Hill Street Blues

As a young teenager I loved Hill Street Blues, and as an older teenager St. Elsewhere even more so. Seeing afternoon reruns nowadays the shows look seriously dated. But still, now and again I catch a glimpse of what I liked so much.

For instance, Frank Furillo has no time to talk to his ex-wife Fay, who wants to share her joy of having found out the baby she is expecting is going to be a girl. Then tough, hard desk-sergeant Phil Esterhaus, who has all the time in the world, and who also wants to be seen as the thinking empath, steps in and asks her all the right questions to enable her to share that joy. It has that insincerity in it that grown-ups have, and the lack of shame in showing it that seems like the lack of shame children have through inexperience, but is of course quite the opposite: lack of shame despite experience.

Either Esterhaus is tough, or he is touchy-feely. One of them is an act. And Fay knows it, because she plays the same game for pretty much the entire series. (Which is why she is one of those rare characters that you love to hate. Name some more in the comments please.)

I am probably not explaining it right, but it brought back some way of looking at the world that I lost somewhere while growing up, and could not even remember until something like Hill Street Blues reruns came along.

And what I liked back then about that scene was that grown-ups (embodied by the show’s writers) were capable of seeing that they were acting the way they were.

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