Cop Rock: The Complete Series
DVD | Box Set
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Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue) brings you another bold take on the police procedural genre with the provocative and notorious Cop Rock. Combining the gritty, character-driven drama Bochco fans expect with the pulsating rock and show-stopping grandeur of musical theatre (including songs composed by Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar winner Randy Newman), Cop Rock followed the lives of detectives and officers who didn’t just walk the beat… but had the slick moves to keep the beat as well!
Cop Rock is finally on DVD: a cause for both celebration and a long-overdue reappraisal of a series that has been called one of the most unusual programs of all time. Reopen the investigation today on one of television’s most talked-about series: Cop Rock.
Special Features Include:
-New Interviews With Steven Bochco And Anne Bobby
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Take this show home. You will fall in love with it.
In my opinion, about 80% of this holds up, and if it were produced today, with today's sensibilities, I think it would be a massive hit the likes of Empire, Glee, et. al,. The problem I have is that Bochco and company didn't really take the genre of musical theater seriously, nor were they experienced in the subtleties the genre affords when blending music and drama. The musical numbers are played a bit too earnestly in cases, and sometimes, as in the "guilty" number from the pilot, they're removed from the "reality" of musical theater altogether when an attorney flips open his desk to reveal a lighted piano keyboard that he begins to play. In musical theatre, the audience is already ready to suspend belief and accept the fact that the songs are an extension of the dialogue and the characters don't believe they're singing to each other, rather expressing the feelings of information of the scene in a perfectly natural way. At those times, the underscore will move in under dialogue and the actors will transition into the song in a perfectly natural manner. In Cop Rock, however, Bochco abruptly jumps into a musical number and, as in the courtroom scene, loudly screams "Hey, we're doing a musical number now, in case you didn't know it, that's why the guy opened his desk to show us a piano, because this all isn't real!"
That's a fatal error. Musicals never let the audience in on the gag, and they don't have to. Even the most bizarre of musical numbers, when played correctly within the context of a musical, will keep the audience engaged with belief suspended. Bochco doesn't give us that luxury here. And don't get me started on the farcical (and frankly, terrible) peformances of his wife Barbara as the city Mayor, and Ronny Cox as the police chief. Bochco has thrown oil and water together with the belief that it will all somehow mix together and it doesn't.
There ARE moments of briiliance and one in particular that I remember all these years later from the pilot (as did a friend when I told him I bought the Cop Rock DVD), is the final scene and musical number where a drug-addicted mother sits with her baby on a bus bench, and sings a hauntingly beautiful song about how beautiful life will be soon, as she prepares to sell the baby for drug money. It's beautifully shot, and sung, and performed (with the exception of a moment near the end of the song when the actress starts the final chorus and it startles the baby, and the baby jumps in her arms, causing the actress to laugh, upon which she stares at the camera with a look that wonders if she should go on, or will they cut and start again?) I assume, because it was late in the day, they were losing their light, they were doing this all in one take, and the baby to that point had been extremely cooperative, that Bochco didn't yell cut. He should have. The look into the camera was one more indication that the musical aspect of Cop Rock didn't have the respect it deserved.
All that to say, that even though it only lasted 11 episodes, all of which are included in this collection, it's still one of my favorite series of all time. I only wish it had been produced today, and by someone who knew how to produce musicals.
Some of the transitions between drama and music were a little clunky, but it was probably impossible to do it seamlessly every time - there is bound to be a bit of a disconnect. Also there can't be too many candidates for roles which require expertise in both acting and singing, but the cast were excellent. Overall it was great entertainment.
One caveat for potential buyers outside Region 1: I have a couple of other Region 1 discs which play on my DVD players, but this doesn't, so instead of watching on the big TV in the lounge with a good sound system, I have to retreat to my study to play it on the computer. I understand why they introduced regional encoding for films to protect cinemas outside the US, but why use it on a TV series which was broadcast 26 years earlier?
So five stars for content, zero stars for the regional encoding.