Network TV, They Finally Got The Picture
November 26, 2008 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Cop Rock, created by Steven Bochco (the same mind that brought us NYPD Blue, LA Law, and Hill Stree Blues), is considered one of the worst tv dramas ever. It ran for only eleven episodes in 1990. What do you think?
posted by mrzarquon (61 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
the same mind that brought us NYPD Blue, LA Law, and Hill Street Blues

You forgot Doogie. Everyone always forgets Doogie. Doogie makes up for Cop Rock. In so many ways.
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:23 PM on November 26, 2008


Not my flavor, but I have a soprano (small "s") lawyer friend that this series seemed made for. Unlike the internet, there are some niches too small for tv.
posted by Morrigan at 7:27 PM on November 26, 2008


Viva Laughlin!
posted by geekyguy at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2008


Wow, that looks like a great show.
posted by nola at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2008


It was a bold experiment. Bold experiments often flop. Kudos to Bochco for having the balls to try it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:34 PM on November 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


This was not meant as an endorsement in *anyway* to the quality of the show.

It is however, a hilarious train wreck to watch.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:34 PM on November 26, 2008


My young mind couldn't really comprehend the badness. I mean, like opening the closet and finding Cthulu next to your pajamas uncomprehension. As a kid, I imagine my inability to really process said awfulness was a defense that an adult seeing it wouldn't have.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:35 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I loved the pilot episode of Cop Rock. The quality fell off pretty quickly and I seem to remember losing interest before it got cancelled but I did like that first episode.
posted by octothorpe at 7:42 PM on November 26, 2008


1990?! I remember it dimly, but given the date, I should remember it a lot more clearly than that. I could have sworn I saw it during a fever dream during my childhood.

But maybe that was just the show.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:43 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


My (then pre-) wife really liked Cop Rock, a fact she attributes to her love of musicals. Even back then I remember telling her that she was quite possibly the show's only fan.
posted by mdevore at 7:49 PM on November 26, 2008


I do remember this. Thanks, ever so much. Going to scream into a pillow now.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:56 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I remember this. I guess the lesson is that there is a right place for dance/musical shows. High school works. Cop drama doesn't. I watched the show until this woman, who's baby son had been killed, sat on a park bench, and the music started and she broke out into song. It was too depressing. I couldn't watch it any more.

But then again, how come The Demon Barber of Fleet Street worked so well?

And I agree with ZenMasterThis. Bochco gets an A+ for trying something unusual.

As Wernher Van Braun used to say, if we aren't blowing up any rockets, then we aren't trying hard enough.
posted by eye of newt at 8:01 PM on November 26, 2008


Every time I watch one of these I'm amazed that the background players aren't laughing their asses off at how ridiculous it is. Then I realize that they probably laughed during the first 15 takes and that the looks on their faces in the finished cut come when they realize they'll never get another role.
posted by Manhasset at 8:05 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


So beautifully wrong in so many ways. Fantastic.
posted by rtha at 8:06 PM on November 26, 2008


There are some shows that are fun when you just relax and don't think and Cop Rock wasn't as horrendous as people made it out to be -- I'm not sure this was a television show material -- just sporadic surrealism. Bochco was right to try hybriding genres -- it was great for a belly laugh like Police Squad another very short lived show.

I wish things wouldn't get slagged just because it's new, different, and doesn't take itself seriously...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:09 PM on November 26, 2008


I have a copy of the pilot on VHS. I've been meaning to watch it in its entirety, but I've never gotten past the first 15 minutes.
posted by dhammond at 8:10 PM on November 26, 2008


At some point a few years ago I stunned my girlfriend when I told her I thought The Sopranos was a musical. I'd gotten it mixed up with Cop Rock, and of course had never seen either.
It's amazing our relationship survived that mistake. I guess she either figured the worst was over, or I was going to have the most entertaining delusions ever.
posted by smartyboots at 8:12 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a no-TV house, but somehow I saw this show and loved it. Of course, that was also the time in my life when I would dance around the living room pretending to be Eponine or a hooker from Miss Saigon.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:15 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Cop Rock got bad advance word-of-mouth; by the time it aired it was already a joke. Then people saw it.

That's all.
posted by longsleeves at 8:22 PM on November 26, 2008


That Baby Merchant song is Excellent.
posted by smackfu at 8:29 PM on November 26, 2008


The 2nd song ("Let's Be Careful Out There") is pretty catchy. I could see it in the Buffy Musical, maybe by Giles. I'm not sure why there is a piano in the squad briefing room though?
posted by smackfu at 8:32 PM on November 26, 2008


The opening rap on the first episode was fitting, and worked well. After that it was all downhill. I had such high hopes after the near perfect Hill Street Blues. But.... no...
posted by cccorlew at 8:39 PM on November 26, 2008


It might have been better if they'd had anyone but Randy frickin' Newman writing the songs for it. Honestly, you can make a musical out of anything... but it's not necessarily going to be a good musical. Especially weekly.
posted by crossoverman at 8:40 PM on November 26, 2008


ah yes i remember now. this is the show that started my hatered for musicals.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:55 PM on November 26, 2008


Randy Newman wrote the music for the pilot, winning an Emmy for it.
posted by shinybeast at 9:02 PM on November 26, 2008


Jesus. All it took was 30 seconds of the first clip to prove that its reputation is richly deserved. I remember it getting universally panned at the time, but I had never actually seen it until now.

It might have been better if they'd had anyone but Randy frickin' Newman writing the songs for it.

That explains a lot. God, I hate that guy.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:02 PM on November 26, 2008


The finest comedy is unintentional
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:13 PM on November 26, 2008


ah yes i remember now. this is the show that started my hatered for musicals.

My hatred for movies began when I watched White Chicks.
posted by crossoverman at 9:45 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd love to hear Randy Newman songs for a TV/film musical that aren't aimed at kids, especially since the songs on his last couple of albums have been on par--not always but frequently--with the finest of his work from the 1970s. Imagine a West Wing-ish musical with a world-weary adviser singer this.
posted by raysmj at 9:51 PM on November 26, 2008


singing/performing this, rather.
posted by raysmj at 9:51 PM on November 26, 2008


To people who watch talking cartoon animals, smiling "news teams" delivering scripted smiley news in three acts, the unreality of reality shows, and those horrible talent shows, and then listen to people singing (singing? why the fuck singing?) about their sex lives, there should be little difficulty getting used to actors singing in a weekly cop show.

But it looks like the action almost stops for the length of the song, which of course is a mistake in an action show, and people probably want their cop show atmospheres to be more "In the Air Tonight" than "Oklahoma".
posted by pracowity at 10:47 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The it-ain't-over-till-the-fat-lady-sings finale got a chuckle out of me.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:14 PM on November 26, 2008


The show might have had a chance if its fans hadn't decided to call themselves "Cop Rock-philes".
posted by tomcooke at 11:43 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I kind of wish I had watched Cop Rock, just to say I watched it. I remember seeing promos for it which were like "the created of hill street blues and NYPD blue brings you a new cop show where all the cops sing and dance" or something and thinking "has there ever been a worse idea?" I thought I was being cool by not watching it. I was so naive. The show still sucks, but now I know that it's cool to be overly knowledgeable about things that suck.
posted by mexican at 11:48 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The plaatsvervangende schaamte kicked in 36 seconds into the first clip. I'm blushing again just thinking about it.
posted by minifigs at 1:10 AM on November 27, 2008


Kudos to Bochco for having the balls to try it.

Yeah. It is truly bad. Sometimes somebody needs to show others what not to do. To truly take one for the team.

It makes me wonder how it got so far from conception to actual production and broadcast without somebody in charge stepping back, looking at it and realizing, "This is absolute total garbage," and pulling the plug right then and there. Perhaps Bochco already had such a reputation, due to his success with HSB and LA Law that the people in charge thought, "if anybody can pull it off, it's Bochco."

I just keep having these mental images of cocaine-fueled meetings like the one in the LA Guyz sketch that led to Cop Rock.
posted by chillmost at 2:10 AM on November 27, 2008


I watched the MST3K episode Sidehackers again just last night, and there's a Cop Rock joke in it. Right about then I thought, "I will probably never hear of that show from any other source the rest of my life."

Once again, Metafilter proves me wrong.
posted by JHarris at 2:41 AM on November 27, 2008


Baby Merchant - Benefits from being presented out of context. This could be a Stephen Lynch song...
Let's Be Careful - Not enough going on.
Pursuit of Happiness - Too much going on.
How to Love a Woman - I like this song best, but the button-pressing and the singers walking in through the door feel like the show's apologizing for being surreal. Lead singer spent too many precious seconds out of frame for me to realize he did a costume change.
You Can't Keep a Good Man Down - Best of this set of clips, but too little, too late.

Can't say I regret the time I spent watching, but I don't know if I could sit through 11 episodes of this. Full disclosure of my pain threshold: geekyguy mentioned Viva Laughlin, which I hated, but I do love me some Blackpool.

Here's a clip I've used to bait my friends into watching: These Boots Are Made for Walking. Provokes the stronges reaction in Doctor Who fans, as it features David Tennant.
posted by vaghjar at 3:19 AM on November 27, 2008


So awesome- I've never seen these before. I felt really sorry for the guy singing "Let's Be Careful". He just seemed so terribly stiff and self-conscious, and the fact that none of the cops in the room were acknowledging in any way that he was singing (not even a bobbing head or a snapping finger!) just made it all the more awkward.
posted by MsElaineous at 4:17 AM on November 27, 2008


Around the same time, maybe a year later, you could tune over to FOX and see "Roc", still probably the only live sitcom I ever saw. Was a simple sitcom about a garbageman, but it was not taped, it was performed live at the time of broadcast. One of the best shows I remember from around the time when I first started developing good taste.
posted by autodidact at 5:16 AM on November 27, 2008


Nothing says "I hate my contract and want out of it" like producing a serious singing-cop drama.

Nothing says "No, you're ours forever" like ordering and airing eleven episodes of it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:26 AM on November 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Why is Cop Rock worse than any of the other crap Bochco made? It was all crap. Total crap. Mind rotting crap. Pathetic crap. Thank god that's over.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:24 AM on November 27, 2008


I remember a wedding episode of "Gilmore Girls" making reference to Cop Rock. I had never heard of the show, so I thought it was made up. I second JHarris: Once again, Metafilter proves me wrong.
posted by mtevis at 7:28 AM on November 27, 2008


With enough cocaine, even Cop Rock sounds like a good idea.
posted by tommasz at 7:28 AM on November 27, 2008


I enjoyed Cop Rock for its bravery - but Blackpool is where it's at.
posted by jbickers at 8:00 AM on November 27, 2008


When this came out, I was young and I thought that Bochco was a company. Bochco was where all the boring cop shows came from. So it seemed natural that Bochco would put out something ridiculously dumb every so often, the way most companies do.

I love musicals, but I can't bear more than the first few bars of any of these songs.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:49 AM on November 27, 2008


Reading about Blackpool, I saw reference to The Singing Detective.
That
was a good show.
posted by eye of newt at 9:15 AM on November 27, 2008


I now see that there were two The Singing Detectives. I'm referring to the original miniseries.
posted by eye of newt at 9:21 AM on November 27, 2008


That Baby Merchant song is Excellent.

The scene would have been better if the prospective buyers had been played by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
posted by Tube at 9:23 AM on November 27, 2008


I liked it. I like musicals, and here was an application to gritty cop life. I was excited when it was announced. I only remember one number: a young mother (in trouble, if I recall correctly) singing to her infant. Marvelous and touching.
posted by No Robots at 10:42 AM on November 27, 2008


whenever i think of coprock, i always remember the song that goes "i wanna go bumpty bumpty, i wanna go woo woo woo. i wanna go bumpty bumpty, bumpty bumpty with you."
posted by Igor XA at 10:59 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Around the same time, maybe a year later, you could tune over to FOX and see "Roc", still probably the only live sitcom I ever saw. Was a simple sitcom about a garbageman, but it was not taped, it was performed live at the time of broadcast. One of the best shows I remember from around the time when I first started developing good taste.

Roc was a great show. One of the few shows that relied heavily on Very Special Episodes (most of the later episodes revolved around Roc and his friends in the neighborhood fighting back against a drug dealer, including a vigilante played by Tone Loc) that wasn't completely pandering and lame. Plus the live gimmick worked really well. I miss the early Fox, they were almost like early cable in that they would air all kinds of wacky, outside-the-box stuff that took chances, like the dearly missed Get A Life.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:51 PM on November 27, 2008


I liked it. I never got into Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue, but I liked this. I also liked both versions (Steve Martin/Bob Hoskins) of Pennies from Heaven and the other Potter pieces: Singing Detective (though the movie version with Downey and Gibson sucked!) and Lipstick on My Collar. Recently I enjoyed (up to a point) Romance and Cigarettes which I recommend to anyone who likes this kind of semi-musical. (BTW, I was not very fond of True Stories, mostly because of David Byrne's superior attitude toward his characters, -- John Goodman singing "People Like Us" made me cringe -- but it belongs in this category, too.)

Oh, and I loves me some Randy Newman.
posted by CCBC at 1:58 PM on November 27, 2008


I remember a wedding episode of "Gilmore Girls" . . .

Eesh, what a terrible, terrible show. Who talks like any of those characters? Who has conversations that flip back and forth from one person to the other with the speed of an Italian comedy?

And Roc was a good show. Absolutely killed me one time when the patriarch muttered, "You don't make a problem, there won't be a problem" - for years, I thought this was a strictly local phrase, a response to "You got a problem?" that at once let you talk yourself out of the fight while saving face, and gave your challenger a chance to back away from his challenge while saving face, too. You could both stand down with your dignity intact. Seeing this phrase lifted out of my childhood and onto television floored me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:03 PM on November 27, 2008


But it looks like the action almost stops for the length of the song, which of course is a mistake in an action show, and people probably want their cop show atmospheres to be more "In the Air Tonight" than "Oklahoma".

I really think this is the key problem. I have no problem of Manhasset's ilk as I can suspend any disbelief for the duration of the song, which is only exemplifying something that would be taking place anyway, like the briefing. But many of these had the flimsiness of exposition about them. Some of the best musicals meld the music and action so seamlessly that it's almost impossible to take them out of context.

Why is Cop Rock worse than any of the other crap Bochco made? It was all crap. Total crap. Mind rotting crap. Pathetic crap. Thank god that's over.

Uh, you obviously lived through an alternate reality in which there was good non-Bochco stuff on television back then.

You forgot Doogie. Everyone always forgets Doogie.

Hey, I still have a soft spot for Bay City Blues.

Who talks like any of those characters? Who has conversations that flip back and forth from one person to the other with the speed of an Italian comedy?

Hey, I loved me some Gilmore Girls in the early seasons. It isn't realistic -- did you realize that? -- and it's directly knocking off Howard Hawks and so forth. Ultimately the show would have been 50% duller with half the dialog. As it was they sometimes strained, but I still watched for the dialog. It was something like a dumb show for smart people, because I don't know what people who didn't listen to the dialog got out of it.

[Roc] was not taped, it was performed live at the time of broadcast.

Only the second season (of four).
posted by dhartung at 3:40 PM on November 27, 2008


I genuinely loved this show. I thought the songs were catchy and the whole affair always left me smiling.

I should also add I was 8 years old at the time.
posted by mediocre at 7:57 PM on November 27, 2008


Roc was great. Charles Dutton, the star and creator of the show, whose nickname had been Roc, has had quite a life, as well.

Cop Rock was bizarre, but hey, bizarre can be fun.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:23 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I see your "Cop Rock" and raise you "Get Smart" (1995), with Andy Dick as the son of Max and 99.

As long as one person recalls that show, "Cop Rock" can hold its head up proudly.
posted by RavinDave at 3:19 PM on November 28, 2008


I remember hearing about this show somewhere before and thought it was the kind of thing that would have been canceled based on the pilot. But 11 episodes? So many better shows have been canceled after way less time.

I recalled "Get Smart" (1995). I'm not sure if I saw an actual episode, but I remember the commercials.
posted by Green With You at 5:49 PM on November 28, 2008


As long as one person recalls that show, "Cop Rock" can hold its head up proudly.

Holy crap. I just remembered that show. Damn you. Time to let off a Nude Bomb.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2008


I not only remember the ill-advised Get Smart continuation, I was ready to LOVE IT. Get Smart had only recently been a huge hit for Nick At Nite, and I was a kid who LOVED old programs and got sucked in by CBS senior citizen faves like reunions of The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis. So when Get Smart was going to be redone for the 90's, I was jazzed to say the least. The end result was tepid, not even my childhood enthusiasm could force me to love the show. If I remember correctly though, it was Elizabeth Rohm in the female lead role, and there was a scene with her in a bullet bra that did me much good in those formative childhood eves..
posted by mediocre at 4:16 AM on November 29, 2008


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