Even in Horrendous Failure, Steven Bochco Succeeded—And Cop Rock Is Proof

Cop Rock creator Steven Bochco on the set.

From Everett Collection.

Ask a TV fanatic to call essentially the most laughable failure in broadcast historical past, and chances are high they’ll cite Cop Rock. The musical police drama made it a mere 11 episodes earlier than ABC canned the collection in 1990, and continues to be remembered as a spectacular misfire—even by those that by no means caught its unique run.

However in an age when TV musicals have made a comeback—because of success tales like Glee, Empire, and Loopy Ex-Girlfriend,—it’s price re-examining Cop Rock with gentler eyes. Its creator, the prolific, hallowed producer Steven Bochco, was a visionary who modified serial dramas with collection like Hill Road Blues and NYPD Blue. Bochco died Sunday following an prolonged battle with leukemia, and his legacy is as formidable as it’s colourful; he was identified for standing by his creative imaginative and prescient and refusing to bow to community anxieties.

Typically, as with NYPD Blue, this technique labored; different instances, it begat Cop Rock. However as Bochco famous in a 2016 interview with the A.V. Membership, the collection sprang from a 10-series take care of ABC—and “when you’ve got the assure of getting that many reveals on the air and also you don’t do one thing daring and adventurous and experimental, then disgrace on you.”

To be clear, newer TV musicals have largely felt extra polished than Cop Rock did—at the very least, the place the music is worried. Glee, Smash, and Empire all focus or centered centered on individuals whose lives organically revolve round music, which removes a few of the awkwardness inherent to a premise by which persons are bursting into music. However Bochco loved pushing the boundaries of what TV may do; Hill Road Blues, an experimentally gritty cop drama, was among the many lowest-rated collection NBC ever renewed earlier than it turned successful, because the Los Angeles Instances famous in its personal autopsy tribute to Bochco. Because the prolific producer informed the paper 4 years in the past, “It was messy, barely managed chaos. We had been actually inventing it as we went alongside. There has by no means been something prefer it earlier than when it comes to dimension and sloppiness. Phrases had been tumbling out within the background, the body was teeming with characters.”

Hill Road Blues went on to air for seven profitable seasons, racking up dozens of Emmys alongside the best way. It turned a guiding gentle for serial dramas, which adopted its instance and have become increasingly serialized over time. In an interview for the e book Writing the TV Drama Sequence: How one can Succeed as a Skilled Author in TV, Bochco defined, “When you find yourself making a present with seven, eight, 9 characters—ask your self, how are you going to appropriately dramatize that many characters throughout the framework of an hour tv present? And the reply is that you may’t. So that you say, O.Okay., what we have now to do is spill over the edges of our type and begin telling multi-plot, extra serial sorts of tales.”

After Hill Road Blues got here one other smash TV hit: NYPD Blue. But it surely’s price noting, because the Instances does, that Bochco confronted no small quantity of community nervousness when it got here to the drama that may run for 12 seasons. At the same time as a number of ABC affiliate stations vowed to not air the collection premiere, Bochco refused to make any edits. Evidently, his guess paid off—placing Bochco’s stamp on what had turn out to be a stagnant style of procedural tv as soon as extra. And simply final November, in an amusing wrinkle of destiny, ABC introduced that it’s cooking up a brand new musical crime drama that positive appears like Cop Rock—though sources have pressured that this collection is not about singing cops.

One one who by no means regretted Cop Rock for a second? Bochco himself. Talking with the A.V. Membership, the producer stated he was by no means embarrassed by the collection—which was a superb factor, since nobody would ever let him overlook it. And his reasoning is price remembering: “, in case you’re a baseball participant and also you get a base hit 3 times out of 10, and also you try this for 20 years, you’re going to be within the Corridor of Fame, however you’re nonetheless gonna strike out typically. That’s inevitable. However at the very least I went down swinging!”

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