"There is no 'Sopranos' without 'Hill Street Blues,' " says Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert Thompson, who wrote a book tracing "Hill Street's" influence. "Matt Weiner ('Mad Men') and Vince Gilligan ('Breaking Bad') and David Chase ('The Sopranos') and all these people ought to wake up every morning and send a note to 'Hill Street Blues.' "
It wasn't a success that could have been predicted. When it premiered on NBC in January 1981, "Hill Street" was unlike anything else on American television.