John Oliver Reintroduced the World to Cop Rock, May Music Have Mercy on Our Souls
During this week’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver did a nearly half-hour video about police raids: why they are so popular within policing and why it is a problem. Yet, I was distracted by him dropping the massive musical turd of Cop Rock into my lap.
In 1990, it was co-created by Steven Bochco, who also served as executive producer, who is also behind shows like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D., and NYPD Blue.
“Cop Rock will go down in history as the single most bizarre TV musical of all time. From verdicts delivered by gospel choirs to a criminals singing about racial profiling, Cop Rock was just plain out of tune,” according to TV Guide.
The show, which only lasted 11 episodes before being canceled, was a chaotic blending of police procedural with musical theatre and black comedy. The series centered on the LAPD, everyone’s other favorite problematic police department, and featured an ensemble cast that mixed musical numbers with the legal system. Apparently, one episode has the jury break into song, proclaiming their verdict on the defendant in a gospel-style song.
Mike Post, who was a collaborator with Bochco, shared with The Hollywood Reporter why he ended up doing the show, despite his own concerns. Post himself is a television theme song legend and responsible TV theme music for Law & Order, the copaganda legend.
“Cop Rock was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a composer because we were basically doing a mini-Broadway show every week,” he told the publication.
“Steven called me up one day and said, “Hey, I got an idea — but you’re going to have to be a little flexible.” And I said, “OK, what’s the idea?” He said, “Well, we’re basically going to do Hill Street Blues. But the cops are going to sing.”
I went silent. He said, “Are you there?” I said, “I’m not sure I’m here. I have one word of advice for you.” I said, “Don’t.”
He just started laughing. And I said, “No, Steven, I’m telling you this is too hard. This is too fucking hard!” I said to him, “America is not ready for the cops singing. They’re not ready for that.”
And he said: “I don’t care. I’m going to do it. And I want you to help me.”
What am I going to say to him? He’s one of my best friends. What am I going to say?
I said, “All right, I’m in.”
I had a ball doing it. I thought the pilot was great. The shows were good. The problem was finding really great singers who could act or good actors who could sing. That was the biggest problem.
It was a ballbuster, but in weird ways I was proud of it. People either loved it or hated it.
Well apparently, people hated it, but thanks to the internet we get to relive the messy glory again and again. Just browsing through the songs, I will say at least they were talking about these issues in the show. The presentation may have made it seem like a farce, but it still won two Emmys including Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics for Randy Newman himself.
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