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Series / Hill Street Blues

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Featuring a cast big enough to fill three shows.

"Hey, let's be careful out there!"
Sgt. Phil Esterhaus at roll call every morning, every day.

Hill Street Blues is a serial police drama that was first aired on NBC and ran for 146 episodes from 1981-1987. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a police precinct in an unnamed American city (which uses Chicago exteriors in some opening theme shots), the show received high critical acclaim and its innovations proved highly influential on serious dramatic television series produced in North America. Its debut season was honored with eight Emmy awards, a debut season record surpassed only by The West Wing, and the show won a total of 26 Emmy Awards (out of 98 total Emmy Award nominations) during its run, including Outstanding Drama Series for four years in a row.

The series was unique at the time for being the first to bring together several ideas in TV drama:

  • Each episode features a number of intertwined storylines, some of which are resolved within the episode, while others carry over multiple episodes during a season.
  • The conflict between work life and home life is explored, as well as the conflict between doing what is right and doing what works.
  • Many camera techniques, such as tight closeups, use of offscreen dialogue, rapid cuts between stories, and use of handheld cameras rather than floor cameras, give the series a "documentary" feel.
  • Almost every episode starts with "roll call", and many episodes are written to take place over the course of a single day (a technique later used by such shows as L.A. Law and ER).

Currently (2022) the complete series is available on DVD (region 1) as well as streaming on Hulu.

Now has a character sheet in progress.

This series contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Detective LaRue and Captain Furillo are both in recovery. Furillo's struggles and subsequent lapse are the focus of one arc.
  • Alliterative Name: Frank (and Fay) Furillo, Grace Gardner, Howard Hunter and Sid the Snitch.
  • Always Murder: Conspicuously averted, at least by modern standards. Many episodes don't have a single homicide, and when they occur they are often unintentional or fights that get out of hand. Premeditated murder is quite rare, and when it does happen it usually kicks off a multi-episode story arc. Doubly so if a police officer gets killed.
  • Amicable Exes: In the beginning of the series Frank Furillo's ex-wife, Fay, absolutely despises Frank and loudly berates him in front of everyone. This gradually shifts towards first mutual civility and then friendship, especially after Frank steps up when Fay becomes pregnant and the father abandons her. In the later seasons they are good friends and keep in frequent contact. This is partly due to her having custody of their son, but Fay also asks Frank for help in other matters, and also works with him in her capacity as a counselor for crime victims. Even Frank's new girlfriend, Joyce, is on friendly terms with Fay.
  • And Starring: Charles Haid received the implied "With" billingnote  while Veronica Hamel received the "And" billing as Joyce Davenport.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Hey, Let's be careful out there!" —Sgt. Phil Esterhaus and Sgt. Lucy Bates
    • "Let's do it to them before they do it to us." - Sgt. Jablonski
  • Artistic License Law Enforcement: In one episode, Lt. Goldblume (who is a genuinely Nice Guy) reveals that he never even used to load his service pistol while on the job. With that kind of behavior, it's a miracle he ever made it to Lieutenant. If there was ever a crisis and his fellow officers found out he was backing them up with an unloaded pistol, it would have been his last day on the job. Even Furillo's reaction is flimsy; it's implied he goes ballistic, but he doesn't report Goldblume and there is no disciplinary action or any further repercussions.
  • Blackmail: Captain Furillo occasionally gains enough leverage to blackmail the Chief of Police into major concessions. Fittingly for his character, Furillo never tries to personally gain from these instances and only seeks to make sure his officers and his precinct are properly looked after.
  • Buddy Cop Show: Though not a Buddy Cop Show in the traditional sense, the series features several more or less permanent pairings: Hill & Renko, Bates & Coffey, La Rue & Washington, Flaherty & Russo.
  • Buffet Buffoonery: A restaurant owner calls the officers when a man sits down right in front of the salad bar, eats directly from it, and and refuses to leave until he has 'eaten all he can' (the restaurant did have an "all you can eat" offer).
  • Bungled Suicide: Howard Hunter, though it is more of a sabotaged suicide; La Rue apparently figures out what he is planning and replaces his service revolver's ammunition with blanks.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite their many eccentricities and human flaws, the officers of the Hill Street Station are competent and dedicated police officers.
    • Belker, with his somewhat unconventional methods of anger management. Underneath his hard edge he's a good cop and fundamentally decent person.
    • Lt. Hunter. His rather academic and philosophical way of approaching life, coupled with a survivalist right-wing ideology, makes him seem a bit awkward and disconnected from reality at times.
    • Judge Wachtel, who appears in the courtroom wearing a dress, on the advice of his psychiatrist. He's otherwise presented as a Wholesome Crossdresser, but crossdressing in the courtroom caused a few raised eyebrows.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Henry Goldblume, whose desire to help and always see the good in people often get him into trouble.
    • Howard Hunter, who is socially awkward and often seems a bit out of touch with reality.
    • Fay Furillo, who seems to be a real accident magnet. Basically everything that can go wrong in her life does.
    • Andrew Renko also often seems to attract misfortune.
    • J.D.LaRue, although he really is his own worst enemy.
  • But We Used a Condom!: The failure leads to Renko's "shotgun" wedding.
    Renko: But we took every conceivable precaution!
    Hill: Conceiveable is right.
  • By-the-Book Cop:
    • Captain Furillo is very conscientious about following all regulations and ethical guidelines to the letter, and expects his subordinates to do the same. This is despite, or perhaps because of, the precinct being in a high-crime area where the police is almost expected to be corrupt, and too many examples of dirty officers and corrupt management in the police force, including occasional corruption from Furillo's own superior, Chief Fletcher Daniels.
    • Deconstructed in the second episode of season 3, where Furillo sits on a discipline board tasked with judging another precinct captain (and personal friend of Furillo's) for neglecting to supervise his subordinates and put a stop to alleged corruption in his precinct. Furillo argues passionately for holding the captain responsible, since without responsibility the authority of all captains would be eroded. After being found guilty, the captain commits suicide. Furillo is shaken by the consequences of his moral conviction.
  • Catchphrase:
    Esterhaus: "Let's be careful out there."
    Jablonski: "Let's do it to them before they do it to us."
    Hunter: "Judas Priest, Frank!"
    • Belker's colorful terms for suspects: "dirtbag" and "hairball."
    • Davenport's nickname for Furillo: "Pizza-Man." "He delivers."
  • Character Death:
    • Many, many characters are killed off, including Officer Joe Coffey, Officer Virgil Brooks, Gina Srignoli, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, Detective Harry Garibaldi, and saddest of all, Captain Freedom
    • Subverted at the beginning of the series: Hill and Renko were originally killed off in the pilot episode, but were brought back soon afterwards, with the explanation that they were wounded and hospitalized.
  • Cheek Copy: J. D. photocopies his naked butt in a Season 7 episode.
  • Christmas Episode: "Santaclaustrophobia"
  • City with No Name: The identity of the city where the show takes place is never revealed. It's clearly somewhere in the American northeast — draw a triangle with Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Chicago as the points, and it's probably somewhere in there. (It's also clearly not meant to be ANY of these cities specifically, but rather its own separate city, with its own history and geography.) Some exterior shots, including the outside of the police station, were filmed in Chicago.
  • Cop Show: The show mostly averts the then-common Cop Show stereotypes in that it tries to depict police work in a realistic, gritty way, and not as especially glamorous or heroic.
  • Crapsack World: The cops of the Hill Street precinct fight the good fight, but it's at best a holding action against the insurmountable problems of the inner city and the corrupt politics of whatever nondescript city it is set in.
  • Destroying a Punching Bag: In one episode, Detective Belker (a bit of an Axe-Crazy loose cannon) destroys a punching bag in the workout room by biting it.
  • Dirty Business: Many instances, including the memorable "Trial By Fury"
  • Dirty Cop: The unnamed city's Police Department has a huge corruption problem. Nearly every single Season has one or more episodes that show serious instances of corrupt cops; most notably:
    • In Season 1 there is Sergeant Ralph Macafee, who sets JD La Rue up to be arrested in his place;
    • In Season 2 Hill Street is involved by Chief Daniels in the investigation of a corruption ring in South Ferry Precinct;
    • In Season 3 Captain Furillo is a member of a Board of Rights that disciplines another Police Captain for having failed to control corruption in his Precinct. This triggers an investigation which leads to the arrest of two patrolmen of his District who sell stolen goods. Later on he has also to deal with the murder of an undercover cop, Detective Mizell, and Chief Daniels's attempts to cover up the fact that he was corrupt for political expediency and Detective Sal Benedetto, who is stealing drugs from the Property Office and reselling them;
    • In Season 4 Furillo, Calletano, La Rue, and Washington investigate a corruption ring in Midtown Precinct led by Detective Tony Marino;
    • In Season 5 there are Joe Keenan, the head of the Narcotics Squad, and Detective Phil Dugan of Hill Street;
    • Finally, in Season 6 Furillo is placed in charge of a special commission to investigate police corruption.
  • Dirty Harriet: In the season 5 episode "Davenport in a Storm", a number of female officers and detectives pose as streetwalkers to catch a serial killer targeting prostitutes. This is not played for fanservice (it's winter and even the street walkers wear covering clothes) but it is emphasized that the operation is dangerous; in fact, det. Patsy Mayo asks to ride as backup rather than pose as a prostitute because of the risk.
  • Don't Tell Mama: When the minor crook that Belker is constantly booking dies in an unrelated gunfight, he finally tells Belker his real name so Belker can at least let his mother know about his death. When Belker talks to her, he tells her about what a fine citizen her son had been.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: In one episode, poor Renko is singled out by an investigative reporter who lets her TV time follow him around and film every coffee-and-donut break he takes. Due to the personal stress he's going thorough at the time, they get quite a lot of footage.
  • Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us: Used almost verbatim by Sgt. Jablonski every time he dismisses the day watch after roll call: "Let's do it to them before they do it to us." After being challenged by detective Mayo about what he really means, he clarifies that he wants officers to be alert and proactive, not to cross the line and deal out vigilante justice.
    Sgt. Jablonski: When I say that, I mean 'do your job before the bad guys do theirs.'
  • Fan Disservice: The elderly, slightly crazy homeless man called "Buck Naked" likes to get naked in public, even inside a crowded holding cell. He is only shown from behind or from the waist up, but from the looks of the people getting the full picture it is not a pretty sight.
  • Fanservice: Quite mild compared to newer cop shows, and especially in contrast to its Spiritual Successor NYPD Blue.
    • The numerous bedroom scenes with Frank and Joyce is a mild case, where Joyce is shown in (covering) nightwear and Frank is sometimes shirtless but wearing pajama pants.
    • As a somewhat downplayed background phenomenon, there is a constant stream of scantily-clad streetwalkers passing through the station, waiting to be processed, or hanging around on street corners. The camera sometimes focuses on them for a few moments, and then moves on.
  • Father to His Men: Furillo will do everything he can to look out for the officers of his precinct, including blackmailing the Chief of Police to make sure a psychologically disabled officer can retire with a full pension plus disability benefits.
  • Final Speech: Poor Captain Freedom...
  • From the Ashes: Was followed by a short-lived spinoff called Beverly Hills Buntz which followed Det. Norman Buntz and Sid the Snitch as private investigators in Beverly Hills, California.
  • Gang of Hats: Several of the gangs seen in the show are formed along racial lines and wear easily identifiable colors. The leader of the Irish gang even carries a shillelagh.
  • Generic Cop Badges: Cops use "METRO POLICE" on shoulder patches and the logos on the Department's vehicles. The story goes that the network approached the Chicago Police Department for permission to use their badge and uniform colours, but the CPD was still embarrassed and annoyed about their less-than-flattering depiction the last time they let someone do that. As a result, the show ended up being set in a city that is obviously meant to be Chicago but never named on-screen.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: In "The World According to Freedom," Furillo enlists the help of the street gangs to find the perpetrators of a gruesome night club murder.
  • Goofy Suit:
    • Belker works undercover wearing a chicken suit in two episodes. He even makes an arrest wearing it.
    • In one episode, the entire precinct dresses up as Santa Claus and his elves and reindeer to deliver Christmas presents to the children's hospital. On the way home, they get involved in a high-speed pursuit with armed robbery suspects. Renko laments "I'm gonna get killed in a moose suit!"
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Hunter's suicide attempt is foiled because his bullets had been swapped with blanks and he suffers only minor burns. Blanks actually produce enough pressure to kill at close ranges, especially when a muzzle is pressed up against a skull.
  • Heat Wave: Episodes 2-3 of season 3, and several other episodes of other seasons, deal with the problems caused by high summer temperatures, which cause domestic violence to flare and stress the tempers of criminals, ordinary citizens as well as the police officers (neither the police cars nor the station house are air conditioned).
  • Heroic Wannabe: Captain Freedom! (POW! ZAP!) When he walks down the street, buildings shake and bad guys wet their pants! Ten tons of nitro in one fist, and an atomic bomb in the other!
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Hill and Renko. Not only are they inseparable at work, they keep bickering like an old married couple.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Lieutenant Hunter and a friend are buried in a building collapse and are not found until several days later, the friend having died in the mean time. An autopsy reveals that the friend's body has human bite marks, which leads to Captain Furillo asking Hunter if he ate his friend. Hunter frankly admits to it, saying that he and his friend had made a pact that if they were ever in a desperate enough situation and one of them died, the survivor should use the deceased for sustenance. Furillo orders Hunter to never say a word about it and presumably proceeds to make sure word of it never gets out because having to deal with the frenzy over one of his officers being a cannibal is the last thing he needs to deal with.
    • A one-shot character who would eat things for money had once eaten part of his finger and now won't do that.
    • Belker has a reputation for biting people and sometimes severing extremities in the process. He doesn't actually eat anything he bites off, however.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: One episode has a rookie police officer shoot an armed suspect in an alley. When his veteran partner asks where the suspect's gun is, the rookie can't locate it. Not wanting his young partner to get railroaded by Internal Affairs, the senior officer produces a second firearm, puts the suspect's fingerprints on it, then announces that he "found" the perp's weapon.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Composed by Mike Post. It was released as a single and hit #10 on the Billboard chart in 1981.
  • Internal Affairs: In one episode, an IA officer is sent to work undercover in the Hill Street station. The cops uncover her identity and are severely annoyed.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • LaRue is snarky, quite a bit of a lech, tends to put himself before others, and sometimes subjects his colleagues to mean practical jokes. But he's capable of great selflessness on his best day.
    • Hunter is very much the shoot-first-and-ask-question-later type of cop, as well as a condescending bigot. His lack of social skills can also make him appear insenitive. On the other hand, he is very loyal to his colleagues and capable of demonstrating surprising warmth.
    • Buntz is loud, aggressive, and boorish. But he sometimes demonstrates encouragement to others in a crisis.
  • Jitter Cam: Came into wide US use through this series.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Moving people to a "liaison office" with the Chief of Police seems to be a common practice for high-level police officers who have made some sort of screwup but can't be fired. When Capt. Furillo makes some public comments that the mayor doesn't like, the Chief moves Furillo to one. When Ray Calletano's precinct is almost to the point of police officers breaking out in a race riot, he is removed from command and is placed in a "Hispanic Liaison" position.
  • Lingerie Scene: The scenes from Joyce Davenport's and Frank Furillo's domestic life often show her in nightgowns or (not very revealing) lingerie.
  • Logo Joke: The MTM kitten sports a cop hat.
  • The Mad Hatter: Mick Belker. He deliberately exaggerates his native eccentricity to give perps the impression that he is a dangerous madman.
  • Man Bites Man: Mick Belker's go-to move in a fight; along with the growling it helps cement his mad-dog image.
    Furillo: (Noticing Belker growling and about to leap into a brawl) No biting!
    Belker: (Upset) You bite off one nose!
  • The Missus and the Ex: Fay Furillo (Frank's ex) and Joyce Davenport (his current girlfriend) start out as rivals but learn to respect each others and become friends.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • Belker's mother, who keeps calling him at work, often at very inconvenient times.
    • Fay Furillo to Frank Junior. The poor kid is gonna be in lifelong therapy, after being raised by a neurotic, overprotective, ditzy mother.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Det. Norman Buntz. Lt. Hunter has his moments as well.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The setting is never explicitly named, though it resembles Chicago more than anything else, and Chicago stock footage is used extensively.
    • Bobby Hill takes the Amtrak day train to St. Louis; something easily done if you live in Chicago.
    • The names of some of police precincts (Hill Street, South Ferry, Jefferson Heights) are taken from neighborhoods in Buffalo, and Steven Bochco modeled the Hill Street precinct on Pittsburgh's troubled Hill District.
    • Philadelphia City Hall is seen in several episodes.
    • The marked police cars' graphics resemble those of Chicago, and rumor at the time was that the Chicago PD did not allow the producers to use "CHICAGO POLICE" logos and graphics after the experience of The Blues Brothers.
    • In the beginning of Season 7, Episode 17, one of the police cars is driving past a sign indicating an approach to Interstate 90 and Interstate 94. Pittsburgh is in Allegheny County while Interstate 90 only runs in Erie County, approximately 150 miles apart, While Interstate 90 does run to Buffalo, Interstate 94 goes no further east than Michigan. The only major city where both Interstate 90 and Interstate 94 run is in Chicago.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Furillo bends the rules to carry a psychologically disabled officer on the station roster, even though the man is no longer able to function, so the poor guy can get enough time in service to retire with full pension. He finds himself hauled in front of a grand jury investigating corruption in the department and grilled about it.
  • No Name Given: Recurring characters Rico the Junkie and "Buck Naked" the flasher (though Buck Naked is the character's name according to the closing credits).
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Chief Fletcher P. Daniels, also arguably a Corrupt Bureaucrat with a touch of Magnificent Bastard
  • Oh, Crap!: There are a lot of these, usually several per episode, as things tend to go south or the shit hits the fan with alarming regularity. One of the most memorable is Belker's expression after a shootout with thieves, when he sees Captain Freedom (a mentally disturbed young man who believed he was a superhero and kept trying to fight street crime) lying on the ground mortally wounded. Captain Freedom's story arc stretched over nearly half a season, and Belker had spent the entire time trying desperately to get him to stop, while at the same time growing very fond of him.
  • Once an Episode: The Cold Opening morning roll call.
  • Only Sane Man: Captain Francis Xavier (Frank) Furillo. At least it seems that way at times.
  • Orgy of Evidence: A variant comes up during a long story arc about a particularly nasty robbery and homicide. Soon after making a public appeal for eyewitnesses and offering a significant reward, it seems like they've caught a big break: A cab driver claims to have been in the vicinity and gives a nearly perfect description of the suspects, including details that had been deliberately left out of the press release to help filter out anyone trying to pull a fast one... But Captain Furillo starts to get a bit suspicious after a while, because the guy's testimony is too perfect, going into such detail that the man would have to be Sherlock Holmes to pick it all up from a fleeting glimpse of two men running down a poorly-lit alleyway in the small hours. When he confronts his supposed star witness with these facts, the man cracks and admits he was lying, and got all his information from his girlfriend who works for the Police Department as a clerk.
  • Out with a Bang: Sgt. Esterhaus, who dies of a massive heart attack while making love with girlfriend Grace Gardner. (The 58-year-old Michael Conrad, in contrast, died of cancer.)
  • The Place: Hill Street is the name of the precinct where the show takes place.
  • Police Procedural: One of the first TV shows to attempt to give a realistic picture of police work, rather than a highly idealized version.
  • Rabid Cop: Mick Belker, who even barks and growls at times, and has been observed to bite people in brawls.
  • The Reveal:
    • One of the last scenes in the pilot reveals that Furillo and Davenport are lovers.
    • After getting into difficulties because of his drinking, J.D. La Rue is ordered by Captain Furillo to join AA as a condition of keeping his job. He goes to his first AA meeting and sees recovering alcoholic Captain Furillo there.
  • The Rustler: Despite being set in the heart of a major city, there was a one-episode subplot about someone rustling cattle. Only a single steer in this case, but nevertheless impressive in that he'd not only stolen it from a local kosher slaughterhouse but somehow smuggled it some distance across town and up several flights of stairs into his apartment without being caught until someone called in a noise complaint. The responding officers stop finding it funny when they realise they're now responsible for getting the damn thing out of the apartment and back to its rightful owners.
  • Salt and Pepper: Hill and Renko. Also LaRue and Washington.
  • Secret Relationship: Captain Frank Furillo and public defender Joyce Davenport. In the pilot episode she spends all day sparring with him. In one of the last scenes, she's seen in the bedroom, complaining to her paramour about how the police are Hill Street's "Nazi occupation force." Then comes The Reveal: her paramour is none other than Police Captain Furillo, the commander of Hill Street precinct! Over the course of the series, the relationship comes out into the open and they eventually marry.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
    • At roll call, Sgt. Esterhaus sounds more like an academic orator than a police sergeant, never letting one simple word suffice when he can demonstrate his vocabulary by using four obscure, polysyllabic ones instead, preferably of Latin or French origin. He's quite well-liked, though, and his distinctive grandly verbose roll call style is treated by the other officers as a beloved quirk that they look forward to hearing — and Esterhaus never fails to make his points clear.
    • Lt. Howard Hunter is likewise inclined to gratuitous verbosity. Unlike Esterhaus, his speaking style often causes the person he's talking with to either run out of patience, or completely miss the point he's trying to make.
  • Shared Universe: With NYPD Blue. The two shows share a minor character named Buck Naked.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Being set less than a decade after The Vietnam War, the show has quite a number of one-off characters to whom the war has not been at all kind, and two regular cast members are veterans themselves.
  • Shirtless Scene: Frank Furillo is often shirtless (but wearing pajama pants) in his bedroom scenes with Joyce.
  • Something Blues: The show's title follows this common pattern, but is also an allusion to "blues" as in "uniformed police officers".
  • Stalker with a Crush: Fay has a run-in with one in Season 1.
  • Story Arc: Hill Street Blues was the first U.S. drama series (other than a Soap Opera) to rely on this technique.
  • Straw Feminist: In-universe, Fay Furillo is obviously familiar with the trope and takes care to avert it: when she tells her ex-husband that she has joined a feminist group, she emphasizes that she is not going to burn her bra. Frank is visibly relieved.
  • Stuffed into a Trashcan: The show's first TV Guide advert featured Jack Davis style sketches of the cast sitting on the lid of a trash can with the hands and feet of criminals sticking out here and there.
  • Suicide by Cop: A Shell-Shocked Veteran holding hostages in a diner flat-out tells the hostage negotiator that's what he's trying to achieve. Despite everyone's best efforts, he gets his wish.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Michael Conrad dies early in Season 4, his Sgt. Esterhaus is replaced with Robert Prosky's Sgt. Jablonski (who even uses a similar catchphrase to close out the briefing at the top of each episode).
  • SWAT Team: Unusually for a Police Procedural, Emergency Action Team (the term used in the show's police force and derogatorily called "Eater" by everyone else) commander Lt. Howard Hunter is a regular cast member, and some of the team achieve Recurring Extra status.
  • The '80s: but in a poor part of town that is very far from the glitzy world of Miami Vice. Also, in the first few seasons it's the very early Eighties, and much of The '70s remains.
  • The Last DJ: Captain Furillo ruins his shot at promotion to Divisional Commander by dropping a well-connected City Official in the ordure for keeping a fifteen year-old hooker as a mistress. (It was the early Eighties.)
  • Tragic AIDS Story: During Season 3 Belker befriends Eddie Gregg, a gay prostitute who will eventually become one of his snitches. He returns in an episode of Season 6 to reveal that he has been diagnosed with AIDS.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: When detective LaRue is infatuated with a flirty high-school student, his partner tells him why he should stay away from her:
    Washington: Three words, JD: Statue. Tory. Rape.
  • Trash the Set: The station is hit by an offscreen fire in the Series Finale, but the building is only superficially damaged.
  • Vapor Wear
    • When attractive gangster widow Gina Srignoli is being fitted with a Hidden Wire (in the season five episode "Passage to Libya"), detective Mayo explains that the microphone will be attached to her bra.
    Gina: Well, we'd better get me a bra then.
    • Discussed at roll call one summer morning, when Sgt. Esterhaus mentions that the female officers' request to dispense with supportive undergarments (due to the heat wave) has been denied. This is met by boos and cat-calls from both female and male officers.
    • Subverted by Fay Furillo when she tells her ex-husband that she's joining a radical feminist group: she makes it clear that she's not going to burn her bra.
  • Vomiting Cop: Captain Furillo of all people comes pretty close when called to a crime scene at a church, where a nun disturbed two men stealing the communion cup and other decorative items and was sexually assaulted and then beaten so badly that she would die of her injuries the following day. Everyone at that scene is visibly shocked, but having been raised Catholic (even if he's not very observant about it as an adult) Frank has clearly been hit very Close to Home.
    Frank: "Get me out of here, Ray, I think I'm going to be sick." (Fade to Black)
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Jeffrey Tambor plays the cross-dressing lawyer, later judge, Wachtel, who was doing so on the advice of his psychiatrist "to resolve his feminine-identity issues". It works.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Officer Lucy Bates tells her partner, when they get a call of domestic abuse, how much she hates and despises wife beaters. It turns out that it is the woman who is assaulting her husband.