'It's The Songwriting Equivalent Of Rearranging The Magnetic Letters On A Friend's Fridge To Spell "Fart"'
Adam and Sarah don't think they entirely understand what's going on in Cop Rock as their rewatch tackles baby brokers and heartbroken mud-wrestlers.
After our last conversation, in which I had some serious questions about tone, our esteemed colleague Nick Rheinwald-Jones told us that he knew some people who'd been involved with Cop Rock, and that they had all taken it very seriously. I can't say whether having that in mind changed how I watched these episodes, or if they were genuinely better, but -- while I still have a whole bunch of questions and would not go so far as to use the word "good" -- at least the "cop" side seems to be improving. What did you think?
I don't know if I'd use the word "improving." The arrival of Paul McCrane on the scene helps -- Fame-the-movie fans like myself know boyfriend can sing, unlike many of his castmates, and he doesn't look as overmatched by the genre as everyone else seems to -- but the overarching sense of the thing I get is that the creators are SO focused on successfully marrying the two genres, procedural and musical, that they haven't paid adequate attention to lifting either genre out of cliché. Like, literally everything about LaRusso's jailhouse dirge -- the melody, the lyrics, the costuming -- seems to have come out of a generator. Except for the times when the lyrics are too hamhanded and amateurish to "rise to" the level of banal.
Funny, that's the one song I singled out as a positive! Not because it's particularly good (it's not) but because it serves a function I expect a song in a musical to serve. It actually tells us something about LaRusso's emotional state. In fact, it runs a little counter to the "book," in which he's written and acted as a fairly cartoonish villain. But they don't give him that song, they give him one that shows he doesn't see himself that way: He thinks he's the good guy.
Meanwhile, the majority of the numbers in these two episodes are sung by side characters we'll never see again, which simply grind the story to a halt. LaRusso's wife seems like a nice woman but "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" this ain't. (Kids, ask your homosexuals.) Maybe I enjoyed this week more because I had a project: I found myself thinking up better scenes for musicalization than the ones they'd chosen.
Yeah, why are we still with the couple on this domestic-violence call? First of all, I don't care if it's a musical, you don't pull a cop's own gun on him and get to stay in your living room. Second of all, maybe don't have a character who won't have an opportunity to contextualize anything victim-blame HERSELF for her husband's alcoholism and abuse.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that second thing, though. This is a show that gives THE CREATOR'S WIFE an unfunny, fucked-up subplot about the fact that the lady mayor is so hideous, she can't win a Senate race. And then she's given plastic surgery that makes her look...no different, and she gets to make out with the chief of police. Never mind offensive and, in the context of a marriage, aggressive; it's not watchable.
She looks A LITTLE different. Enough that I felt REALLY bad for not noticing her "ugly" makeup last week because the second they started talking about it, it was SO obvious. But yeah, that's another good example: Her plastic surgeon gets a song (which, fine, is a commentary on our shallow culture yadda yadda), but the main character actually going through an emotional crisis over the whole thing doesn't? And in the NEXT scene in the domestic violence plot, we see the rookie who messed up having an emotional moment that looked like it was about to be a song that instead cut to commercial. GLEE had a better handle on musical dramaturgy than this.
And the doctor couldn't sing. Peter Onorati as LaRusso is pretty bad, but he can stay on key; I really don't understand why you'd veer onto that side character's take on the plot point if he isn't a legendary belter. The baby broker's song, same problem, although Dennis Cockrum can at least ape phrasings half-decently. The undercover cops posing as a married couple while resisting a mutual attraction that's deeply problematic because the lady officer is married to a much older CSI in the same precinct? Where's that song?
But I don't know if I want to hear that song either. Going back to the idea that the entire corps took the project very seriously, that's...what's making it suck, at least in part. Cop Rock's idea of what's funny is WAY off. If you want us to sympathize with Ruskin's dullsville dieting subplot and crumbling relationship with his child bride, DON'T HAVE THE GUY EATING PASTA THAT IS LITERALLY IN A CRIME SCENE, and take so long to do it and underline how scandalous it is three times.
I feel like our notes must be almost identical because I too had "IT'S A CRIME SCENE!" in mine. Was it even meant to be scandalous? I felt like it was just meant to be gross. But...IT'S A CRIME SCENE!
And speaking of not being able to sing...there is a song called "The Baby Merchant." Now, look, I can think of a lot of songs, theatrical and pop, in which someone sings a version of "I am the whatever," and even some in which a villain explaining his plan to the audience...fine. But "I'm the baby merchant"? They know, because they literally just discussed how they were going to buy a baby from you! But even suspending all the disbelief it's just WEIRD. There are all these pauses in the vocals when the, uh, baby merchant, has nothing to do but bop his shoulders or (shudder) thrust his hips, and the poor cops just have to stand there watching him and it's the most awkward thing in the world. It was a rare moment when I wish the show had gone further and made this a full-on fantasy number with backup dancers or something. Which is sort of what happened with the "Not Guilty" number so I don't really understand what language we're speaking here.
My notes, and I quote: "'Tots R Us? question taste level; also, what's w/the thrusting?" Because: what's with the thrusting? You're a baby MERCHANT, not a baby-MAKER. Settle down, guy they hire when they can't afford Ed Lauter.
...But we've avoided the central question long enough, and that question is: is Ruskin's song at the gym the Randy Newmanniest Randy Newman joint that ever Randy Newmanned? Because IMO it's right up there with the Monk theme on Mount Newmanshmore.
OMG. You had warned me, and I THOUGHT it was the baby merchant song, and then Newman out-Newmanned himself. It was like a Randy Newman parody.
We should point out though -- and I apologize to our readers for getting this wrong last time -- that there are in fact multiple song-writers on this show! Including the woman who wrote "The Rose," the man who wrote The Greatest American Hero theme song, and Mike Post himself. I noticed the full screen (owing to the GIANT early-'90s font) of credits this time around. The Newmanosity is unmistakeable, but I actually sort of liked the stripper wife's pointless ballad, out of context. (The internet is failing me in finding individual songwriting credits, unfortunately.)
...You...LIKED that song? "I hate men / God, I hate men" song? "I'm making love while he's making time" song? I am outraged that someone got paid to write that. It's the songwriting equivalent of rearranging the magnetic letters on a friend's fridge to spell "fart." That this managed to register as poor work to me despite a literal tumbleweed rolling through Watts in the previous scene is a miracle of sorts. Or whatever the crappy version of a miracle is. A boo-racle.
I mean, relatively speaking. I think I was just relieved to have a musical moment that was neither Newman nor an old-timey country number for some reason?
Featuring an emotionally abused mud-wrestler.
I already said she shouldn't have had the song in the first place, leave me alone!
Any predictions for upcoming episodes? I bet McCrane gets a song about his character's vegetarianism.
Considering how we're not that far away from his appearance on ER, maybe a ballad about rapid hair loss? (Sorry, that was mean. I love you, Paul McCrane!)
Considering there's absolutely no reason for the Mayor and the Police Chief to actually like each other, regardless of her looks, I'm hoping for some kind of musical blow-up there.
The Baby Merchant (song and character)
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'