austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

We never had the love that every child oughta get

Mentioned in passing in my visiting-my-relatives report last week was that we watched a bit of Cop Rock. You remember the show, or at least remember the punch line: it's a cop show done as a musical. And, indeed, so it is: blending one of the TV genres that will not die with a TV genre that never really lived. (Mind, I like musicals, although it happens that I've never seen Glee; just too much else on.) Back in whenever it came out, I pretty much heard about it, had too much stuff going on to watch it, and forgot about it other than snickering at the many jokes about it.

My sister-in-law was similarly fascinated, and recently put that fascination into action by getting bootleg DVDs of the whole series. She's delighted by it, although I note she's still after months unsure about a rumor that the third disc's episodes were somehow ``messed up''. My brother was fascinated by how much the show is, really, a dry run of NYPD Blue, apart from the songs. And he insisted I watch the opening of the first show and, yeah, if you cut away the awful Randy Newman piece it is an NYPD Blue style 90s cop show, showing the breaking into a house to arrest suspects and (after the credits) the existential futility of it all when they get released on low bail or their own recognizance.

There's probably no way that making a cop show/musical would work, at least not with 90s-style Realism as the cop show's styling. But the show definitely sank when the first musical number was the arrested and neighborhood kibbutzers singing about who really had the power as the cops marched the arrested to the cop cars. It's the worst kind of musical song, one which could be excised without any loss to the plot or characters. A good song in a musical is, typically, like a good scene in any well-composed story: you have something appreciably lesser without it. It should advance plot, or character, or mood, or several of these at once; if it can't, it should at least be a catchy tune, rather than what you get by hitting the ``Demo 2'' button on Randy Newman.

I wonder if the show might have lasted longer --- maybe even succeeded, at least artistically --- if they had used a different piece for the first song: what if instead the scenes of many cops and the operations of breaking into the house were the musical number? The choreography of the raid could give the song structure, and the pacing of the song could add to the emotional charge of the raid. It would also suggest the raid, chaotic as it might appear, was actually the result of thoughtful planning and preparation. There is a music inherent to a complicated, multifaceted operation carried out successfully; I think that should have been the feature. The music would have a point.

Next week: how to have done Fish Police right.

Trivia: By 1887, following 21 years on the New York City police force, Inspector Alexander ``Clubber'' Williams had been the subject of 358 formal complaints of brutality and been fined 224 times, but never seriously punished. Source: Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, And New York's Trial Of The Century, Mike Dash.

Currently Reading: The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, And The History Of The World From The Periodic Table Of The Elements, Sam Kean.


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