From LA Law to police jive Steven Bochco tells Richard Brooks about his new series. NO other American television programme maker has as much influence as Steven Bochco. The creator of Hill Street Blues and LA Law, who was the first to introduce layered stories and ensemble acting to American TV, can dictate his own terms. A couple of years ago he was able to reject the job of head of entertainment with the American American network CBS a post seen as the most challenging in US TV in order to have the freedom freedom to keep on devising new programmes. A deal with rival ABC helped. His unprecedented unprecedented contract means providing providing the network with seven new series over seven years. The first was Doogie Hawser MD, a cute comedy shown for-the for-the for-the past year on BBC1 in the early evening. As it did in America, it has captured a large and devoted audience, particularly particularly among the 10 to 30 age group. The antics of the 17-year-old 17-year-old 17-year-old 17-year-old 17-year-old 'boy genius' doctor may not represent Bochco at his most innovative, but Doogie Howser MD is nevertheless a cut above the average American sitcom. His next series, Cop Rock, begins on BBC1 tomorrow night (10.10pm) after a showing in America last year. To be truthful, it was not a success there. For Bochco, ever the. inventor, has created a police drama with a difference the difference being that there are songs. The conservative American American audience, disdainful, as usual, of daring programmes such as thirtysomething (a. programme much admired by Bochco) and Twin Peaks, could not cope with the music. Cops with songs? Not for us, shouted America. The inspiration for Cop Rock came from Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective. 'That programme programme was as good as anything anything I've ever seen on TV,' says Bochco. Bochco had earlier been tempted to adapt Hill Street Blues for Broadway as a musical in the mid-Eighties. mid-Eighties. mid-Eighties. 'I just never had the time to do it. But the idea of mixing cops and music stayed in my head. So, I thought, why not bring Broadway Broadway to a TV series about cops?' In a way Cop Rock is a bit of a misnomer, for as Bochco explains, it is more about the running of a city, Los Angeles, and the relationships between the mayor, played by Bochco's wife Barbara Bosson (she was Captain Furillo's ex-wife ex-wife ex-wife in Hill Street), her councillors, the chief of police and his force. Like most Bochco shows, there is a ensemble of main characters (1 1 in Cop Rock) rather than one or two major stars. It is, of course, the music which makes Cop Rock different. different. 'I had Kurt Weill and Ber-tolt Ber-tolt Ber-tolt Brecht buzzing around my mind,' says Bochco. 'I knew the music had to be dark, compelling compelling and yet popular. I kept on thinking of Randy Newman, whom I had admired for years.' Bochco and Newman, who has written the scores for several several movies, hit it off immediately. immediately. 'I needed somebody who could instantly pick up on what I wanted and turn it into a song,' says Bochco, who comes from a musical family. 'The music must be very much part Inspired by Dennis Potter's 'The Singing Detective', StevenBochco of the story, it must not jar. In the first episode, the mayor, later revealed as rather corrupt, sings about a crooked developer offering her a bribe if he can build a new jail. To be frank, the music is not Cop Rock's strength, even though Newman was nominated nominated for last month's Emmy awards. The viewer does feel a mite embarrassed whenever one of the actors sings. Despite what Bochco says, the music does jar. This is a shame -because -because as drama Cop Rock is hard-hitting, hard-hitting, hard-hitting, well shot and, as ever with a Bochco production, contains good ensemble acting. Bochco is rather like some anxious parent, giving birth, raising the child and then letting it look more after itself. He still keeps a watchful eye on LA Law (the six-year-old six-year-old six-year-old six-year-old six-year-old series goes from strength to strength), even if the hands-on hands-on hands-on control is now with others. His lever on Doogie Howser MD is greater. Bochco, who works from his own production company on the 20th Century-Fox Century-Fox Century-Fox lot in Los Angeles, may be saddened at the fate of Cop Rock in America, but remains phlegmatic. 'My deal with ABC gives me the right to experiment.' His next series will be just as, if not more, experimental. Capital Capital Critters is an adult animation animation programme, following the path already so successfully trod thought 'Why not bring Broadway by Fox Television's The Simpsons. Simpsons. Bochco has been working on Capital Critters for the past 18 months along with top animation company Hanna- Hanna- Barbera. It is, says Bochco, about the 'rats, mice and roaches, who inhabit the basement of the White House'. Some, of course, might say that the rats are not just in the basement of the US President's home. The star of the show will be a mouse (Max) who comes up from the country to the Big City. It is political, though not overtly. Each episode of Capital Critters Critters will run to 30 minutes, with the first due to be aired in January January on ABC. Twelve more will toal v series aooui copsr follow. British television is bound to be interested in the series, particularly in view of the success of The Simpsons on Sky. Whatever the fate of Capital Critters, Bochco will continue to push at the boundaries of American television, countering a trend to be more and more conservative as the networks' ratings carry on falling against the rise and rise of cable. He has eschewed all attempts to move into movies, arguing that 'television has much more influence and is seen by many more people'. True. But how long will ABC give him the 'freedom to fail as well as to succeed'?