- Ear Worm: Mike Post's iconic instrumental theme. If you grew up in the 1980s, you will recognize the first few bars of this tune.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Dominique Dunne, daughter of writer Dominick Dunne and best known as the older daughter in Poltergeist, appeared on the show as a teenage mother and victim of parental abuse. Some of her bruises were real, having been inflicted by her violent boyfriend the night before. He murdered her shortly afterward.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: On this show, Jeffrey Tambor played a man trying to sort out his "feminine identity issues" through doctor-mandated cross-dressing. Tambor would later earn critical and popular acclaim through his role on Transparent, where he plays a transsexual woman coming to terms with her identity late in life.
- Memetic Mutation: "Let's be careful out there." Several other cop shows have paid homage to the line.
- Retroactive Recognition:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation actors Dwight Schultz, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Armin Shimmerman have small speaking parts in single episodes.
- Babylon 5 actor Peter Jurasik as "Sid the Snitch"
- CSI: Miami and NYPD Blue actor David Caruso as a gang leader.
- Andy García as a gang member
- Law & Order actor Chris Noth as a beat cop.
- Ally Sheedy as the Catholic school girl.
- Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul actor Jonathan Banks as Reggie, a murder suspect with multiple personalities.
- thirtysomething actor Ken Olin as Detective Harry Garibaldi.
- Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker as Ernest Green, a young man who was in prison for murder since childhood.
- Joaquin Phoenix as the son of a mentally ill man threatening to set fire to his family.
- Barbara Bosson (Fay Furillo), Jeffrey Tambor (Judge Wachtel), Marco Rodriguez (Rico the Junkie), and Dennis Franz (Benedetto/Buntz) went on to star in other Steven Bochco-produced series.
- Jesus Martinez would (mysteriously) show up on UHF's U62 lineup for Raul's Wild Kingdom. Tragically, his actor, Trinidad Silvia, was killed in a hit-and-run while filming his scenes.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: As groundbreaking as the show was in 1981, nowadays it can look downright quaint compared with the later shows it inspired (NYPD Blue, Homicide, The Wire).
- Sending Stuff to Save the Show: A success story.
- Values Dissonance: The first episode notoriously features the show putting the blame for a man molesting his stepdaughter on his new wife for not putting out. Similar '80s sexism pervades many other episodes.
YMMV / Hill Street Blues