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Cop Rock turns 30: Steven Bochco's musical police procedural looks even more disastrous in 2020

  • One of the worst shows of all time, Cop Rock, from Bochco and his collaborator William M. Finkelstein premiered on Sept. 26, 1990 with a pilot episode revolving around a cop killing a Black man being killed execution-style. "In 2020, there’s no such thing as a bad idea for a television show," says Larry Fitzmaurice. "The medium has positively exploded in terms of sheer volume, thanks to the rise of myriad streaming services — and with that explosion has come a near-endless onslaught of creative endeavors both extremely successful and ill-advised. This tidal wave of content has effectively erased the first word of the oft-cited 'Golden Age of TV,' to the point where there’s an entire streaming service (albeit likely not for much longer) seemingly dedicated to the worst ideas possible, from Judge Judy-esque Chrissy Teigen reality TV shows and Reese Witherspoon-narrated girlboss nature programs to campy Twilight Zone-isms rife for misinterpretation. But in 1990, any idea that strayed far from what was established as 'the norm' (sitcoms, game shows, procedurals, serialized soaps) was effectively a high-wire act of a risk, capable of imploding practically upon impact if too jarring or ill-conceived. There was little chance of getting a second season 'to grow' — especially not for Cop Rock, which premiered 30 years ago this Saturday and was off the air three months later." Fitzmaurice adds: "Even the most supposedly genteel varietal of police-focused TV shows, such as Parks And Recreation creator Michael Schur’s good-natured Brooklyn Nine-Nine, have faced scrutiny for a minute now due to their own reflection of 'copaganda.' Now, imagine how a TV show that opened with a scene like this would be received if it came out today. In 2020, we know (or, at least, are finally starting to understand en masse) that there’s no gray area when it comes to how Black people are treated by the police. In 1990 — a year before the same Los Angeles Police Department brutally beat Rodney King, and following an entire history worth of violence and structural racism against anyone who isn’t white — such notions were apparently still up for debate, and would remain so for decades to come. When it comes to meaningfully embracing anti-racism as a widespread societal virtue, Cop Rock and much of its police procedural ilk never belonged in either time period, and it only deserves to be remembered so we don’t forget that shows like it existed to begin with."

    TOPICS: Cop Rock, Steven Bochco, William M. Finkelstein, Retro TV