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Pioneering producer Steven Bochco back with ‘Murder In the First’
Television » The legendary producer updates an old idea into a new series.
First Published Jun 06 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 09 2014 02:44 pm

Steven Bochco is a TV legend.

Once upon a time, he was one of the most powerful producers in the business. He created and produced show after show, including "NYPD Blue," "Hill Street Blues, "L.A. Law" and "Doogie Hoswer, M.D." He has 10 Emmys.

At a glance

On TV

“Murder in the First” premieres Monday, June 9, at 8 and 10 p.m. on TNT.

Mormon connection

There’s a somewhat out-of-the-blue Mormon reference in Episode 3 of “Murder in the First.”

Detectives Terry English (Taye Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) are questioning a co-worker of a murder victim when he makes this comment:

“I can’t believe she’s gone,” says the co-worker, Stan Shaw (Sam Daly). “Thankfully, she’ll live again through resurrection.”

English looks a bit startled at that unsolicited comment.

“I’m an elder in the LDS Church,” Stan says.

“Oh. Right. Mormons,” says English.

“It doesn’t make me a prude,” Stan says. “OK, maybe it does.”

Later, we learn that the witness’s co-workers referred to him as “Saint Stan.”

The episode is scheduled to air on Monday, June 23.

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Even his failures were big news — anyone who saw "Cop Rock" back in 1990 will never forget that crime drama/musical.

But he hasn’t worked a whole lot lately. His last credit was five years ago — the short-lived legal drama "Raising the Bar." And he hasn’t had a real hit since "NYPD Blue" left the air in 1998.

This is a man widely credited with changing the face of prime-time television. There were a lot of cop dramas before "Hill Street Blues," but that show’s characters were more complicated than what viewers were accustomed to seeing. And Bochco pushed the boundaries of language, nudity and adult content in "NYPD Blue."

Bochco said he never became disillusioned with the television business.

"No. I’m just old. So, you know, I’m hanging around," he said, with a laugh. "Fortunately, my friend [TNT president Michael] Wright rescued me from obscurity. The business changes. And I’m only half kidding when I say I’m older, and I don’t actually have the drive to work the way I used to work. So working with these people in this kind of an environment really suits me very well."

Bochco is back with a new series that really is an update of an old series. TNT’s "Murder in the First" follows one case through a season — which is what Bochco did without great success in "Murder One" for two seasons (1995-97).

Don’t for a moment think that "Murder in the First" is cribbing from a show like HBO’s "True Detectives." If anything, "True Detectives" cribbed from "Murder One."

"Murder in the First" is an entirely different cast in a different city — in this case, San Francisco. And Bochco said he thinks the format works better with 10 episodes than it did with 23 first-season and 18-second season episodes of "Murder One."


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Midway through Season 1 of the earlier show, "I didn’t know how it was going to end, which was a little intense," he said, "and you do get to the point where, over that many episodes, you are really struggling to make every hour sustain itself in the service of a single story line."

A 10-episode season "seems to me to be an ideal length for this format. It really eliminates the necessity of filler. You can really serve the story, serve the characters, and it also gives us much more time to think about what we are doing and to craft our script."

"Murder in the First" centers on SFPD detectives Terry English (Taye Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson). His wife is dying of cancer; she’s dealing with a difficult divorce.

The cast includes Mimi Kirkland, Ian Anthony Dale, Raphael Sbarge, Lombardo Boyar, Bess Rous, Richard Schiff and Steven Weber as Bill Wilkerson.

English and Mulligan are working two seemingly unrelated murder cases that turn out to have something in common — computer whiz/Silcon Valley magnate Erich Blunt (Tom Felton, "Harry Potter").

Felton acknowledges that like his "Harry Potter" character, Draco Malfoy, Erich Blunt is a rich, entitled brat.

"Personally, I think that’s where the similarities end, really, between Draco and Erich," he said, pointing out that the former is "a wizard" and the latter is "a tech genius," making them "very separate entities."

"Murder in the First" is very much in Bochco’s wheelhouse. It looks and feels like a lot of his previous shows.

"I instantly sparked to it because it’s a comfortable arena for me and it’s the kind of storytelling I like to do and I’m always challenged by," Bochco said. "It’s a cop show, it’s a legal drama, and then it’s a courtroom drama."

As has been the case throughout his career, Bochco teamed with another writer — in this case Eric Lodal — to create, write and produce "Murder in the First."

"What Steven and I tried to do when we sat down and came up with the characters for this concept was to really think about our own life experiences and the experiences that we had shared with some of the cops that we did research with," said Lodal.

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