Cop Rock: He's the one they call Dr. Sing-bad
In honor of the long-awaited release of Cop Rock on DVD, I’m recapping every episode of this short-lived series. Read on to find out if it lives up to its reputation as one of the worst shows in TV history…
Previously on Cop Rock: Det. LaRusso shot a cop killer in cold blood and Capt. Hollander vowed to take him down. This included leaning on LaRusso’s partner, Det. Potts, who was terrified to tell the truth about what he saw.
This episode opens on Chief Kendrick strumming a guitar in his office, and singing Gene Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again”, which of course doesn’t count as one of this week’s musical numbers because it’s not an original song, but it does show off Ronny Cox’s musical abilities (apparently the guy was a singer before he was an actor, and recently he’s even semi-retired from acting to focus on a music career, releasing several country albums).
He’s interrupted by a visit from Capt. Hollander, who’s here to talk about his plan to go after LaRusso on murder charges. Kendrick, as previously established, has loads of nostalgia for the gun-slinging days of the Wild West where a man would be treated as a hero for gunning down an outlaw, so obviously he’s not thrilled at the prospect of one of his officers going to jail.
Once Hollander is gone, Kendrick breaks out into the first official musical number of the episode, an old style country-western number titled “I Ache to Hear the Doggies Sing Again”, which eventually finds him literally back in the saddle, riding a horse through the barrios of L.A., while several of the residents simply stand on their balconies and blankly stare at him as he rides past. I’m guessing this is another fantasy sequence, but after the animatronic bandit and life-size cardboard standup of the mayor, I’m not putting anything past this guy.
There’s another new addition to the opening credits in the form of Paul McCrane, who would go on to be a regular on ER for nine seasons, though he may be best known for getting bathed in toxic waste in RoboCop. And this certainly isn’t McCrane’s first brush with musicals—he was one of the students singing the body electric in Fame. And much like Vondie Curtis-Hall, he’s clearly been spliced into the opening credits after the fact, but this time they try to make it more seamless by putting one cast member (Peter Onorati) back in the same clothes and having him turn around to look at McCrane and Curtis-Hall.
After the credits, Capt. Hollander tells both LaRusso and Potts that they’re being taken off active duty pending the investigation. What’s more, he doesn’t care about the undercover drug bust the two cops have been setting up for months. Hollander even goes as far as to deliberately blow LaRusso’s cover, walking right up to him and addressing him as “detective” in the presence of two drug dealers, which is something that could totally happen in the real world.
Later on, Hollander promises Potts immunity if he comes clean about the Weeks shooting. Potts is conflicted until he has a chat with Cmdr. Osborne, who appeals to his conscience. Inevitably, Potts, wearing a formidable pair of ’90s mom jeans, signs a statement saying he witnessed LaRusso’s murder of Tyrone Weeks.
We then learn that LaRusso has a girlfriend named Nikki who works as an oil/mud wrestler at a nightclub (clearly based on LA’s now defunct Tropicana). He acts like a possessive jerk towards her, and even accuses her of hooking on the side. In the club’s dressing room, she sings the oxymoronic ballad “I Hate Love” about how much it hurts to love a man who treats her like garbage.
Later, LaRusso recognizes a guy at the club as a dealer, and offers him a night with Nikki in exchange for a couple of eight-balls. But then it turns out LaRusso is actually out to arrest the guy, meaning he apparently takes down drug dealers in his spare time? The dealer takes Nikki hostage at gunpoint, but then it becomes clear that LaRusso is a total psychopath who’s perfectly fine with seeing his girlfriend’s head get blown off right in front of him. The dealer lets her go, but Nikki is naturally distraught upon realizing LaRusso doesn’t care if she lives or dies.
There’s also an inconsequential plot where wacky mismatched partners Officers Rose and Gaines respond to a domestic violence call. In his clueless way, Gaines escalates the situation, leading to the abusive husband grabbing Gaines’ gun and threatening to kill everybody. Eventually, Rose defuses the situation, and the two officers quietly leave while the dysfunctional couple sing a duet titled “Nobody’s Fault But Our Own”, a bluesy B.B. King-style number about how they’ll never hurt each other again.
We then find out that Mayor Plank is being considered for a possible run for U.S. Senate, but first she has to meet with a couple of image consultants played by identical twins Matthew and Mitchell Laurance (these two were doing guest spots galore back in the ’80s and ’90s, but Cop Rock is one of the few times they appeared onscreen together). They soon reveal their focus groups think Plank is the ugliest woman they’ve ever seen, so upon their recommendation, she decides to see a plastic surgeon.
As Plank lays down on the operating table and the surgeon administers the anesthetic, he starts singing a dance song titled “Perfection” while sexy women in brightly colored nurse uniforms dance around him. This is easily one of the show’s worst musical numbers (sample lyric: “I can fix God’s mistakes, even give you tasty cakes”). They try to compensate by having the camera linger over the bodies of the gyrating nurses, but unfortunately, this number is almost entirely focused on the stocky bald guy who can’t sing or dance.
And to wrap up the episode, we pay a visit to the division’s booking center, where Officers Quinn and Campo and Det. McIntire (McCrane’s character) and a few of the arrestees break into a C+C Music Factory-style dance number called “Garbage In, Garbage Out” that has literally nothing to do with anything that happens in the episode. Though it does include one of this show’s rare instances of actual choreography.
As soon as the song ends, Holloway marches in and tells Det. LaRusso he’s under arrest for the murder of Tyrone Weeks, and has him cuffed.
According to the DVD features, Cop Rock’s failure wasn’t an instance of a show starting strong and quickly hemorrhaging viewers; In the case of this series, the numbers for the very first episode were dismal and got even worse until ABC mercifully pulled the plug. So even if this third episode of Cop Rock had been award-worthy television, it probably wouldn’t have helped the show’s chances of staying on the air one bit. This episode, of course, is not award-worthy television.
I can’t imagine who thought that a middling (at best) country song was a good way to kick off an episode. And it once again typifies the main problem with the show’s musical numbers: It stops the plot cold and tells us nothing we didn’t already know. Chief Kendrick longs to be a cowboy? The audience surely already surmised that in the pilot when he fired off a silver six-shooter in his office.
And even when the musical numbers are well-written and well-sung, such as with the blues number between the abusive husband and his wife, you just can’t bring yourself to care, because you know absolutely nothing about these two characters, and you know you’ll never see them again. The same applies to the number sung by LaRusso’s girlfriend; he quickly moves on to sleeping with one of his hot lady lawyers and poor Nikki is never so much as mentioned again.
It’s really a mystery why Cop Rock gave away so many of its musical numbers to one-shot guest performers. If the point of these numbers is to allow us to get to know the characters in ways that mere spoken dialogue can’t provide, shouldn’t the vast majority of them have been performed by the show’s main cast? You know, the people we’re supposed to care about from week to week? Instead, in this episode, our regulars only get to perform two songs, and only one of them (Ronny Cox, in the aforementioned middling country song) gets to actually sing lead.
And lastly, the title of this episode is “Happy Mudder’s Day”, which on top of being another terrible pun, appears to have nothing to do with the episode. That is, until one looks up “mudder” and finds out it’s a term for a horse. I’m guessing it’s a reference to the horse Chief Kendrick rides in on, and if so, that’s a long way to go for lame wordplay. (Okay, so it may also be a dual reference to Nikki being a mud wrestler, but my point still stands.)
Songs performed in this episode:
[*DISCLAIMER: For the most part, Cop Rock didn’t credit its musical numbers, so some titles are best guesses based on the lyrics.]
- “I Ache to Hear the Doggies Sing Again”* performed by Ronny Cox
- “I Hate Love”* performed by Karla Tamburrelli
- “Perfection” performed by Don Amendolia (and the “nurses” were Tamela Gibbs, Kathy Singleton, Susie Hardy, Linda Esposito, Lori Hart, Stephanie Pope)
- “Nobody’s Fault But Our Own”* performed by Kathy Hazzard and Darryl Phinnessee (Fun fact: Phinnessee later wrote the lyrics to the Frasier theme song. Yes, the curious concept of “tossed salad and scrambled eggs” is all his.)
- “Garbage In, Garbage Out” performed by Anne Bobby, David Gianopolous, Paul McCrane, Holly Sherwood, Carmen Carter, et al
Next up: Patty Spence, who sold her baby for $200 in the pilot, is back to try to get her infant daughter back. Mayor Plank’s plastic surgery finally allows Chief Kendrick to see her inner beauty. Also: Det. LaRusso finally sings! Bodybuilders sing! And we get to meet the man known as the Baby Merchant, and life will never be the same.