Steven Bochco, a producer whose boundary-pushing series like “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue” helped define the modern TV drama, died Sunday after a battle with leukemia. He was 74.
Bochco died Sunday morning at home, surrounded by family, according to Phillip Arnold, Bochco’s personal assistant.
Bochco co-created several of TV’s most popular programs, while his large ensemble casts and ambitious storytelling set a benchmark beginning in the early 1980s that he refined and built upon for more than 30 years. Bochco also consciously set out to establish new, more permissive standards for broadcast television with “NYPD Blue,” meticulously negotiating what was acceptable in terms of language and nudity with then-ABC Entertainment chief (and now CEO of the Walt Disney Co.) Robert Iger, even drawing naked figures to help set the ground rules.
The producer was broadly known for taking creative risks, including the musical police drama “Cop Rock,” a rare failure during his heyday; and “Murder One,” which seemed to anticipate the current trend toward limited series. The show followed a single murder case over an entire season.
After his success at NBC with “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law,” Bochco negotiated a then-unprecedented 10-series deal with ABC, which yielded the aforementioned “NYPD Blue” (a long-running hit) and “Cop Rock,” as well as “Doogie Houser M.D.”
Once asked how he could be so bold about taking chances with the shows he developed, Bochco responded, “With my deal, how could I not?”
The recipient of virtually every imaginable industry award over his prestigious career, Bochco was nominated for an Emmy 30 times in his capacities as producer and writer, winning 10.