I'm pretty sure the writer's guide for "Phase Two", supposedly written by Roddenberry, specifically references shows like "All in the Family", "Hill Street Blues" and "M*A*S*H" as shows very much worthy of emulation. He championed the new, more naturalistic style of television, with its ongoing character development, ensemble casts, and the like. Roddenberry had many failings, but not keeping up with modern television storytelling wasn't one of them. In that regard, he was well ahead of the curve. TNG's early reliance on the older style of formulaic storytelling falls firmly at the feet of play-it-safe executives, who tended to cling to older, tried-and-true methods. And who was TNG's official studio bean-counter? Berman. Whose primary job was to keep Gene on a short leash. (Which wasn't necessarily a bad idea.)
That TNG seemed to improve once Gene was no longer at the helm, and Berman held the reins? Well Berman was holding his own leash at that point, and people rarely feel compelled to impose the same strictures on themselves as they do on others. They aren't usually all that distrusting of their own motives. Don't think their own ideas are at all harebrained. Simply put: When Rick was in charge, he gave himself a lot more freedom than he'd ever given Roddenberry. He stopped actively trying to limit production efforts, and finally began to facilitate them.