Courtesy: Shout! Factory/NBC
Crime dramas today are a dime a dozen. It seems like every broadcast and cable network across the spectrum today has its own crime drama original or otherwise. The problem with this overabundance of crime dramas is that given their massive numbers it is difficult if not impossible to truly point out one as being more original than others. For all of the cookie cutter crime dramas that are splashed across the networks every week, there are those that have and still do stand out even today. One of the most notable of those dramas is NBC’s classic series Hill Street Blues. Last year, Shout! Factory released the series in its entirety for its fans. It proceeded to follow up that release with the release of the series’ third and fourth seasons in their own standalone box sets. The reason that the company didn’t start those standalone season sets with Season One is likely linked to distribution rights. Seasons One and Two were released in their own box sets nine years ago by 20th Century Fox. With any luck Shout! Factory will obtain the rights in the not too distant future for those two seasons so that Shout! Factory will be able to release the series in full even in its own standalone boxes. Getting back on track, Shout! Factory continued its series of Hill Street Blues standalone sets this past May when it released Season Five in its own box. Five seasons into its run Hill Street Blues proved why this classic series was then and is now one of the best of its kind. The central way in which it shows this is throughout its writing. The writing behind this season’s run continues to expertly balance both the stories of the officers on duty and in their own personal lives without re-hashing story lines that had already been used in the series’ previous seasons. By direct connection, the level of explicit content displayed throughout these episodes is completely unlike that of the crime dramas that fill out the networks today. Having noted both elements, there is one more element to note of Season Five that makes it stand out. It is the set’s packaging; more specifically, the inclusion of a full episode guide yet again with the box. This is nothing new for Shout! Factory or for its Hill Street Blues releases. And it is yet another welcome addition. That element alongside the writing behind each of the season’s episodes and the episodes’ overall content rounds out the set and proves in the end why it is yet another release that fans will want to add to their own home collections.
Hill Street Blues is one of the most original crime dramas to grace any television network broadcast or other since the advent of the genre. It proved this for seven seasons from 1981 to 1987. Even in comparison to the various crime dramas across the TV spectrum today, it stands proudly against those overly (and unnecessarily) violent, gritty programs. That is just as evident in the series’ fifth season as any of its first four runs and the final pair that would come after. It is so evident primarily thanks to the work of the series’ writers. Instead of being a show centered purely on crime investigations, it also focused on the personal lives of the officers even five seasons into its run. Sure, other crime dramas that have come since have tried to echo that writing style. But few if any have truly succeeded in emulating it. One example of how the writing continued to stand out in its fifth season comes in the form of Episode 87 “Fuched Again.” This episode tackles the classic story lines centered on corruption within the police force and even city government. While the story lines are nothing new to the realm of crime dramas, the way in which the show’s writers handled them here sets them apart from every other instance in which they have been presented in other shows. One way in which it is set apart from those other instances is that there is a sort of Jack Ruby feel added in to the story as a former high-ranking officer is implicated in the killing of a would-be assassin who tried to kill the city’s mayor. On a similar note, it just so happens that the corruption that is discovered within the force is linked directly (and fittingly enough) to a member of the squad’s narcotics department. There is much more that goes on in this episode, proving why this episode stands out as an example of the strength of the season’s writing. Audiences will just have to find out the other ways in which the writing stands out for themselves when they pick up this set for themselves.
The writing exhibited in “Fuched Again” is just one example of how the writing incorporated into Season Five’s episodes makes Hill Street Blues stand out yet again. “G.Q.” is another example of how the series’ writing keeps the series so enthralling even five seasons in. At the heart of this episode is a conflict between Hill and Renko that finally boils over. The conflict between the pair rose from events that happened previously in the season. The very fact that the show’s writers could carry what is essentially one story arc within the season without letting it become the center of the entire season is in itself a clear example of the writers’ talents. In an age today when serials seem to control every aspect of mainstream television, this series shows that it is possible to have a show with its own self-contained story arcs within each season. On another note, there is another, smaller story of police corruption being uncovered as Davenport has to take a stand against housing authority officers who framed a young African-American boy for a broken window at the O’Neil Projects. The ability of the writers to balance this story with the episode’s two other story arcs and said stories’ originality shows again expert talent from the writers. That talent shows in larger part again why the writing incorporated into the fifth season of Hill Street Blues is so pivotal to its success.
The season premiere, in which Jablonski is introduced to the squad, is yet another example of the writers’ continued talents this season. New character introductions are commonplace in ongoing series such as this one. The problem is that the manner in which they are introduced has become just as trite as other stories presented within the world of crime dramas. Jablonski’s introduction stands out from other new character introductions as it is linked an allegedly not so pleasant incident with another officer at another station. In other words, he was brought to Hill Street not because of a promotion but because of a re-assignment. This isn’t typically the case when it comes to such introductions in other crime dramas. The writers also take on the topic of capital punishment as Celestine Grey is scheduled to be executed. Interestingly enough, not everyone is for the execution. Both story arcs will have audiences completely engaged from beginning to end and are just as expertly balanced as those presented in the previously noted episodes. It shows yet again the talent of the series’ writers even so deep into the show’s run and proves even more why the show’s writing is so key to its success at this point. Whether for this episode, the other two noted here or for any of the season’s other episodes, every episode presented across Season Five’s standalone set shows in its own way the talent of the show’s writers. All episodes considered together, they show clearly why the writing behind this season lies at the center of its success.
The writing incorporated into Season Five is the central point of its success. That is clear in examining each one of the season’s episodes. While it is central to Season Five’s success, it is just one element of the season’s success. The overall content displayed in each episode is just as key to the season’s success. Viewers will note that in comparison to the crime dramas on television today, the level of overt blood, violence and sexuality presented throughout Hill Street Blues’ seven-season run is far less than that of said programs. That is just as obvious in Season Five as in any of the series’ previous seasons and the pair of runs that followed. Considering how limited said content proves to be, it makes the show that much more worth the watch. It proves yet again that a series doesn’t have to rely on such elements in order to succeed. Being that it doesn’t have to rely on said elements, that lack of overt violence and otherwise graphic content coupled with the writing incorporated into Season Five makes this collection that much more enjoyable for the show’s original fan base.
Both the writing incorporated into Season Five’s episodes and the overall lack of graphic content are important in their own right to the success and enjoyment of Hill Street Blues: Season Five. While both elements are of equal value and importance they are not all that makes it another win for fans of the series and for Shout! Factory. The packaging used for this season rounds out its positives. More specifically speaking, the inclusion once again of a complete episode guide inside the set’s case rounds out the set. As with Shout! Factory’s previous Hill Street Blues box sets (and so many other box sets from the leading name in home entertainment), audiences get a complete episode guide printed on the inside of the box’s cover art. It is printed on the front and back of the box art, clearly outlining which episodes are on which disc. There is also a short but concise summary of each episode included with each episode listed inside the box. Each summary gives just enough information to catch viewers’ attention and give a clear picture of the episodes’ stories at the same time. Thanks to that packaging element, audiences don’t have to waste their time going through each disc or looking up the episodes online to figure out whether or not they want to watch them. It is a great way to round out this latest full season set of Hill Street Blues. Together with the work of the show’s writers displayed across the noted episodes, and the relatively tame content (in comparison to today’s crime dramas), all three elements together show fully why Hill Street Blues: Season Five is another welcome addition to the collection of any of the series’ fans.
Hill Street Blues: Season Five offers fans of the classic crime drama plenty of reason to add this collection to their personal home DVD collections. The writing incorporated into each of its episodes presents stories that once again stand apart from anything offered to viewers by today’s crime dramas. They are more human for lack of better wording. The overall lack of explicit content once again presented here adds even more reason for fans of the classic series to add this standalone season set to their own home collections. The inclusion of a full episode listing complete with episode summaries rounds out the set’s positives. All three elements considered together, they show clearly why any fan of Hill Street Blues should have this latest collection of episodes to their own home DVD library. Hill Street Blues: Season Five is available now online and in stores and can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/hill-street-blues-season-five. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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