'NYPD Blue,' 'L.A. Law' Casts Come Out to Honor Steven Bochco

Steven Bochco Tribute - Getty - H 2018
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On a beautiful sunny Southern California spring day, the Steven Bochco players gathered to see the TV legend, who died April 1, honored on the 21st Century Fox studio lot. And oh, what a reunion it was: In one corner, NYPD Blue alumni Jimmy Smits, Dennis Franz and Mark-Paul Gosselaar huddled together; in another stood an L.A. Law foursome of Corbin Bernsen, Susan Ruttan, Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry; and across the room was Doogie Howser’s parents (James Sikking and Belinda Montgomery) and his boss Dr. Canfield (Lawrence Pressman).

Sprinkled in the crowd were Kim Delaney, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel and other actors. Former writers, including David Milch and Bill Clark, and Bochco’s widow and children were also in attendance. Acting as master of ceremony for the event was Fox Television Group co-chairmen and CEOs Gary Newman and Dana Walden.

Before the ceremony, Gosselaar recalled to The Hollywood Reporter the unusual way he got his role on NYPD Blue. He auditioned for a role on Bochco’s other show, the Kim Delaney-starrer Philly, and when the audition was over, Bochco told him he was a great actor, wished him well on pilot season and said that he hoped they could work together some day. Gosselaar said it felt like a typical polite Hollywood brush-off, but two weeks later, Bochco called to offer him the role on NYPD Blue. At first, he thought it was a joke (“Didn’t he realize that Rick Schroeder, who I was replacing, was also a former child star?,” laughed the actor who rose to fame as Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell), but Bochco told him he was perfect for the role he had in mind and convinced him to take it.

Smits got choked up telling THR about how Bochco created the company’s end credits logo, which featured Bochco’s father playing violin, by using then cutting-edge technology to turn a few pictures into a brief moving image as a way of honoring his old man. And Clapp, who played Detective Greg Medavoy, laughed about how he knew he had made it on NYPD Blue when Bochco offered him his first nude butt shot. “I’m going to give you a May-December romance,” Bochco told him, “and you’re going to be May” (i.e. the younger half of the couple). The episode was scheduled to air after the 2004 Super Bowl, but that was the year of the Janet Jackson "nipplegate" halftime incident and ABC cut Clapp's butt shot because of the controversy.

NYPD homicide detective turned NYPD Blue writer/producer Clark waxed on about how Bochco changed his life, from promoting him from technical advisor to writer and producer to lending him a house to stay in when he first arrived in Los Angeles. (Bochco told Clark he bought the house for his daughter but she thought it was too far away in Malibu, so it was empty. He offered it to Clark “really cheap” and said, “Once you see it, you’re going to buy it.” And true to his prediction, Clark ended up buying the house.)

Jesse Bochco told THR that to see how his father “touched a lot of lives” was “both moving and inspiring” as both a son and a person in the business (Jesse is a director/producer). “The opportunity to come celebrate that with them, with our family, is really nice,” he said.

Building No. 1, Fox’s original executive building and where Bochco had his offices for many years, was renamed the Steven Bochco Building, complete with two plaques — one reproducing the stylish signature he used as a logo and another listing his achievements.

Speaking for himself and Walden, Newman dedicated the building by noting it was ironic that it was officially being renamed the Bochco Building because in his 28 years at the studio, it had always been informally known by that name and a building that writers took pride in being assigned to “as if Steven himself had somehow selected them to be a resident of the building.” Newman praised Bochco’s contributions to the business, including how Hill Street Blues “advanced dramatic storytelling light years” and “blazed the way” for the current golden age of television.

Newman closed by reciting the plaque that now is attached to the front of the building, as fitting a tribute as any to one of the most important creators in television history:

“Steven Bochco, 1943-2018, was a 10-time Emmy Award-winning television creator and producer of long running and celebrated hits, including Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D. and NYPD Blue. He was a pioneer, whose series helped usher in the contemporary golden age of television, and many credit Hill Street Blues as the godparent of modern dramatic storytelling. His innovations include setting new standards of realism, weaving together deeply personal stories across wide swaths of characters and pushing the boundaries of television content and serialization. He leaves behind a lasting legacy of quality series, many of which were created in this very building and filmed on this studio lot."