Steven Bochco

Steven Ronald Bochco (December 16, 1943 – April 1, 2018) was an American television writer and producer. He developed a number of television series, including Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D., Cop Rock, and NYPD Blue.

Steven Bochco
Steven Ronald Bochco

December 16, 1943
New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 1, 2018(2018-04-01) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
EducationCarnegie Mellon University (BFA)
Occupation(s)Television producer, writer
Years active1968–2016
Gabrielle Levin
(m. 1964; div. 1969)

(m. 1970; div. 1997)

Dayna Kalins
(m. 2000)
Children3, including Jesse
RelativesJoanna Frank (sister)

Early life

Bochco was born to a Jewish family[1] in New York City, the son of Mimi, a painter, and Rudolph Bochco, a concert violinist and Polish immigrant.[2][3] He was educated in Manhattan at the High School of Music and Art. His elder sister is actress Joanna Frank.

In 1961, he enrolled at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now known as Carnegie Mellon University after merging with the Mellon Institute in 1967) in Pittsburgh to study playwriting and theater. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theater in 1966, having also had an MCA Writing Fellowship.[4]


Bochco went to work for Universal Pictures as a writer and then story editor on Ironside, Columbo, McMillan & Wife, and the short-lived Lorne Greene and Ben Murphy series, Griff, as well as Delvecchio and The Invisible Man.

He wrote the story and teleplay for the Columbo episode "Murder by the Book" (1971), and the teleplays for several other episodes. He wrote the screenplay for the 1968 film The Counterfeit Killer and worked on Silent Running (1972) and Double Indemnity (1973). He left Universal in 1978 to go to MTM Enterprises where he had greater scope for producing. His first effort there was the short-lived CBS police drama Paris, notable as the first series on which James Earl Jones played a lead role.

He achieved major success for NBC with the police drama Hill Street Blues. It ran from 1981 to 1987 and Bochco was credited as co-creator along with Michael Kozoll, also writing and producing. The series also garnered considerable critical acclaim and many awards, and was nominated for a total of 98 Emmy Awards throughout its run. Bochco was fired from MTM in 1985 following the failure of Bay City Blues (1983).

Bochco moved to 20th Century Fox where he co-created and produced L.A. Law (1986–94) which aired on NBC. This series was also widely acclaimed and a regular award winner. In 1987, Bochco co-created the half-hour dramedy Hooperman which starred John Ritter but was canceled after two seasons, despite Bochco offering to take over direct day-to-day control of a third season. Hooperman was part of a lucrative deal with ABC in 1987 to create and produce ten new television series, which prompted Bochco to form Steven Bochco Productions.[lower-alpha 1] That year, Bochco was in final talks with an exclusive agreement with CBS or ABC, and ABC reportedly being the winning bid.[5] From this deal came Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989–93) and Cop Rock (1990). The latter combined straight police drama with live-action Broadway singing and dancing, and was one of his highest-profile failures. In 1992, Bochco created an animated television series, Capitol Critters, along with Nat Mauldin and Michael Wagner.

After a lull, Bochco co-created NYPD Blue (1993–2005) with David Milch. Initially controversial at the time, the series was created with the express intention of changing the nature of network one-hour drama to compete with the more adult fare broadcast on cable networks. The spring 1994 television schedule on ABC presented the only run of a television series executive produced by Bochco, The Byrds of Paradise. The Byrds of Paradise showcased a plot structure that was an early forerunner in presenting a more realistic, and not idealized, representation of character development in the primetime television format, but it aired for only one season, and has yet to be re-aired on television.[6][7] Although The Byrds of Paradise achieved significant critical acclaim during its initial run, and helped launch the careers of actors Seth Green and Jennifer Love Hewitt, the show has never received an official release on any Home video format or Streaming media platform.[8][9][10] Other projects in this period that failed to take off include Murder One (1995–97), Brooklyn South (1997), City of Angels (2000), Philly (2001), and Over There (2005). All five shows failed to match Bochco's earlier success though Murder One and Over There garnered critical praise. In 1995, he had a contract with CBS to air the network's future programs, and had to distribute the shows worldwide.[11] In 1999, he moved gears to Paramount Television where he remained until 2005.[12] Shortly afterwards, he was moved to ABC's corporate subsidiary Touchstone Television later in 2005.[13]

In 2005, Bochco took charge of Commander in Chief (2005–06), created by Rod Lurie, and brought in a new writing team. However, in spring 2006, he left the show because of conflicts with ABC, and shortly afterward the program was canceled. Bochco described his experience on the show as "horrible".[14] In 2006 Bochco produced a pilot for an ABC show, Hollis & Rae,[15] and was reported at the same time to be developing a baseball drama and another legal drama for ABC in partnership with Chris Gerolmo.

It was announced in March 2007 that Bochco had taken his first steps into internet TV with the 44-episode Cafe Confidential, each episode being 60-seconds of unscripted "confessions" by members of the public.[16] Yet another legal drama titled Raising the Bar was produced for TNT, this time in partnership with David Feige, although it was cancelled in December 2009 during the second season.[17][18]

According to an interview with Bochco published in September 2007, he was winding down his involvement with network television, feeling that his tastes and current fashions in TV drama no longer coincide.[14] "The network executives stay the same age and I keep getting older and it creates a different kind of relationship. When I was doing my stuff at NBC with Brandon [Tartikoff] and Hill Street, we were contemporaries," says Bochco.[19] "When I sit down [now], they're sitting in a room with someone who's old enough to be their father and I'm not sure they want to sit in a room with their fathers."[19]

In 2008, Bochco argued that the new home for quality prime time drama is cable, where "the atmosphere is far friendlier and the creative environment more conducive to doing original work", and that "most of what's passing for primetime drama these days isn't very good".[20]

Prior to Hill Street Blues it was rare for American straight drama series to have story arcs, i.e. several stories running over many episodes (with the exception of prime time soap operas such as Dallas). It was also rare to have a large regular cast. The structure of the modern "ensemble" television drama can be traced to Bochco, who many regard as having changed the "language" of television drama.

From 2014 to its cancellation in 2016, he wrote and executive produced Murder in the First, a series drama which he co-created with Eric Lodal.[21]

Steven Bochco Productions
TitleGenreFirst air dateLast air dateNo. of
Doogie Howser, M.D.SitcomSeptember 19, 1989 (1989-09-19)March 24, 1993 (1993-03-24)4ABC
Cop RockDramaSeptember 26, 1990 (1990-09-26)December 26, 1990 (1990-12-26)1
Capitol CrittersAnimatedJanuary 28, 1992 (1992-01-28)March 14, 1992 (1992-03-14)
NYPD BlueDramaSeptember 21, 1993 (1993-09-21)March 1, 2005 (2005-03-01)12
The Byrds of ParadiseMarch 3, 1994 (1994-03-03)June 23, 1994 (1994-06-23)1
Murder OneSeptember 19, 1995 (1995-09-19)May 29, 1997 (1997-05-29)2
Brooklyn SouthSeptember 22, 1997 (1997-09-22)April 28, 1998 (1998-04-28)1CBS
City of AngelsJanuary 16, 2000 (2000-01-16)December 21, 2000 (2000-12-21)2
PhillySeptember 25, 2001 (2001-09-25)May 28, 2002 (2002-05-28)1ABC
Over ThereJuly 27, 2005 (2005-07-27)October 26, 2005 (2005-10-26)FX
Raising the BarSeptember 1, 2008 (2008-09-01)December 24, 2009 (2009-12-24)2TNT
Murder in the FirstJune 9, 2014 (2014-06-09)September 4, 2016 (2016-09-04)3

Personal life

Bochco was married three times: to Gabrielle Levin from 1964 to their divorce in 1969, to actress Barbara Bosson from 1970 to their divorce in 1997, and to television producer and executive Dayna Kalins from 2000 until his death.[22] Bochco had three children.[2] His son, Jesse Bochco, with Bosson, is a producer/director who directed several episodes of his father's shows, including NYPD Blue, Philly, and Over There. As a child, son Jesse played the son of his real mother's character on one episode of Hill Street Blues.

At the time of his death, Bocho lived in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.[23]

Health and death

Bochco was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, requiring a bone marrow transplant later that year.[24] He died from the disease at his home on April 1, 2018, at age 74.[23]


Emmy Awards

34 nominations, with 10 wins:

  • 1981 Outstanding Drama Series, for Hill Street Blues
  • 1981 Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, for Hill Street Blues, "Hill Street Station" (premiere episode)
  • 1982 Outstanding Drama Series, for Hill Street Blues
  • 1982 Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, for Hill Street Blues, "Freedom's Last Stand"
  • 1983 Outstanding Drama Series, for Hill Street Blues
  • 1984 Outstanding Drama Series, for Hill Street Blues
  • 1987 Outstanding Drama Series, for L.A. Law
  • 1987 Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, for L.A. Law, "The Venus Butterfly"
  • 1989 Outstanding Drama Series, for L.A. Law
  • 1995 Outstanding Drama Series, for NYPD Blue
Humanitas Prize

Four nominations, with two wins:

  • 1981 60-Minute Category, for Hill Street Blues
  • 1999 90-Minute Category, for NYPD Blue
Edgar Awards

Seven nominations, with two wins:

  • 1982 Best Episode in a TV Series Teleplay, for Hill Street Blues, "Hill Street Station"
  • 1995 Best Episode in a TV Series Teleplay, for NYPD Blue, "Simone Says"
Directors Guild of America
  • 1999 Diversity Award
Producers Guild of America Awards

One nomination/win:

  • 1994 Outstanding Producer of Television, for NYPD Blue

In addition:

  • 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award
Writers Guild of America

13 nominations, with two wins:

  • 1982 Best Writing for an Episodic Drama, for Hill Street Blues, "Hill Street Station"
  • 1985 Best Writing in for Episodic Drama, for Hill Street Blues, "Grace Under Pressure"

In addition:

  • 1994 Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement
Peabody Awards
  • 1981 for Hill Street Blues[25]
  • 1987 for L.A. Law[26]
  • 1996 for NYPD Blue[27]
  • 1998 for NYPD Blue, the episode "Raging Bulls"[28]

In addition to these awards, Bochco has earned induction into the Television Hall of Fame, which he achieved in 1996.


  • Death by Hollywood: A Novel (2003). New York: Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6156-3.
  • Truth is a Total Defense: My Fifty Years in Television (2016). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1-5348-3390-6.


  1. An animated photograph of Bochco's own father, violinist Rudolph Bochco, served as the logo for Steven Bochco Productions; the music played over both the animated photograph and the 20th Century Fox logo was a brief segment from Movement 3, the "Presto" movement, of Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, "L'estate", the "Summer" concerto of Antonio Vivaldi's cycle The Four Seasons.


  1. Jewish Journal: "Change of Command on ‘Commander in Chief’" by Naomi Pfefferman October 13, 2005
  2. Haag, Matthew; Mele, Christopher (April 2, 2018). "Steven Bochco, Producer of 'Hill Street Blues' and 'NYPD Blue,' Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  3. "Rudolph Bochco, 77, Violinist; Appeared With Top Artists". The New York Times. October 8, 1977.
  4. "The Museum of Broadcast Communications - Encyclopedia of Television - Bochco, Steven".
  5. "Bochco bidding" (PDF). Broadcasting. November 2, 1987. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  6. Svetkey, Benjamin. "Steven Bochco's New Show". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  7. "The Byrds of Paradise". IMDb. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  8. "Byrds of Paradise". Great Society. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  9. Scott, Tony (February 28, 1994). "The Byrds of Paradise". Variety. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  10. "The Byrds of Paradise". IMDb. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  11. "Bochco signs deal with CBS" (PDF). Broadcasting. March 6, 1995. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  12. "Bochco Enters Deal With Paramount to Produce Series". Los Angeles Times. July 15, 1999. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  13. Schneider, Michael (September 25, 2005). "Touchstone is 'Blue' man's group". Variety. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  14. Gay, Verne. "He's not blue about leaving network TV". The Boston Globe, September 5, 2007. Accessed July 2, 2009.
  15. "Hollis & Rae".
  16. Cafe Confidential. Metacafe; accessed July 2, 2009.
  17. "Hollywood Reporter - Entertainment News". The Hollywood Reporter.
  18. Brookes, Emily. "Bochco takes TNT to court". C21 Media, January 25, 2008; accessed July 2, 2009.
  19. Gay, Verne (September 5, 2007). "He's not blue about leaving network TV". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  20. Schneider, Michael. "Leno's early shift rocks primetime". Variety, December 12, 2008. Accessed July 2, 2009.
  21. Bibel, Sara (September 19, 2013). TNT Orders Ten Episodes of Steven Bochco Drama 'Murder In The First' Starring Taye Diggs & Kathleen Robertson, TV by the Numbers via TNT press release. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  22. "Bochco: Wedding Bells Ring Again". CBS News. Associated Press. August 15, 2000. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  23. Barnes, Mike (April 1, 2018). "Steven Bochco, Creative Force Behind 'Hill Street Blues,' 'L.A. Law' and 'NYPD Blue,' Dies at 74". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  24. "Legendary TV Producer Steven Bochco Meets Donor Who Helped Him Beat Near-Fatal Leukemia: "I Feel Fortunate to Be Alive"". The Hollywood Reporter. May 10, 2016.
  25. 41st Annual Peabody Awards, June 1982
  26. 47th Annual Peabody Awards, May 1988.
  27. 56th Annual Peabody Awards, May 1997.
  28. 58th Annual Peabody Awards, May 1999.
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