Barbara Bosson, who was nominated for five consecutive Emmys for her role on Hill Street Blues, died February 18 at 83.
Her death was announced by her director son, Jesse Bochco, on social media.
She is best known as starring as Fay Furillo during the first six seasons of NBC’s Hill Street Blues, which was created by her then-husband, Steven Bochco. Bosson was also Emmy nominated for her role as prosecutor Miriam Grasso on ABC’s Murder One.
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“More spirit and zest than you could shake a stick at. When she loved you, you felt it without a doubt. If she didn’t, you may well have also known that too. Forever in our hearts. I love you Mama,” wrote Jesse Bochco.
Bosson got her start in Steve McQueen film Bullitt and CBS detective series Mannix before becoming one of the stars of NBC’s Richie Brockelan, Private Eye. She also starred in Cop Rock and her last roles were in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, ABC’s Total Security and TV movie Scattering Dad.
But she is best remembered for her Hill Street Blues role as the needy ex-wife of Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) on Hill Street Blues, which aired on NBC from 1981-87.
Although the series, created by Steven Bochco-Michael Kozoll, never was a big hit — ranking only 27th among primetime series in its first season and never breaking the Top 20 in a three-network universe — the show would go on to become a major success. Its influence was undeniable as critics swooned and the series amassed 26 Emmys and dozens more nominations during its run.
Hill Street Blues was the first show to win four consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series, from 1981-84. Since then, The West Wing and Mad Men have matched that feat.
Bosson remained on the series from 1981-86, earning Supporting Actress Emmy noms every year from 1981-85. Her character had a baby in Season 4 and later became romantically involved with Henry Goldblume (Joe Spano).
Turning older cop dramas on their head, its hybrid procedural/serial format focused more on the characters and their interactions — and police department politics — than the crimes they investigated. It influenced such acclaimed ensuing series as Homicide: Life on the Street and NYPD Blue and continues to resonate today.
After leaving Hill Street, Bosson also made guest appearances on several series including LA Law, Crazy Like a Fox and Murder, She Wrote before landing her next series-regular gig. She was cast opposite John Ritter’s title character in Hooperman, a Bochco-created crime dramedy that aired 42 episodes over two seasons on ABC.
After that, Bosson was among the leads in yet another Bochco-created police story. This time it was ABC’s Cop Rock, the hybrid musical drama that mostly was maligned by critics and didn’t draw a big audience. It lasted 11 episodes in 1990.
In 1995, Bosson was cast in the series-regular role of Assistant DA Miriam Grasso on Murder One, an ABC drama series that lasted two seasons. She earned a sixth career Emmy nomination for the supporting role, which she reprised for the 1997 ABC miniseries Murder One: Diary of a Serial Killer..
Bosson also guested on episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Lois & Clark, Bochco’s NYPD Blue and other shows.
Born on November 1, 1939 in Charleroi, PA, Bosson got her start writing for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 1960s and would have a few more scripting credits during her career. She married writer-producer Bochco in 1970, and they divorced in 1997, and he died in 2018.
Bosch star Titus Welliver, who appeared with Bosson in Murder One, paid tribute to the actress.
“The beautiful and wonderful Barbara Bosson has left us,” he wrote. “Colleague, friend and surrogate mother. My heart is shattered by her departure. Bow your heads for her loved ones who are so very devastated by her departure. Love you Babs, you made us all better with your kindness.”
Bosson is survived by her son Jesse, daughter Melissa and two grandchildren.
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