Cop Rock: Tots-R-Us

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: Patty Spence was a junkie who sold her baby for drug money. Mayor Louise Plank was too ugly to run for Senate, so she went under the knife to improve her looks. Det. Potts signed a statement that he witnessed the murder of Tyrone Weeks, and his partner Det. LaRusso was arrested.

Summary:

After her memorable turn in the pilot episode, Kathleen Wilhoite is back to reprise the role of Patty Spence. She shows up at the police station and confesses to Officer Quinn that she sold her infant daughter for $200, and needs help getting her back. Quinn says the police can help, but first Patty has to come clean about everything she did. Patty is rightly concerned about essentially confessing to a crime, but Quinn assures her nothing bad will happen to her.

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Which means, of course, that after Patty tells the police everything she knows about the men she sold her baby to, Holloway immediately has her arrested. Patty feels so betrayed by Quinn that she sings a big dramatic rock ballad called “You Lied” while being booked.

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While Patty’s in jail, Quinn and Campo go undercover as a married couple (and again remind us they have a thing for each other) looking to buy a baby. They first meet with a lawyer named Beamer (Gordon Clapp, who later won an Emmy for playing Det. Medavoy on Bochco’s NYPD Blue) who then puts them in touch with “Glen”, a guy in sunglasses and a stylish Members Only jacket who looks like he could be Conan O’Brien’s older brother.

At a park, Glen offers to hook them up with a baby for $11,000. Campo balks at the price, and so Glen performs a Thompson Twins-like synth-pop number titled “Baby Merchant” and just kind of shimmies around while Quinn and Campo simply stand there and listen to fascinating lyrics like:

I’m the Baby Merchant
Tots-R-Us!
I give you all the service
And no damn fuss
Give the Baby Merchant
Just a week or two…
I’ll have your baby for you!

It’s a god-awful song, but I’ll be damned if I haven’t had it stuck in my head for weeks now. It also appears to be a persuasive song, because the undercover cops agree to pay the $11,000.

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Glen shows up at a hotel with a baby, money is exchanged, and Glen is quickly arrested. Under questioning, he and Beamer reveal they’re just small-time players in a larger “syndicate”, and they want immunity in exchange for helping take down the whole baby-selling organization. Holloway agrees to the deal, as long as they reveal the current whereabouts of Patty’s baby. We get a scene where the couple who bought her are arrested for the curious charge of “slavery”, and Patty’s daughter is taken into foster care, and this storyline will be continued next week.

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In this episode’s other big plot, LaRusso gets sent to jail, despite his attorneys arguing at his arraignment that as a cop, his life will be in grave danger on the inside. The judge doesn’t buy it, and as LaRusso is led to his cell, the other inmates stare him down. So LaRusso gets his first musical number of the series as he defiantly sings the country-rock number “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”, a song full of pounding drums and clanking metal sound effects. Later on in the showers, he gets threatened by a group of gang bangers (who are all Latino, naturally), but turns the tables on them by putting the ringleader in a chokehold, and that’s all it takes to assert his dominance.

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Eventually, Trish, one of LaRusso’s lawyers (the sexy one, of course) posts bail for him, primarily because she’s hot for him. No, really. As soon as he’s out, she proceeds to indulge both her bondage and cop fantasies by “cuffing” him with his belt and reading him his rights and telling him to “assume the position”.

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Meanwhile, Chief Kendrick is pissed off that he has to attend some official function with the mayor as his date. No shock here, he’s a sexist pig who can’t stand the idea of women in power, and he warns his deputy Osborne that on top of lady mayors, soon they’ll have to contend with women governors and women senators. Osborne gently points out that, even in 1990, we already had both of those.

“What about women presidents?” Kendrick asks. “Are you ready for that?” This year? Definitely. Kendrick then picks up a bullwhip and goes behind closed doors to… You know what? I have no idea what he does in there and I’m not sure I want to know.

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“It’s not too late to whip it!”

But the twist to this plot comes when he finally sees the new and improved post-surgery Louise Plank, who’s now free of her prosthetic nose and chin, and is now pretty. Well, prettier, anyway. At first, Kendrick doesn’t even recognize her, but soon enough, he’s smitten. After he brings her home from the dinner, the two share a kiss, and then Plank goes into her house where she sings a maudlin piano ballad titled (best guess) “Could This Be a Face That Someone Could Love?” And the best thing I can say about this number is that it’s mercifully short.

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And finally, in a forgettable comic relief subplot, Det. Ruskin has been told by his doctor to lose weight or else he’ll have a heart attack. His wife packs healthy lunches for him with stuff like celery, cauliflower, and this “jicama” stuff he’s never heard of. Later on in the gym, Ruskin hits the exercise bike and sings the (for lack of a better description) Randy Newman-esque “No Pain, No Gain” while bodybuilders lift weights around him and provide backup vocals.

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Eventually, the payoff, such as it is, to this subplot happens when Ruskin goes to investigate a triple homicide at a restaurant, and he’s so hungry from his diet that he sits down at the table with the three corpses and finishes their meal.

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Thoughts:

While it’s bizarre in general to see cops break out into song, I have to say that after four episodes of him being presented a hard-ass loose cannon sociopath, it’s especially jarring to see LaRusso break out into song. You really have to wonder why they didn’t let him sing sooner.

It’s easy to see why they brought back Kathleen Wilhoite as Patty Spence. Her guest appearances are one of the few bright spots of this show’s brief run, as she totally puts her all into the role, in particular the musical numbers. During “You Lied”, you can even hear her voice on the verge of giving out from all the emotion she’s putting into the song.

Mayor Plank looks a lot better without the prosthetics, but is she really that “pretty” now, or this is a case of Bochco bending over backwards to flatter the actress because she also happens to be his wife? (Or was, at the time.) But then again, maybe I’m just biased; the “giant perm” look on women was hideous 26 years ago and it looks even worse now.

Most new shows take a few episodes to really find their footing, and this episode may be where Cop Rock finally started to improve. It never becomes good, mind you, but it generally avoids anything as embarrassing as the musical numbers of the first three episodes. In fact, this episode might contain the show’s strongest songs so far. Well, except for that “Baby Merchant” song, which definitely falls into the “dear god what were they thinking” category (and of course, it stops the plot dead in its tracks for no reason, but I think by this point in these recaps, that goes without saying).

And okay, that “No Pain, No Gain” song pretty much sucked. And Mayor Plank’s song was, at best, completely forgettable. So really, there were only two good songs out of five this week, but that’s still a better average than the show has maintained up to this point.

And lastly, the title of this episode is “A Three-Corpse Meal”, which is at least self-explanatory. In fact, I give it even odds that someone came up with the title first, and then the Ruskin diet subplot after.

Songs performed in this episode:

[*DISCLAIMER: For the most part, Cop Rock didn’t credit its musical numbers, so the titles below are best guesses based on the lyrics.]

  • “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”* performed by Peter Onorati
  • “Baby Merchant”* performed by Dennis Cockrum
  • “You Lied”* performed by Kathleen Wilhoite
  • “No Pain, No Gain”* performed by Ron McClarty, et al
  • “Could This Be a Face That Someone Could Love?”* performed by Barbara Bosson

Next Up: Patty continues her struggle to get clean and get her baby back, and LaRusso makes the most of his time out on bail by constantly trying to sleep with his lawyer. Plus: a special guest appearance by a pre-fame Gina Gershon (alas, she doesn’t sing), and a big group number performed by a horde of yuppie coke fiends.

TV Show: Cop Rock

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  • Olaf_the_Lofty

    “And the best thing I can say about this number is that it’s mercifully short.” Very well put. It reminds me of the comedian Mel Smith’s “10 favourite things about Christmas”:
    1. It only comes once a year.
    2. It only lasts a day.

    3. I can’t think of anything else.