press said about HSB
|The New York Times
Published: January 17, 1981
By TOM BUCKLEY
''Ten-thirteen'' is the police-radio code for ''assist patrolman.'' Too bad there isn't a signal for ''assist writers,'' because ''Hill Street Blues'' needs help badly. The first of five related instalments of this limited-run police series was seen on Thursday on NBCTV. The second will be shown by the network tonight.
The writer-producer team of Steve Bochco and Michael Kozoll has tried to present the men of the Hill Street station house in an unidentified metropolis as the kind of oddballs who would be members of the bow-and-arrow squad on any big-city force. That is, not permitted to carry weapons because of emotional instability.
One plainclothes man bites suspects on the ankle or the nose and turns out to have a mother complex. Another is an inept Don Juan. A good ol' boy patrolman wears cowboy boots and a string tie with his uniform. His radio-car partner, inevitably, is a young, well-educated black. The precinct sergeant behaves like a house mother, the captain's alimony checks bounce and the leader of the city's SWAT team thinks he's George C. Scott playing "Patton".
But ''Hill Street Blues'' veers back and forth between comic situations that aren't funny - serious matters such as the taking of hostages during a robbery and the shooting of two patrolmen -and a romance that is merely silly.
An effort has been made to achieve a sense of gritty reality with tight hand-held camera shots, garish lighting and the technique used by Robert Altman of having the characters frequently step on one another's dialogue, further confusing an already choppy script.
Daniel J. Travanti, who bears the same sort of vague resemblance to James Caan that this show bears to ''Kojak'' or ''Barney Miller,'' plays the precinct commander, and Veronica Hamel, as a lawyer, provides the romantic interest.
''Hill Street Blues'' will be seen next week on Thursday and Saturday nights and will conclude on Jan. 31 at 10.