May 29, 2018
Cop Rock: This is what a bad show looks like
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: The LAPD busted a crackhouse, but the dealers were quickly out on bail, including Tyrone Weeks, who went on to kill a cop. Just as Weeks was about to walk due to an illegal search and seizure, loose cannon Det. LaRusso shot him in cold blood. Other officers covered for LaRusso, but Capt. Hollander promised to take him down. Oh, and various characters broke out into song five times during the episode, because this is Cop Rock.
We open on a cathedral, and the memorial service for the cop murdered in the previous episode. Chief Kendrick delivers an entirely generic speech about the officer, where I’m stunned to learn they bothered to give him a name (Gilbert Braeden). Though, you’ll have to listen closely to hear it, because it’s all but drowned out by a conversation in the pews where LaRusso makes sure forensics investigator Ruskin is going to back up his (fabricated) claims of self-defense.
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Eventually, Officer Rose, Braeden’s partner, gets up to deliver his eulogy. But before he speaks, a guy with a big bushy beard saunters into the frame, playing the saxophone. Yes, Rose’s eulogy is one of this week’s musical numbers, titled “I Haven’t Told You How Much I Love You”, a soulful ballad that’s probably one of the better songs of the series.
And Cop Rock’s typically uninspiring staging of musical numbers is on full display here: As Rose sings, we get plenty of cutaways to all the other officers, who do nothing but sit in the pews and stare straight ahead. And during a sax solo, all we get is a close-up of Rose looking emotional. They couldn’t even be bothered to cut to the sax player during his solo?
Then come the credits, which, as in the pilot, feature the entire cast hanging out at a dramatically lit recording studio watching Randy Newman (and also famed TV composer Mike Post, the show’s musical director) perform the theme song. But in the week since the pilot, there’s already been a cast change: Deputy Chief Osborne, previously played by Ernie Hudson, is now played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, future Chicago Hope regular and director of another musical disaster, Glitter. And Curtis-Hall gets awkwardly edited into the credits, staring at all his imaginary co-stars.
Most of the episode follows Captain Holloway as he questions various officers about the Tyrone Weeks shooting. First up is Officer Gaines, the clueless rookie who admits he screwed up the bust (and in a funny moment, he’s even transcribed LaRusso’s words to that effect verbatim in this notebook: “You guys are morons, you know that? You blew the bust,” Gaines nonchalantly reads aloud.)
Capt. Holloway then questions LaRusso’s partner, Donny Potts, who sticks to his story that it was a justified shooting. Holloway then questions Ruskin, who stands by his less than truthful forensics report. But Holloway knows they’re all lying, so he goes to Officer Quinn, Ruskin’s wife, to warn her there’s a good chance her husband might lose his job and his pension and face criminal prosecution for falsifying his report.
At home, Quinn confronts Ruskin about it, saying she can’t help but look at him differently knowing he’s capable of telling a lie of this magnitude. He leaves to go sleep on the couch, and she starts singing the Celine Dion-esque power ballad “If That Isn’t Love”, about how she would be lost if it indeed turns out her husband isn’t the man she thought he was. And this show’s lackluster staging continues, as the entire number consists of Quinn sitting around in her pajamas.
Eventually, Ruskin comes around and admits to Capt. Holloway that his report isn’t entirely factual. But he also warns Holloway never to try to get to him through his wife again.
In another plot, Officer Rose, now short a partner, is assigned a new one, and it’s Gaines. Rose is aghast at how Gaines constantly sings Motown songs while they’re on patrol, and how he displays other clueless behavior, and Rose tries in vain to get reassigned. But then there’s an incident where Rose accidentally damages a car, and is about to come to blows with the driver, but Gaines is able to defuse the situation in his own dopey way by offering to pay for repairs.
Over at City Hall, Mayor Plank meets with Chief Kendrick, and says she’s getting heat from her black constituents about the Tyrone Weeks shooting. She already knows about LaRusso’s history of using excessive force and wants him off the force. Chief Kendrick is infuriated and returns to his office for more target practice, but instead of shooting the animatronic wild west bandit, he blasts a life-size cardboard cutout of Mayor Plank that he apparently had custom-made for just such an occasion.
Meanwhile, there’s a case where Officers Quinn and Campo, and also Det. LaRusso (who’s somehow still on active duty despite the shooting) investigate a burglary at a posh mansion in the hills. Quinn and Campo then have a fantasy sequence (at least, I sincerely hope it’s a fantasy sequence) where they put on the rich couple’s fancy clothes and roll around in their bed and imagine being married while performing the hyperactive musical number “This is What The Good Life Looks Like”.
The rich couple’s housekeeper was attacked in the burglary, and she’s called in to pick the suspect out of a lineup. This lineup consists of five Latino men who immediately start dancing and performing a musical number titled “We’re the Local Color” that was clearly inspired by the then-recent hit “Rico Suave”. They randomly switch from Spanish to English (of course) while musically complaining about being harassed by the police for being brown, and how they couldn’t have done the crime, because “we was chillin’ to Los Lobos” and “kickin’ back a few cervezas” at the time.
Once the song ends, the housekeeper claims she can’t identify the burglar, and the cops quickly figure out she was actually his accomplice. They question the housekeeper and LaRusso gets all skeevy around her, first saying her hair smells nice, and asking what kind of shampoo she uses, then asking if her boyfriend threatened to turn her in to “la imigra” if she didn’t help him. And then he threatens her with jail time, saying she might be forced to have sex with another woman in prison, adding, and I quote, “Una lesbiana, me entiende?” She does in fact entiende, and tearfully rats out her boyfriend.
Finally, we meet Holloway’s wife (Gail Youngs) and son, and learn they’re just getting by on his meager cop’s salary. They sing a musical number titled “It’s Gonna Be Alright”, which reveals the actor playing Holloway sings in a hilarious Springsteen-style rasp, which sounds even more ridiculous when his wife opens her mouth and out comes the most white-bread, high-school-glee-club voice you can imagine. And yet, somehow, it’s still one of the catchier musical numbers of the entire series run.
This second episode of Cop Rock is titled “Ill-Gotten Gaines”, obviously a play on a character’s name. And the wordplay just gets more painful from here, with future episodes bearing titles like “Oil of Ol’Lay”, “Bang the Potts Slowly”, and the now-infamous “Cop-a-Feeliac”. However, to be fair to Cop Rock, puns and wordplay in episode titles were a common feature of Steven Bochco shows: Hill Street Blues had “Some Like It Hot-Wired”, “Fuchs Me? Fuchs You!”, and “Bangladesh Slowly”, while L.A. Law had “The Lung Goodbye”, “Open Heart Perjury”, and “Slum Enchanted Evening” (and that last one is actually a reused Hill Street title). Plus, episode titles were never shown on screen anyway, so it’s really just one of those things that’s been unfairly used to make Cop Rock look a lot more embarrassing in retrospect.
And this show certainly needs no help in that department. The “Good Life” song that Quinn and Campo sing epitomizes everything terrible about this show’s musical numbers. It stops the story dead in its tracks for an awful song that contributes nothing to the plot, other than reminding us that Quinn and Campo are hot for each other. Making matters worse, the two basically yell the entire song at each other, including the cringe-y line “Oooh, we make a sexy pair!” that unfortunately gets played repeatedly in the previouslies for several episodes after this.
The song performed by the Hispanic guys in the lineup is similarly wretched. According to an interview in the DVD features with Anne Bobby, the actress who played Officer Quinn, the live vocals on the set were later overdubbed with more stereotypical “Latino” accented voices. I don’t know if the original version of the song was any better, but it certainly couldn’t have been any worse. Between this, the “Good Life” song, and Gaines bursting out into an extended a capella rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, it’s almost like the makers of this show were daring viewers to change the channel.
Also, I’d like to thank this episode for the reminder that it wasn’t so long ago that pretty much every Hispanic seen on TV was either a mugger, gang banger, or housekeeper. Good times.
Songs performed in this episode:
[*DISCLAIMER: For the most part, Cop Rock didn’t credit its musical numbers, so some titles below are best guesses based on the lyrics.]
- “I Haven’t Told You How Much I Love You” performed by James McDaniel
- “This is What the Good Life Looks Like” performed by Anne Bobby and David Gianopoulos
- “We’re the Local Color”* performed by Kirk Rivera, Vernon David, Tony Barbato, Marco Delacruz, Michael Empero, Colton Green
- “If That Isn’t Love”* performed by Anne Bobby
- “It’s Gonna Be Alright”* performed by Larry Joshua and Gail Youngs (Fun fact: Youngs is the former Mrs. Robert Duvall—actually, Former Mrs. Duvall #3, out of 4.)
Next up: We get more evidence that LaRusso is an unredeemable asshole (in case shooting an unarmed man in cold blood and sexually harassing a suspect weren’t proof enough), while Ronny Cox sings country, and we get a musical number sung by a female oil/mud wrestler.