Steven Bochco

Show Creator/Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About
About this interview

Steven Bochco (1943-2018), a producer known to "push the envelope" in many of the series he created and produced attests to experiencing as much drama behind-the-scenes as on the screen. On producing Hill Street Blues, he says, "there is something that is truly magical when you catch lightning in a bottle. And here we've got a whole bottle full and you've got to fight very hard. So, every day in my life, I was fighting something. Usually the network, a lot of broadcast standards was a battle. Every day, for five years honest to God." In his six-hour, two-part Archive interview, Bochco talks about his early interest in writing, his college career at Carnegie Mellon and his move to Los Angeles. He then discusses his first job at Universal Studios, which led him into his first professional writing assignments on Bob Hope Presents Chrysler Theatre, Ironside, Columbo, The Name of the Game and his first producing duties on Lieutenant Schuster's Wife.  He discusses his move to MTM Enterprises and the creative freedom he was given. Bochco then discusses at length the creation and production of Hill Street Blues. He then chronicles leaving MTM and developing L.A. Law and then briefly touches on his other shows Doogie Howser, M.D., Hooperman, Cop Rock, Capitol Critters, The Byrds of Paradise, Murder One, Brooklyn South, City of Angels and Philly. He details his work on and the negotiations he went through to push the boundaries of language and nudity on network television. In summing up, he discusses what he sees as the role of a producer. Karen Herman conducted the interview on May 21 and September 12, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA.

"The advice I'd have to give producers is take responsibility for what's up there, good or bad. Preferably bad. Always share the responsibility when it's good. Take all the responsibility if it's bad."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Steven Bochco on the genesis of Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on the creation of the iconic opening sequence and theme song of Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on creating compelling storytelling on L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on how NYPD Blue almost didn't get on the air 
Steven Bochco on the negotiations he had with Capital Cities/ABC executives regarding language and nudity on NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on learning the craft of dramatic writing from Richard Levinson and William Link on Columbo
Steven Bochco on his storytelling style
Steven Bochco on advice to aspiring producers
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and influences and gravitating toward writing as a student at Carnegie Mellon
On his first job at Universal where he ran a writing fellowship program and began to write for television
On his first television writing credit, an elongation of a Rod Serling Chrysler Theatre  teleplay
On working on the series The Name of the Game , meeting his early mentor Dick Irving, writing  Lt. Schuster's Wife ,  the film Silent Runner , and ultimately deciding to become a producer

Chapter 2

On writing additional material for the series Ironside
On working on the Universal series Columbo , under the mentorship of Levinson and Link
On writing the TV movie Lieutenant Schuster's Wife, his ill-fated producing of Griff , and working on McMillan & Wife
On rewriting the pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man and eventually joining Delvecchio where he continued to learn his craft under the guidance of William Sackheim

Chapter 3

On producing Delvecchio
On producing Richie Brockelman, Private Eye with Stephen Cannell and then leaving Universal to join MTM Enterprises 
On executive producing Paris and working with star James Earl Jones
On the beginnings of Hill Street Blues and how he negotiated creative control from NBC

Chapter 4

On developing the look and feel of Hill Street Blues and his fight for creative control
On some of the problems on the set of Hill Street Blues and how he maintained control as a producer
On NBC head Fred Silverman's opinion of Hill Street Blues and his later dealings with Brandon Tartikoff when launching L.A. Law
On developing the look of Hill Street Blues with directors Robert Butler and Gregory Hoblit
On the writing of Hill Street Blues

Chapter 5

On the creation of trademark elements of Hill Street Blues (roll call, story arcs, blackouts, opening sequence)
On the casting of Hill Street Blues
On some of the significant storylines on Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on the casting of Hill Street Blues and how the stars dealt with newfound celebrity

Chapter 6

On moving to 20th Century Fox and developing L.A. Law and how L.A. Law differed from his previous show, Hill Street Blues
On L.A. Law's storylines and his hiring of David E. Kelley
On the development of Hooperman
On being offered the presidency of CBS and meeting with William Paley 

Chapter 7

On creating and producing Doogie Howser, M.D. 
On creating and producing Cop Rock
On Civil Wars
On creating the animated series Capitol Critters
On creating and producing NYPD Blue
On The Byrds of Paradise
On producing Murder One
On producing Public Morals

Chapter 8

On the difficulties of producing Brooklyn South at the same time as NYPD Blue  
On producing City of Angels  
On producing Philly
On his proudest achievement in his career and pushing the envelope
On his advice to aspiring writers or producers
On concluding part 1 of his interview

Chapter 9

On the creation and development of L.A. Law 
On the casting of L.A. Law
On the writing of L.A. Law
On the 2001 L.A. Law reunion movie
On creating, casting and writing Doogie Howser, M.D.

Chapter 10

On creating the journal opening on Doogie Howser, M.D .
On leaving Doogie Howser, M.D . after 3 seasons
On creating and producing Cop Rock
On creating NYPD Blue with David Milch
On the pilot episode of NYPD Blue
On dealing with ABC on the boundaries for language and nudity on NYPD Blue
On the "Milch-speak" dialogue on NYPD Blue and his working relationship with David Milch
On NYPD Blue castmembers Nicholas Turturro and David Caruso

Chapter 11

On some of the castmembers of NYPD Blue
On some of the castmembers of NYPD Blu e [continued]
On the process of producing NYPD Blue
On how the events of 9/11 did not fundamentally alter NYPD Blue and what he thinks is the show's signature
On Public Morals, which lasted one episode
On the craft of writing and producing

Chapter 12

On the importance of music in his work
On budgeting, multitasking, and negotiating deals
On the project he was developing in 2002, NYPD 2069
On his views of television today and the mentors he's had in the business
On his advice to aspiring producers
Shows

Bob Hope Presents Chrysler Theatre

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Steven Bochco on writing extra material to elongate a Rod Serling teleplay into movie-length

Brooklyn South

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Steven Bochco on the difficulties of producing Brooklyn South concurrently with NYPD Blue

Byrds of Paradise, The

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Steven Bochco on producing The Byrds of Paradise

Capitol Critters

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Steven Bochco on the animated series Capitol Critters

City of Angels (2000)

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Steven Bochco on producing City of Angels

Civil Wars

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Steven Bochco on creating and producing Civil Wars

Columbo

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Steven Bochco on writing for Columbo under producers Levinson and Link, and his thoughts on star Peter Falk

Cop Rock

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Steven Bochco on Cop Rock
Steven Bochco on creating and producing the short-lived musical drama series Cop Rock

Delvecchio

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Steven Bochco on co-producing Delvecchio

Doogie Howser, M.D.

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Steven Bochco on creating, casting and producing Doogie Howser, M.D.
Steven Bochco on the creation and development of Doogie Howser, M.D.
Steven Bochco on creating the journal opening for Doogie Howser, M.D., his vision for the series finale and leaving the show after 3 seasons

Griff

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Steven Bochco on his difficulty producing Griff

Hill Street Blues

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Steven Bochco on the creation of Hill Street Blues and his initial sparring with NBC for creative control
Steven Bochco on the development, style and production of Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on creating key elements of Hill Street Blues , including roll call, blackouts, and multi-episode story arcs
Steven Bochco on the creation of the iconic opening sequenc and theme song of Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on the pilot of Hill Street Blues and how it ultimately defined the series in terms of violence and consequence
Steven Bochco on not continuing to produce Hill Street Blues after being fired at MTM [briefly]

Hooperman

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Steven Bochco on the development of Hooperman

Ironside

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Steven Bochco on one of his early jobs writing additional material for Ironside

L.A. Law

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Steven Bochco on his pitch to NBC for L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on the initial development of L.A. Law
Steve Bochco on choosing Los Angeles for the locale of L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on the "civilized" atmosphere of L.A. Law
Steven Bocho on the introduction of "Jonathan Rollins" on L.A. Law and the benefits of being able to allow characters to evolve through the course of a series
Steven Bochco on hiring David E. Kelley as a story editor for L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on creating the "Venus Butterfly" episode of L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on creating and developing L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on casting L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on the writing process of L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on his frustration on the direction of L.A. Law after David E. Kelley left the helm

NYPD Blue

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Steven Bochco on creating, casting and producing NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on why he chose to "push the envelope" on NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on creating and producing NYPD Blue with David Milch 
Steven Bochco on dealing with ABC on the boundaries for language and nudity on NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on the dialogue of NYPD Blue and working with David Milch
Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue castmembers Nicholas Turturro and David Caruso
Steven Bochco on negotiating with ABC's Bob Iger on the boundaries of nudity for NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on his day-to-day role producing NYPD Blue

Name of the Game, The

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Steven Bochco on working on The Name of the Game

Paris

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Steven Bochco on Paris , his first production for MTM Enterprises

Philly

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Steven Bochco on producing Philly  

Police Tapes, The

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Steven Bochco on the influence of the 1976 documentary The Police Tapes on Hill Street Blues

Public Morals

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Steven Bochco on the show Public Morals [briefly]
Steven Bochco on the short-lived series, Public Morals

Richie Brockelman, Private Eye

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Steven Bochco on working with Stephen J. Cannell to produce Richie Brockelman, Private Eye

Six Million Dollar Man, The

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Steven Bochco on rewriting Howard Rodman's pilot script for The Six Million Dollar Man
Topics

9/11

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Steven Bochco on how the events of 9/11 did not fundamentally alter NYPD Blue

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Steven Bochco on negotiating how much language and nudity could appear on his series NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on "pushing the envelope" on NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on pushing the boundaries on NYPD Blue and the negotiating it entailed

Characters & Catchphrases

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Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue's "Detective Andy Sipowicz", played by Dennis Franz

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Steven Bochco on the creation of Hill Street Blues and his fight for creative control

Criticism of TV

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Steven Bochco on the difficulties of creating organic storytelling on television

Emmy Awards

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Steven Bochco on his 1971 Emmy nomination for Columbo -- complete with denim tux
Steven Bochco on NBC president Fred Silverman's prediction that Hill Street Blues would win the Emmy Award

Minorities

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Steven Bochco on City of Angels and the importance of the series' predominantly African-American cast and crew
Steven Bochco on adding the character of Jonathan Rollins (played by Blair Underwood) to diversify the fictional firm of L.A. Law

Studio and Network Management

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Steven Bochco describes joining MTM Enterprises in 1978
Steven Bochco on how MTM Enterprises changed after founder Grant Tinker moved to NBC

TV Theme Songs

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Steven Bochco on the importance of music to his series

We Cried

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Steven Bochco on portraying the death of "Sgt. Phil Esterhaus" after actor Michael Conrad dies during series production

We Laughed

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Steven Bochco on "The Venus Butterfly" episode of L.A. Law
Professions

Producers

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Steven Bochco on the responsibility of an executive producer

Show Creators

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Steven Bochco on his pitch to NBC for L.A. Law

Writers

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Steven Bochco on Richard Levinson's advice to him about writing for an actor like Peter Falk
Genres

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Steven Bochco on his early interest in portraying the private lives of cops
Steven Bochco on the casting of Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on the pilot of Hill Street Blues and how it ultimately defined the series in terms of violence and consequence
Steven Bochco on L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on the elements that defined NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on Cop Rock
Steven Bochco on creating NYPD Blue

Drama Series

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Steven Bochco on City of Angels and the importance of the series' predominantly African-American cast and crew

Legal Dramas

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Steven Bochco on the legal drama Philly
Steven Bochco on creating compelling storytelling on L.A. Law

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Steven Bochco on Universal Television's approach to the NBC Mystery Movie "wheel" concept
People

Corbin Bernsen

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Steven Bochco on casting Corbin Bernsen as Arnie Becker on L.A. Law

Amy Brenneman

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Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue actress Amy Brenneman and the writing out of her character, "Officer Janice Licalsi"

Dan Burke

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Steven Bochco on ABC Cap Cities issues with NYPD Blue's pushing-the-envelope

Robert Butler

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Steven Bochco on director Robert Butler's work and vision on the pilot and first episodes of Hill Street Blues

Stephen J. Cannell

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Steven Bochco on working with Stephen Cannell on Richie Brockelman, Private Eye

David Caruso

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Steven Bochco on casting David Caruso on NYPD Blue and Caruso's eventual leaving of the series

Gordon Clapp

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Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue actor Gordon Clapp

Bill Clark

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Steven Bochco on ex-cop/consultant Bill Clark's work on NYPD Blue

Michael Conrad

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Steven Bochco on how elements of Michael Conrad's character on Delvecchio were used in Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on Michael Conrad's terminal illness and how his death was handled on Hill Street Blues

Bing Crosby

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Steven Bochco on how Bing Crosby was the original choice to play Columbo [briefly]

Larry Drake

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Steven Bochco on casting Larry Drake as Benny Stulwicz on L.A. Law and making his character a regular

Richard Dysart

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Steven Bochco on casting Richard Dysart against type as Leland McKenzie on L.A. Law

Stuart Erwin

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Steven Bochco on Stu Erwin's hiring him at MTM Enterprises

Terry Louise FIsher

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Steven Bochco on developing L.A. Law with Terry Louise Fisher [briefly]
Steven Bochco on L.A. Law co-creator Terry Louise Fisher and their eventual falling-out

Peter Falk

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Steven Bochco on working with the eccentric star Peter Falk on Columbo

Dennis Franz

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Steven Bochco on he and David Milch casting Dennis Franz for NYPD Blue even before a script was written
Steven Bochco on what Dennis Franz meant to NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on Dennis Franz's portrayal of Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue

Mark-Paul Gosselaar

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Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar

Lorne Greene

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Steven Bochco on producing Greene's series, Griff

Charles Haid

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Steven Bochco on casting (as a one-episode guest shot) Charles Haid as Officer Andy Renko on the Hill Street Blues pilot, which became a regular role for Haid

Veronica Hamel

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Steven Bochco on casting Veronica Hamel as Joyce Davenport on Hill Street Blues

Harry Hamlin

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Steven Bochco on casting Harry Hamlin in L.A. Law

Neil Patrick Harris

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Steven Bochco on creating Doogie Howser, M.D. and how the network did not want Neil Patrick Harris in the title role
Steven Bochco on casting Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser

Gregory Hoblit

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Steven Bochco on hiring Gregory Hoblit on Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on director Gregory Hoblit's opening sequence shot in Chicago for Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on director Gregory Hoblit's camera style on NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on director Gregory Hoblit's style for NYPD Blue

Bob Iger

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Steven Bochco on negotiating with ABC's Bob Iger on the boundaries of nudity on NYPD Blue

Dick Irving

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Steven Bochco on Universal director Dick Irving's promise not to yell if Bochco agreed to produce

James Earl Jones

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Steven Bochco on working with James Earl Jones on Paris

David E. Kelley

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Steven Bochco on hiring David E. Kelley as a story editor for L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on how he felt the quality of L.A. Law diminished after David E. Kelley left the series [briefly]

Michael Kozoll

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Steven Bochco on working with co-creator Michael Kozoll in the creation of Hill Street Blues

Richard Levinson

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Steven Bochco on working with creators/producers Richard (Dick) Levinson and William (Bill) Link on Columbo

William Link

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Steven Bochco on working with creators/producers Richard (Dick) Levinson and William (Bill) Link on Columbo

James McDaniel

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Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue actor James McDaniel, who played "Lt. Fancy"

David Milch

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Steven Bochco on David Milch's trying to convince him not to hire David Caruso for NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on creating NYPD Blue with David Milch
Steven Bochco on "Milch-speak" and working with David Milch on NYPD Blue
Steven Bochco on David Milch's writing on race relationships on NYPD Blue as being the best in TV history

Leslie Moonves

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Steven Bochco on CBS' Les Moonves buying and quickly canceling the series Public Morals

Randy Newman

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Steven Bochco on Cop Rock, where Randy Newman composed many of the series' songs

William S. Paley

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Steven Bochco on being offered the presidency of CBS and meeting with William Paley in the late-1980s

Mike Post

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Steven Bochco on the genesis of Mike Post's theme song for Hill Street Blues
Steven Bochco on Cop Rock, where Mike Post supervised the music
Steven Bochco on the musical contributions of Mike Post to his shows

Frank Price

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Steven Bochco on Frank Price hiring him for Ironside, and their later working difficulties

Howard Rodman

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Steven Bochco on rewriting Howard Rodman's pilot script for The Six Million Dollar Man

William Sackheim

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Steven Bochco on working on Delvecchio scripts with Bill Sackheim
Steven Bochco on Bill Sackheim's advice to him about being a producer
Steven Bochco on William Sackheim's influence on his work

Rick Schroder

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Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue actor Rick Schroder

David Schwimmer

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Steven Bochco on David Schwimmer's pre-Friends appearance on the pilot of NYPD Blue

Fred Silverman

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Steven Bochco on Fred Silverman providing the genesis for Hill Street Blues [briefly]
Steven Bochco on NBC president Fred Silverman's prediction that Hill Street Blues would be a hit

Jimmy Smits

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Steven Bochco on casting Jimmy Smits as Victor Sifuentes in L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue actor Jimmy Smits

Steven Spielberg

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Steven Bochco on befriending Steven Spielberg early in both of their careers [briefly]

Sherry Stringfield

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Steven Bochco on NYPD Blue's Sherry Stringfield and his dismay at the way she left the series

Brandon Tartikoff

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Steven Bochco on working with Brandon Tartikoff during the development of L.A. Law
Steven Bochco on Brandon Tartikoff's role in greenlighting L.A. Law

Grant Tinker

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Steven Bochco on Grant Tinker's management style at MTM Enterprises
Steven Bochco on how MTM Enterprises changed after Grant TInker moved to NBC
Steven Bochco on NBC head Grant Tinker's role in the development of L.A. Law

Laurence A. Tisch

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Steven Bochco on being offered the presidency of CBS and Larry Tisch's presence at his meeting with William Paley

Daniel J. Travanti

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Steven Bochco on the casting of Daniel J. Travanti as Frank Furillo on Hill Street Blues

Blair Underwood

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Steven Bochco on casting Blair Underwood as Jonathan Rollins on L.A. Law

Bruce Weitz

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Steven Bochco on Bruce Weitz's wild audition for the role of Sgt. Mick Belker on Hill Street Blues

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