member of the precinct - who performed a striptease at the party - the morning after is made particularly difficult. On with the day, however, and Renko loses his service revolver whilst Furillo contemplates a preemptive move against the Sullivan Commission as they search for corruption within the force. Captain Freedom returns, though, introducing himself to LaRue and Washington and helping to prevent a purse snatching.
The Spy Who Came in From Delgado (48m05s): There's a wild dog problem in Hill Street with a bum being found chewed in an alleyway that very morning. But with the cops concerning themselves with more serious crimes, it's left to Hunter to take to the streets, using a less-than-crack pack of pedigree dogs to track down the pack of wild hounds. Meanwhile, Belker's stakeout as a bartender isn't going well...not only is his public spirit being tested by actually having to deal with members of the public but Captain Freedom comes back into his life. Frank, meanwhile, considers hiring an attorney as the Sullivan Commission heats up.
Freedom's Last Stand (48m12s): Without an orangutan, it's left to the cops to solve a new outbreak of bag snatching, leaving Henry Goldblume on the detail. But there's poker to worry about with Bates playing for the honour of the precinct in the interdepartmental poker finals. Meanwhile, the undercover restaurant business ends in a gun battle - Captain Freedom appears at a particularly unfortunate moment - whilst Furillo, having testified a second time in front of the Sullivan Commission, offers his resignation.
Of Mouse and Man (48m42s): There's a note of sadness early in the morning and in the roll call when news comes of the shooting of Public Defender Pam Gilliam, who was not only well known to the cops but was a friend and colleague of Joyce Davenport. As Furillo explains that there are many demanding a quick resolution to this case, he urges his men and women to act sensitively but not to spare anyone's feelings in this matter. Elsewhere, Hill gets voted as the vice president of the Black Officers' Coalition, which puts something of a strain on his relationship with Renko.
Zen and the Art of Law Enforcement (47m31s): Suffering from a loss of confidence, LaRue starts drinking again and puts his partner's life in danger when he shows up at a drugs bust drunk. Meanwhile, Hunter tries to bring martial arts to the precinct but has trouble dealing with a sceptical Belker whilst Furillo struggles to hold his suspect in custody for the murder of Pam Gilliam.
The Young, the Beautiful and the Degraded (47m55s): Not only is his friendship with Renko being put under pressure with his work for the Black Officer's Coalition but Hill is also struggling to cope with the demands on his time when he's finished on the street. Elsewhere, Hill Street struggles with the number of bogus witnesses who appear at the station in search of the reward for information while Joyce takes her fury out on Frank when their prime suspect is released only to kill again. Finally, Furillo demotes LaRue to the motor pool when, after his drinking during the drugs bust, he can no longer trust the detective.
Some Like it Hot-Wired (47m21s): After the murder of Pam Gilliam, Joyce Davenport struggles in her role of public defender, even to walking out of court and threatening to quit. Elsewhere, Esterhaus draws a rash of auto thefts to the attention of the Hill Street precinct, taking a personal interest when a 1959 baby blue, mint condition Buick Electra 225 convertible is stolen. As Renko makes clear with his pointing at Esterhaus, it's the sarge's car. Otherwise, a few members of the precinct are promoted but Goldblume isn't, leaving him frustrated at being passed over once again.
Personal Foul (47m55s): Esterhaus assigns two undercover cops to a stakeout at a porno cinema, telling Belker and Washington that their entertainment for the afternoon will be Nights Of Bondage and Coed Madness. Elsewhere, there's a domestic involving a suicidal man who has taken his wife and young son hostage but the attention of the precinct is diverted by the Hill Street cops - Hill, Bates, Coffey, LaRue and Belker - taking on a team of gang leaders in a basketball match. Hunter, though, isn't at all happy about letting the gangs into his EATers security review.
Shooter (48m00s): Things are heating up in Hill Street as springtime arrives after a long winter but there's a shock in store when the gun used to kill a street during a burglary is found to have come from the police property department. Meanwhile, Belker tries to renew his driving licence having driven on an expired one for the past three years but his driving exam is interrupted by a stickup and shootout. With the examiner beside him, Belker goes off in pursuit of the shooters. Finally, Renko is otherwise occupied when he learns that his father, who's suffering from terminal cancer, has been hospitalised.
Invasion of the Third World Body Snatchers (48m16s): Esterhaus draws everyone's attention to Hill Street's professional women beginning to do business under the flowering rhododendrons in the park, reminding his men to clean the situation up. But as the laughter stops, he assigns Belker to go undercover to find the man who's slashing the homeless in the area. Meanwhile, Joyce Davenport finds her faith in her job restored when she defends a young man accused of rape whilst Renko's mourning his father's death is cut short when the van containing his body is stolen. But where the corpse ended up will require some diplomacy to prevent Renko finding out.
Given that this transfer is almost identical to that of Season 1, I have reprinted this section from that review here. It is just as relevant for Season 2 as it was for Season 1.
What little I watched of Hill Street Blues during its original run, I remember it being murky and a tough watch compared to the likes of Knight Rider, which, although it debuted some years after this, ran concurrently for a time. Similarly, to capture the busy feel of a police department, Bochco insisted on using handheld cameras so it all looks rough and ready with precious little sheen to the image. This DVD captures that look well, ably capturing the style of television shows of that time - a little dark, sometimes murky but with a sharpness borne out of using film in an environment that had to be lit as naturally as it could.
It's the same story with the mono audio track, which isn't going to win any awards as presented here but is faithfully recreated on DVD, even to the detail in the background chatter and the sharp tinniness of the sound. Finally, all of the episodes on the two discs are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.
The Hill Street Blues Story (5m57s): ...which implies that the story of Hill Street is a very short one as well as being one that only Gregory Hoblit is happy to contribute to. Hoblit is a droll presence and doesn't offer much more than a very basic background to Hill Street Blues, discussing his involvement in the show and, showing that it's in no way related to this season alone, using clips from Season 1 to illustrate his points.
Belker Unleashed (5m39s): Bruce Weitz appears in a recent interview on the subject of his part in Hill Street Blues, which was one of the most popular in the series and may have contributed to the wearing of fingerless gloves in early eighties. Although, to be fair, Pepsi and Shirley should also take some of the blame for that.
Confessions Of Captain Freedom (5m51s): Dennis Dugan, the actor who played Captain Freedom, has been asked to contribute to this short feature on the character from this second season, one who added a good deal of humour to Hill Street Blues. Bruce Weitz and Gregory Hoblit are also on hand
Commentaries: There are two on this set, the first of which features actors Charles Haid (Renko), Bruce Weitz (Belker) and Dennis Dugan (Captain Freedom) discussing not only this particular episode, being The World According To Freedom, but the show in general. However, given how two actors were in the show a good deal more than the third, Haid and Weitz have much more to say than Dugan. Indeed, unfairly and to the surprise of Haid and Weitz, Dugan actually dismisses the first ten minutes of the episode, including the roll call that's often the best bit, as being fairly boring. They don't seem to get on particularly well after that.
The second commentary is by writer Jeffrey Lewis and executive story consultant/writer Robert Crais on Freedom's Last Stand stirs up less emotion in the contributors but is interesting with respect to hearing the points of view of those who worked on the writing of the show. Unfortunately, this can also be quite dry at times
A Cowboy On The Hill (6m26s): Given his presence on one of the commentaries and the title of this feature, it is no surprise that it stars Charles Haid looking back at the character of Renko. Always one of the more outspoken characters, as well as being something of an anachronism within Hill Street, this celebrates Renko and allows Haid to answer the charge that his character was just a dumb redneck.
Finally, there is a Gag Reel, which lasts all of thirty-eight seconds but it is worth noting that each episode in this set comes with a thirty-second Preview.