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Sunday Stupid: Cop Rock

September 21, 2014

There are things that have to be seen to be believed. And there has to be some manner of visual evidence, so that when you sit down to regale your grandchildren with stories of old they don’t dismiss your yarns out of hand, consigning them to the realm of senility’s tall tales. Thanks to the internet, a lot of these difficulties have been overcome. YouTube and other sites have ensured that there are actual audiovisual artifacts for us to point to in our old age. Look! See? There it is!

Which is good, because we denizens of the previous century would have a hard time explaining Cop Rock otherwise.

Cop Rock, the brainchild of Steve Bochco (and the cause of countless easy puns on his last name), was one of the most hyped shows heading into ABC’s 1990 broadcast season — and by far the most bizarre. It fused straight Hill Street Blues-type police drama with musical numbers, and therefore became perhaps the greatest cryptozoological nightmare ever to grace a screen. Take the opening scene embedded at the top of this post. It’s as if you have that scene from True Detective, the one where Rust drags the biker dude out of gun-play and a police raid, and at the end Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson break out in song. (I should note that one of the rapped lines at 3:35 — “Step up, chump, let’s see whatcha got, gonna be comin’ for ya’ ready or not!” — which was featured heavily in the pre-promotion for the series, remains firmly entrenched in my memory to this day. I even break it out occasionally in arguments with friends. Let me tell you, it really throws them off balance.) It was NYPD Blue meets Glee. It was like that classic Norm Macdonald/Will Ferrell/Robert Downey, Jr. West Side Story sketch come to life. It was stupid, and glorious in its stupidity.

The series didn’t last long before saner heads prevailed, poor ratings exacted their toll, and the cancellation axe fell. But we have to be glad that the show happened. We’re all the richer for Cop Rock having existed. Spectacular failures are nonetheless spectacular. And we have to be doubly thankful for the blessing of modern technology, which keeps us from getting odd looks when we try to explain that, yes, this was real. Oh so real. And oh so Sunday Stupid.

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