When Lt. Norm Buntz's pinkie finger got gruesomely axed by a loan shark on the Thanksgiving night episode of "Hill Street Blues" (now moved to Tuesdays), the bloody scene apparently didn't go down all that well with some turkey dinners.
NBC's NYC and Burbank switchboards got 41 complaining calls, "a relatively high amount," according to a network spokesman (during "Hill Street's" entire, controversial first season in '81, NBC got only 86 "violence-related calls" about the shows). The finger seg also gave the series a rare ratings victory over "Knots Landing" to take the time slot.
"A lot of people liked the episode, and some felt it went too far," said co-exec producer John Litvak, who called the holiday scheduling coincidental. "We took a chance and we're happy we did--if you don't take a few risks, it all becomes homogenized. We've always been an equal opportunity offender."
Buntz's digit got re-attached last week (he also blew away the offending loan shark), but it's rumored that he almost loses it again--when someone shakes hands too enthusiastically--in an upcoming show.