Adam And Sarah's Cop Rock Rewatch: 'And Then There Was The Rapping'
Improved musicality, continued problems with blocking, Issues Writing, and...Candyman?
We've talked so little about the actual plot of Cop Rock here (because, really, who cares?) but the main ongoing arc (besides the mayor's virginity, ugh) is Peter Onorati's "gritty" Detective LaRusso, who in the first episode straight up executed a handcuffed perp who had killed a cop, because his partner had screwed up the entry and search of the house and they knew the arrest was going to be thrown out. The partner (who, like the perp, is black) starts out lying for LaRusso but then, after much soul-searching (none of it, oddly, musicalized), decides to tell the real story of what happened.
Due to a technical snafu here at PTV, I watched these two episodes out of order, and when I saw a scene of a cross being burned on LaRusso's partner's (have you noticed that my brain can hardly retain any names on this show?) lawn in the previouslies I thought, "That seems a bit much." And that was without the song! I mean, I don't know, I'm a pretty privileged white guy, but...was cross-burning a thing in 1990 in LOS ANGELES? Surely you could find another way to dramatically depict the (definitely real) insane racism of the time in your MUSICAL.
Where to start with the burning cross, truly. It's such an ugly and bracing symbol, and whether or not this genre is the way to step to what it represents, this show certainly doesn't have the tools. (Leaving aside the fact that, while Mrs. Potts -- who, for reasons I can't fathom, is currently listed on the IMDb as played by a decidedly Nordic-looking actress -- is singing that "it's not gonna happen here," she and their neighbors just stand there and let the cross burn. Someone at least make a MOVE towards a bucket of water?)
I think Cop Rock COULD have found a way to talk about the toxic conditions in Los Angeles at that time; I didn't hate that conversation between Franklin and Gaines about how, when Gaines talks to Frank about music, he's always sure to mention black groups. But we also have a conversation between the mayor and the police chief after he's offended every single non-WASP in the city in which she bemoans the PR nightmare he's caused but isn't so PERSONALLY offended that she doesn't still want to fuck him. If that's supposed to be satire, it's...not working.
And like, she sings "it's not gonna happen here" while it is literally happening here. Right in front of you. I mean...what? But yes, that music conversation was good, and stuff with the racist detective we've never seen before and presumably will never see again, while not the BEST writing I've ever seen on television, at least made its point in a way that I believed could and would and probably did happen. That story involved a child accidentally shot in a drive-by, and while the song sung at the scene by his mother (ER's Nurse Adams!) wasn't good, it conveyed the emotion of the moment in the way music should, and it grew on me due to the performance. (It also made very clear to me that one of the biggest problems with the music, among many, is the terrible synthesizer on everything.)
And let's not talk about the gay subplot. I mean, you can if you want to but I don't even know what to say.
I suppose we're meant to see Mayor Plank, and (mostly) the show, as progressive; I guess I can give them that one. But for every hot-button issue they handle even in the neighborhood of appropriately, there's a poorly directed song (Gaines looking gassy as Racist Detective sings his shitty song about people of color on the force because he has nothing to do in the scene), a song or scene that strains for 10 PM edginess (Trish giving LaRusso a hand at the bar), or a molasses-paced sidebar into a subplot nobody really cares about (Ruskin's paranoia about Vicki and Campo Doing It).
Although, on that last tip, I didn't hate her locker-room joint. The girl-power parts are musty and dated but at least I buy that she'd have no choice but to burst into song on the issue.
I liked that one too! In general I feel like the show is getting better as it goes along on the deployment of songs, if not their actual quality. People are singing more where I expect them to, dramatically, which helps a lot. (Though remember last week when I said the dumb rookie should have a song? I take it back.)
And there are some nice little details that do suggest people are taking things seriously: I spent entirely too much time trying to CSI-zoom in on the comic strip in Vicki's locker, which is a perfect character touch for her. The "we have no idea what to do when music is playing but no one is singing" choreography is killing me slowly, though.
And just how looooonnnnng the scenes can drag on, which is more of a hallmark of the time and of the average drama having 47 minutes to fill instead of 39-41, but when the two-shot of the bail-bondsmen's dinner guests applauding LaRusso's pabulum speech on disappearing middle-class values entered what felt like its second week, you realize we really don't miss the extra six to eight minutes, because it's all shit like watching Ruskin tail his wife and Campo in the car.
And can we talk about the weirdly pointed non-speaking cameos the stars of other Bochco properties are getting? So far I've seen SWAT guy Hunter from Hill Street Blues and Michele Greene from L.A. Law. At least Greene's and Jimmy Smits's -- also in that ep, though I didn't spot him -- characters have a reason to be at an L.A courthouse. The hell is Greene doing there?
But whoever cast Tony "Candyman" Todd as a Nation Of Islam bodyguard is a genius.
Oh we need to have a longer talk about James Sikking's cameo, because it's part of an ENTIRE NUMBER referencing Hill Street Blues called "Let's Be Careful Out There," which might just be the low point of this entire thing for me so far. I love a good meta moment, but it's not something this show can get away with. Don't remind us of your vastly superior show! Also again with the character playing an instrument that has no business being in the room, implying that this is really happening. Also also, the song makes no dramatic sense. Not just in Hill Street, but in the actual scene here in Cop Rock, "Let's be careful out there" is the END of the briefing. You're done. Except apparently you have quite a long list of things left to sing about? Poorly? Okay.
And speaking of songs taking place in reality, was the speaker who cancelled at the bail bondsman's ball or whatever ALSO a cop who killed a guy in cold blood, or did the band just have that song ready for anything?
Ugh, "Let's Be Careful Out There." The nadir (until the next song) of the production's tendency not to direct any of the actors in the cutaways. Like, your staff sergeant is warbling and playing an organ and you're just sitting there making a mental shopping list? Sure. At least that guy can sort of sing, though. The dweebs passive-aggressing at Potts in song about how he's disloyal to his brethren on the force all sound like they have literal frogs in their throats.
And while we're here, do you think they meant for "Black Is Black" to have as many innuendos as "I Want A Cop Who Doesn't Shoot Blanks?" The latter is a deliberate double-entendre-fest (ha ha, people literally getting killed, hilarious?) and the former is a racist screed but could have also been about changing from a career in law enforcement to one in gay porn.
And then there was the rapping.
To tell you the truth, I stopped paying attention to "Black Is Black" four bars in, which is what tends to happen with songs on this show at this point in the run -- I know it's just going to be more synth noodling and more daisy chains of clichés that I don't think the lyricists understand are clichés. Nothing unexpected happens in terms of rhyme, key, or anything else. You can predict the entire song from the first few lines, so I just tuned out for my knitting pattern.
The rapping...the thing is, I didn't hate the break. The kid's pretty good. The lyrics is where it runs into trouble. The song has no idea what it wants to say and is not as felt in its understanding of these characters' point of view as it thinks, so if it's trying to make a statement about kids killing kids or kill or be killed or whatever it's trying to say, it has no standing to do so. And here we are again at the problem of Cop Rock's tone-deafness towards the issues it's so very proud of itself about confronting.
My boyfriend walked in while the rapping was on and said, "This is really racist?" No, honey, it's ABOUT racism. Racism is bad. "Life in the hood ain't no piece of pie." The absolutely true message is totally undercut by how awkward the writing is. And it's weird that they gave the partners that conversation about black and white music, but consistently split the cast along musical lines. "Oh, it's a song for the black gang members, better make it hip-hop!"
I mean, I buy that those particular guys would freestyle. I just don't buy that the SHOW knows that. Although I guess we should be thankful they didn't make Larry Joshua the MC. He had enough trouble with that saccharine dad ballad.
Oh sure, I just don't think these are the people to be WRITING that material.
I don't think these are the people to be writing ANY material.
Adam & Sarah's Cop Rock Rewatch
- In Which Cop Rock, Alas, Does Not
- 'It's The Songwriting Equivalent Of Rearranging The Magnetic Letters On A Friend's Fridge To Spell "Fart"'
- 'What Is The Music In Cop Rock?'
- Adam And Sarah's Cop Rock Rewatch: 'And Then There Was The Rapping'