Was an Episode of Hill Street Blues Re-Shot to Bring Officer Joe Coffey Back to Life?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: A Hill Street Blues episode was actually re-shot after airing to show a character who was killed surviving his attack so that they could bring him back.

The first season of Hill Street Blues was meant to only be thirteen episodes, but NBC asked for some more at the end, so Stephen Bochco and company put together two two-hour movies that worked basically like a mini-series within a series, with essentially a four-hour long episode of the show. In the episode, a few new characters debuted who would stick around, including some narcotics cops and Officer Joe Coffey, played by Ed Marinaro.


Coffey was paired with Officer Lucy Bates (played by the great Betty Thomas), and it was clear that he wanted to take their friendship to the next level.

In any event, as a sort of tragic bookend to the first season, the final part of the last episode involves Coffey and Bates pulling over a suspect and the man shooting Coffey when he approaches the driver’s side window.

Originally, as aired, the blast clearly kills Coffey, giving the season a very somber ending.

However, as you might imagine, as the episodes were added very last minute, the producers of Hill Street Blues really didn’t have much time to dwell upon various decisions, and after the season ended, they decided that they would prefer that Coffey remained a character on the show.

So they actually went back and edited the scene to take away the shot where Coffey is clearly dead and add a new line where viewers learn that Coffey was taken to the hospital still alive (they left the chalk outline, but sometimes chalk outlines don’t have to mean that there is a dead body). And when Season 2 began, Coffey was just about ready to return back to work (and Marinaro was now added to the opening credits as a regular cast member).

Amusingly enough (SPOILER!), Coffey ended up getting killed off in Season 6 ANYways!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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2 Responses to “Was an Episode of Hill Street Blues Re-Shot to Bring Officer Joe Coffey Back to Life?”

  1. The episode I saw officer Coffey killed in showed Coffey leaving Bates to go to a store to pickup cigars for a celebration. Coffey was shot down and died in the street. Are you sure you didn’t “Dream” your version of Coffey killed on a traffic cop.

    Steve Miller
    Former Reno PD

  2. That was the aforementioned Season 6 episode where Coffey was killed off for real. You recall when he was shot in the first season, right? That’s when he originally died before they re-shot the scene with his death.

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