Jul 6, 2021
When you need a lawyer handy: Cop Rock “Cop-a-Feeliac”
Previously on Cop Rock: Officer Quinn got shot, but luckily it was just a flesh wound. Her husband Ruskin demanded she get a new partner, but it was all a transparent ploy to get his wife away from Campo, whom he suspects of having an affair with her. Meanwhile, Det. Potts was the primary witness to Det. La Russo murdering a suspect in cold blood, and signed an affidavit to that effect. This eventually led to La Russo being taken off the force, put on trial, and being represented by a sexy lawyer with a fetish for bad cops.
Mysteriously, this episode of Cop Rock begins with a title card; no other episode so far has opened this way. The card reads “Roll Call 7:52 AM” in a suspiciously familiar typeface.
We see all our regulars in the briefing room as their sergeant (Mike Finnigan) does the roll call and runs down the crimes of the day. He assigns partners, warns his officers that the “Franklin Avenue Flasher” is back in action, and informs them that Quinn will be returning to active duty soon. He then dismisses everyone, and as they leave, he yells, “Hey! Let’s be careful out there.” Correction: Background music slowly creeps in, and he sings to them to be careful out there.
He then launches into a bouncy, bluesy number that appears to literally be called “Let’s Be Careful Out There”, where he sings the list of crimes he presumably just ran through in his briefing, including: “We had a 187 at the 7-11”, and “I see a 211, half a dozen 459s / Two ADWs, a GTA, and several miscellaneous crimes.” He also tosses in commentary like, “Homicide, arson, robbery, rape / everybody gets their share / Crime never sleeps, so stay awake / and let’s be careful out there…”
If any of this sounds familiar to longtime readers, it’s because Jordon Davis, one of our veteran writers here at the Agony Booth, wrote an entire recap of just this one musical number. In fact, he got in touch with Mike Finnigan, who in real life is a renowned session musician, to possibly interview him about his experiences working on Cop Rock. But after Mike saw the article, he declined with a terse email reading, and I quote, “What you know about singing, and music in general, is what a pig knows about Sunday.” I know even less about music than Jordon, which means ever since I started recapping Cop Rock I’ve been living in fear of Mike Finnigan busting down my door and sticking a boot up my ass.
So what could I possibly say about this scene that wasn’t already included in Jordon’s 2,500-word breakdown? Not much, except to reiterate that this entire thing is meant as a callback to Hill Street Blues, Stephen Bochco’s earlier cop show. The “roll call” title card is an exact duplicate of the one that opened every episode of Hill Street Blues; And the earlier show always led off with Sergeant Esterhaus delivering the roll call, then dismissing his officers with, “Let’s be careful out there.”
Obviously, this is the show’s cheeky attempt to do a musical version of the previous show’s cold open. Remember how Cop Rock began life when Stephen Bochco was presented with the idea of a Hill Street Broadway musical? I can easily imagine a song titled “Let’s Be Careful Out There” being the very first thing pitched to Bochco to get him interested in the concept.
Alas, this scene suffers from the typical Cop Rock staging where anyone who’s not singing has to sit quietly and pretend like they’re not in a musical number. This had the potential to be a (relatively) fun number with at least some of the cops joining in, but instead everyone sits there bored and stone-faced. And they continue to sit there even as their sergeant whirls around his lectern, revealing a built-in organ. He totally jams out in front of them, while they look on like they’re stuck at their kids’ piano recitals.
And as Jordon pointed out, Finnigan is an accomplished keyboardist—he worked with Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills & Nash, Peter Frampton—but for some reason they never show his hands and face in the same shot during his solos here, making it look like he’s faking it.
The musical number ends with a brief shot of James B. Sikking, reprising his Hill Street role of Lt. Hunter, tapping out his pipe as he leaves with the rest of the officers. To be fair, this musical number is amusing if you get the whole tongue-in-cheek aspect; alas, the purpose of it is now completely lost on anyone too young to have watched the earlier show.
The actual episode begins with Danny Potts, the detective who ratted out La Russo and hasn’t been seen again until this episode, telling Captain Holloway that he’s been the target of death threats. He shows off some of the letters and notes he’s received, including one that is, um, notably direct.
Potts wants police protection, and his captain assures him he’s going to have a “security blanket over you and your family”. Potts also says he’s getting a lot of crap from his fellow cops, but Holloway has no solution for that, other than telling Potts to keep his head up and not let it get to him.
Potts goes to the break room, where there are tables full of chubby cops who regard him askance. A big spotlight appears over Potts as he eats his lunch, and the next musical number begins as the dad-bod squad sings things like, “Whatever happened to loyalty? Has it become just a thing of the past? What kind of world do we live in?” It’s an odd number, in that it comes from the perspective of the cops who are harassing Potts, and yet doesn’t portray them as particularly terrible people. It’s like we’re supposed to be sympathizing with them, and not Potts.
Also strange, given all the racial overtones of the situation (e.g. the “die n-word” note), is how the cops harassing Potts are evenly split among the races. But I guess that’s tidily explained when a black cop sings, “This ain’t a question of black and white / it’s a plain simple matter of blue!” And a white cop with a douchey ponytail emphatically agrees.
Then another chubby cop chimes in with, “He’ll get what’s comin’ to him / If there’s any justice, this stinkin’ traitor’s through / I’ll see to it!” And assuming the stinkin’ traitor in question is Potts, and again assuming all these musical numbers are actually “happening” in the world of show and being “heard” by the people in the room, is there really nothing Holloway can do about these kinds of threats being casually thrown around in his station?
There’s a quick scene of Holloway debriefing Potts’ security detail on his family’s schedule and how to protect them. Which all is for naught, because later that night, Potts comes out of his home to find a cross burning on his front lawn. His family runs out and Potts tells his kids to get back in the house. But Potts’ wife, who frankly looks like his mom, tells the kids to stay put because she wants them to see this. She then starts singing a big defiant ballad while their neighbors come out and stare.
“Crosses, burning crosses / turning freedom and light / into fear,” she sings, “But it’s not gonna happen here!” And the lyrics reference slavery, and the auction block, and how the country fought a war to free slaves, and those men are now free to fight the country’s wars. And it’s all very huge and dramatic, but the lyrics never really come together with the burning cross imagery into any sort of coherent meaning. After two short verse-chorus repetitions, the song ends.
Captain Holloway calls in the guys who were supposed to be protecting Potts, and rakes them over the coals. They all have lame excuses for not being around during the cross burning, but Holloway says he’s going to hold them “all personally responsible” if there’s a repeat of this incident. Oh okay, so he’s going to wait until the next cross burning to discipline his officers. And again, we’ve got a mix of white and black cops here. Are we supposed to believe the black cops stood idly by while someone burned a cross on their coworker’s front lawn? Or even worse, stood idly by while their fellow white cops did it? (Damn, Rage was right; some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses.) I’m very confused about what supposedly happened here and why it’s not a massive scandal.
Over in the locker room, Potts is getting dressed when Vincent La Russo walks in. Potts is totally baffled at La Russo’s presence, as am I, but it seems Vince is now suddenly Mr. Understanding. He says that if Potts or his family ever gets threatened again, he should call La Russo.
Potts calls him a “piece of work”, and yells at him for going rogue and killing a prisoner who was in Potts’ custody too, and putting his whole family in danger. Why, Potts wonders, would he ever call La Russo for help? La Russo, tough guy loose cannon that he is, replies, “Because I’m the one who’ll come through for you,” and exits, and that’s the end of that plot thread.
Next up, the wounded Officer Quinn returns to a warm welcome from her colleagues, then goes to her mailbox and finds someone has left her a gold-wrapped box of chocolates with a rose on top. It’s obviously from Campo, and the perfect present for a woman who has a jealous/possibly violent husband working in the same building.
After some near flirting between them, Ruskin comes up to check on Quinn, and he tries to convince her that she should take a desk job, and that she’s not ready to go back out on the street just yet. But she insists she’ll be going out on patrol with “my partner”, which clearly rubs Ruskin the wrong way. The rage continues to build as Ruskin heads to a bar where all the cops hang out, and overhears the boys talking about a fellow officer with an unfaithful wife. He learns from McIntire and Rose that “Beau Marshall’s old lady” was sleeping with every guy in his unit. Fellas, you’re not helping here.
Finally, a jealous Ruskin resorts to literally following his wife and Campo around in their patrol car all day. Eventually, he tails them to a seedy motel, and grows all the more suspicious when he sees Campo check in at the front desk. Then he sees his wife and Campo giggle and laugh as they make their way up to a motel room, and that’s the last straw for him. Ruskin follows them up the stairs, but before he goes in, he noticeably gets his gun ready.
He kicks in the door with his gun drawn, only to find out the two are responding to a report of a dead body in one of the rooms. Oh, and the corpse is an old bald guy who just happens to be wearing a red bra and panties. Hey, no judgment here.
Ruskin stumbles out while Quinn screams at him. “What were you gonna do, shoot us?” He apologizes, but says he was sure she was in “the sack” with him. Quinn swears they haven’t touched each other, so Ruskin makes her look him directly in the eyes and say she’s doesn’t love Campo. When she does exactly what he says, Ruskin yells, “You’re a liar!” and storms off.
This week’s lighthearted plotline takes us back to City Hall. Mayor Plank’s very gay assistant Ray is abruptly handing over his resignation letter. He says that a “journalist” is doing an article about “gays in city government”, and Ray is about to be outed against his will. Ray doesn’t want to be a “liability” to the mayor, and her “political agenda is too important to be compromised by me,” and yes, as hard as it is to believe now, there was a time when a political figure simply having a gay staffer would have been a huge scandal. But Plank promises they’ll “weather this together” and crumples up his resignation letter.
Later on, Plank invites that journalist up to her office to talk about the article, and here we learn Ray’s last name is… “Rodbart”? Is that his real name, or did he pick it in case he had to switch to a second career in porn? Plank tells the journalist to kill the story, but he insists his paper is just “trying to give the gays in the community positive role models to identify with!” So Plank consults her notes, which show the journalist lives with a man who came to the US from Chile on an expired visa, and he’s been working ever since without a green card, and hasn’t filed a tax return since he’s been in the country. She threatens to call the IRS and the INS on the guy, and the journalist yells, “That’s blackmail!” Plank replies that well, yeah, it is blackmail. He agrees to kill his story with a sheepish, “Yes, your honor.”
Later on, Ray enters Plank’s office, wearing a satin cowboy outfit. He thanks her for getting the article killed, and she asks what’s with the getup, and he simply says he’s going to a “birthday theme party”. What’s the theme? Rejected Village People members?
Plank calls the outfit “very… authentic”, and then the punchline comes when Chief Kendrick enters her office just as Ray is leaving. They’re both wearing exactly the same cowboy hat, but that’s not the joke. No, the joke is when Kendrick decides to confide a “suspicion I’ve been harboring for some time now”. He leans in conspiratorially to Plank and says, “I think that boy’s as queer as a three dollar bill!” Now, what would ever give him that idea?
And finally, we return to this show’s big ongoing storyline: La Russo preparing for his trial. Vince’s head lawyer decides that he needs to know exactly what happened in “that room”, assuring La Russo he has “absolute privilege” for anything he says here. So, in front of his head lawyer and Trish (the lady lawyer he’s sleeping with), La Russo comes clean. He says that once he realized the other cops had botched the arrest and the suspect was about to get away scot free, he shot him. He admits, “The guy murdered a cop. I didn’t want him to get away with it.” And that’s all there is to it.
Later, La Russo goes to the same cop bar where Ruskin heard the story about Beau Marshall’s old lady. Trish slides into the booth beside him and sips his drink. Guess what? Learning that La Russo is a cold-blooded killer has made her even more hot for him. How do I know this? Because he asks why she’s here and Trish replies, “’Cause I’m hot.” Can you believe this show wasn’t even nominated for any writing Emmys? She reaches a hand under the table and starts doing… something. La Russo says, “Let’s get out of here,” but Trish replies, “Let’s not.” And I guess that’s all they could get away with on primetime ABC at the time, because that’s where the scene ends.
The next scene is not really related to the La Russo plotline, or anything else going on in the episode, but I’m throwing it in here because it involves everyone’s favorite clueless cop, Officer Gaines, meeting up with Trish. It seems he’s here as a witness for La Russo, but before they can discuss the case, Gaines awkwardly flirts with Trish, saying he can’t believe she’s a lawyer, and if he saw her on the street, he’d assume she was a “model”. He then asks her out to dinner. She’s of course barely paying attention to him, probably because Gaines hasn’t murdered anyone recently. She says she doesn’t mean to be “rude”, but “I’m not attracted to you, physically or intellectually. And I’m not interested in getting to know you.” At least she wasn’t rude.
Then La Russo’s head lawyer comes in and starts asking questions, wanting to know if Gaines properly handcuffed the suspect. Gaines insists he did, so they start to question his competence as a police officer, noting that he recently got demoted from plainclothes narcotics. Gaines gets super-defensive, saying he’s a cop and his job is to “pay attention to stuff, write stuff down, remember stuff! That’s what I do, and that’s exactly what I did!” …And we cut to Gaines in a go-cart being driven around the parking garage, because he forgot where he parked. The attendant driving the cart can’t believe Gaines doesn’t even remember the level his car is on. As he gets out, Gaines happens to mention he’s a cop, and the attendant chuckles mercilessly as he drives away.
Then cheerful piano music starts up, and Gaines starts singing a solo musical number about how everybody’s always picking on him, and things never go his way, and “Every cloud’s got a silver lining / how come they’re always raining on me?” But the lyrics get more upbeat as he continues wandering around the parking garage looking for his car. He sings, “Maybe I’m slow / but I know what I know / and I know when the joke’s on me!” And then he… continues to walk around the garage. Seriously, that’s all this musical number is. It’s Gaines wandering around a parking garage. And occasionally, to liven things up… they insert random shots of signs you’d find in a parking garage (“keep right”, “no left turn”, etc.). It’s almost identical to that Seinfeld episode where they wander around a parking garage for half an hour, only set to bad music and not at all funny.
And the lyrics are full of clichés: He’s got it made in the shade, life gives him lemons and he makes lemonade, and when the going gets tough, he’s got the right stuff. Above all else, he’s “okay”. That appears to be the title of the song: “I’m Okay”. He finally finds his car, and then frantically feels around in his jacket and his pockets. And the completely predictable stinger to this number is he doesn’t have his car keys. End scene.
We now return to our regularly scheduled homicidal cop plotline, as La Russo once again meets with those media consultants who promised to make him bigger than Ollie North. And things reach new heights of ridiculous as the consultants talk about staging a fake convenience store robbery, just so that Vince can arrive on the scene and save the day and become a hero. La Russo says no way, presumably because this would be extremely illegal.
Then one consultant says, “What if we put a little child in a deep hole, and then you can get them out?” And that’s a reference to little Jessica McClure, who I’m not sure anyone under the age of 35 has even heard of, much less remembers, and also an even more absurd suggestion. La Russo thinks they’re “nuts”, but finally they hit on something he agrees to: speaking at a convention of bail bondsmen.
At the convention, he gets introduced by an emcee who says La Russo is so tough, “he smokes in bed, face down!” He also says La Russo was “voted best dressed man at the Ayatollah’s funeral”, and refers to the ACLU as “the American Criminals’ Liberty Union”. What is this, the Comedy Central Roast of a Racist Cop? I guess the A-list standups aren’t exactly jockeying for the big bail bondsmen convention hosting gig.
At last, the emcee calls La Russo up, but before he lets him speak, the emcee says he met some “attractive girls” who want to show their “appreciation”. And so he brings out “Brenda and the Bus Monsters”, an all-girl hair metal band who perform a musical number in the style of a Motley Crue song. It seems to be called something like “Gimme a Cop Who Doesn’t Shoot Blanks”, and it’s a sexually-charged paean to the violent tactics of the LAPD, with such lyrics as “If he’s tall and thick with a big nightstick, honey he can do me no harm!” I saw plenty of thick cops back in the break room, does that count?
Eventually, the pointless song ends and the singer goes over and hugs and kisses La Russo. And that’s the last we see or hear of Brenda and the Bus Monsters, which like Gaines wandering through the parking structure is clearly a shameless attempt to kill time this week: Just bring out some sexy girls, film them pretending to play instruments, and well, the scene just writes itself!
Finally, La Russo gives his speech. He says that the bail bondsmen, like himself, know what it’s like out there. He talks about how people used to feel safe, and they had beautiful neighborhoods, but now they bolt their doors at night. And La Russo knows why: “We made getting arrested into a game, and if you knew how to play, you can be out on the streets in no time!” He says the cop-killer he shot was arrested that same day for running a crack house and got out on bail, and the whole crowd shakes their heads mournfully.
La Russo says the criminals control the courts, the prisons, and the streets, but not on his watch, because he’s doing what a cop is supposed to do: stand up for the people of the city. “Now I gotta hope they’re gonna stand up for me.” And right on cue, he gets a standing ovation from the bail bondsmen. End episode.
This one feels like they just threw in the towel on this series, what with the completely pointless Brenda and the Bus Monsters musical number, not to mention an entire song’s worth of Gaines walking around a parking structure. Most likely they saw the early ratings and knew cancellation was right around the corner, so now they’re just trying to fill up time with as little effort as possible—not that this show was chock full of deep, meaningful musical numbers in the first place. Also, “Bus Monsters”? That’s got be an inside joke I’m not getting.
And then there’s the title of this episode, which is probably the series’ worst: “Cop-a-Feeliac”. You see, it’s a play on words that end in “-philiac”, except it’s cop-ophiliac, except it’s cop-a-feeliac. I guess it’s a joke on all the women (and bus monsters) that get horny for La Russo in this episode and thus are “cop-ophiliacs”. And the “copping a feel” could be a double reference to Trish giving La Russo a handjob under the bar table (assuming that’s what she did), but that’s probably giving this show too much credit.
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.]
“Let’s Be Careful Out There”* performed by Mike Finnigan
“What Kind of World Do We Live In?”* performed by Armando Compean, Michael Manning, Marc Copage, Roger Freeland, Jim Gilstrap, Rick Riso
“Burning Crosses”* performed by Patricia Hodges
“I’m Okay”* performed by Mick Murray
“Gimme a Cop Who Doesn’t Shoot Blanks”* performed by Robbyn Kirmssé, Andrea Carol, Elizabeth Hooker, Liza Carbé, Karen Childs
Next time: Let’s hope there is a next time, and the guy who played keyboards on Hendrix’s “Rainy Day Dream Away” hasn’t put out a hit on me.