August 11, 2014 5:53 PM EDT

The Prisoner and miniseries told serial stories before Hill Street, and The Fugitive hung a years-long chase on its otherwise self-contained episodes. But Steven Bochco’s cop drama popularized the serialized “story arcs” by proving that audiences would have the patience to stick with a story longer than 60 minutes. Hill Street proved that a TV show could make a virtue of messiness in plots that didn’t resolve neatly (or sometimes at all) and heroes who crossed ethical lines. Through conflicted captain Furillo, abrasive Buntz and biting-prone Belker, Hill Street showed us imperfect people delivering imperfect justice in an imperfect world, and did it to near perfection.

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