On a sunny weekend afternoon, the Fox lot was quiet except for the group that gathered to dedicate Building 1 to the writer-producer-showrunner who occupied it for the last few decades: Steven Bochco. The building now bears his name and a plaque with his distinct signature, which was also used as his production card on his television shows.
Gary Newman, chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group, spoke at the dedication, acknowledging the presence of cast members from “NYPD Blue,” “L.A. Law” and “Doogie Howser, M.D.” including Jimmy Smits, Dennis Franz, Kim Delaney, Jill Eikenberry, Michael Tucker, Gordon Clapp, James B. Sikking, Susan Ruttan and James McDaniel. Looking around those gathered, Newman noted, “Steven always cast the best of the best.”
Newman said the decision to rename the building was made swiftly and with the full agreement of the studio bosses. He pointed out, “As long as I’ve been on this lot, about 28 years, it’s the only name this building has ever been known by and it’s a point of pride for the writers who have their office in it. It’s as if Steven himself had selected them to be residents of it.”
Commenting on his own personal interactions with Bochco, Newman recalled, “He was such a giant, so brilliant. Over the years, I discovered him to be warm, funny and friendly.” Another fond memory Newman shared: “At the time of my early days at Fox, the commissary was a place where producers and executives often gathered for lunch. It wasn’t unusual to see the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller, Joe Roth, Harris Katleman, and Jon Dolgen, all sitting at their respective tables holding court. But no one held court like Steven. It wasn’t unusual to see him and Dana and four or five of his writers at a table meant for four and there was always so much laughter — it was just the table you wanted to be at.”
Bochco’s impact and influence on the crafting of one hour dramas affected the industry when his shows first aired and is felt to this day. Newman paid tribute to Bochco saying, “Steven’s first masterpiece, ‘Hill Street Blues,’ with a brilliant ensemble cast, its multiple storylines, serialized character development and bold themes, advanced dramatic storytelling light years ahead…It is no exaggeration to say it was Steven’s series that blazed the way for the renaissance of television drama that is still flourishing nearly 40 years later.”
“L.A. Law” alumnus Jimmy Smits shared, “Everything I am as an actor and artist, in terms of my understanding of what ensemble means, came from Steven as a coach. He brought people together and nurtured them. Steven was such a super writer and creator, so many people walk around in this business stand on his shoulders. I was spoiled by Steven Bochco.”
Jill Eikenberry, another “L.A. Law” alumnus, has often lauded Bochco for supporting her as she battled cancer while shooting the hit drama. Eikenberry also admired Bochco’s skill at writing female characters, “He loved strong women. He was really interested in strong women and believed they deserved their day in court, so to speak. He wasn’t afraid of strong women. He made me stronger while I was battling cancer. I became stronger while I played Ann Kelsey.”
After thanking Bochco’s family for sharing him with the studio, Newman closed the ceremony by reading from the new plaque on the building: “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. He leaves behind a lasting legacy of quality series, many of which were created in this very building and filmed on this studio lot. He will always be remembered for his storytelling, his humanity, his humor and perhaps for one of the greatest catchphrases in television history. As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would say when he finished roll call with his officers, ‘Let’s be careful out there.’ Great advice to this day.”
After the building dedication, an invitation-only memorial service was held at Fox’s Zanuck Theatre.