Thank you for joining me this week in discussing the RoboCop cartoon and the RoboCop TV series and the other RoboCop cartoon and the RoboCop mini-series that happened after the first and second RoboCop sequels.
I have to admit that I had an agenda or two in writing about these crappy shows. I know alot of people are very protective of Paul Verhoeven’s ROBOCOP and were/are righteously offended about the very idea of remaking it. Which makes sense, ’cause it’s a classic.
But I thought it would be helpful for all our mental and emotional health to remember that it’s not exactly an untouched story suddenly being violently plucked from a pure white cloud and soiled by unexpected commercialism. We’ve never lived in a world where ROBOCOP was safeguarded from exploitation like a J.D. Salinger book or Calvin and Hobbes. No, as soon as the damn thing was out of the gate it was cross-marketed like an Omni Consumer Product. It was merchandised, sequelized, video gamed, cartooned and teeveed. Of course I’m not saying “it’s already been ruined, so let’s keep ruining it.” I just mean that since they’ve already treated it like a trademark, brand, franchise and property even before everybody was brainwashed into using those OCP type terms non-ironically, I’m open to the idea of somebody coming along and doing a better job of it.
So that’s the real reason I wanted to examine those shows, not so much to make the point to you guys as to remind myself so I wouldn’t be so disappointed if I didn’t like the new 2014 movie coincidentally also called ROBOCOP. I did the same thing by rewatching TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-4 before the remake prequel, though that kinda backfired (I ended up appreciating the sequels a little more than previous viewings, so it didn’t really lower my standards for the new one). I’m working on my review, so you’ll know soon how it worked out. But first let’s close up our celebration of RoboCop History Week with some final RoboThoughts and links to further studies.
What have I learned from watching these shows? For one thing, it’s hard to make ROBOCOP an interesting character after his origin. Unlike so many super heroes where you’re kinda anxious for them to be established and get on with it, the story of RoboCop is all about his transition from human to human-face-attached-to-machine. Once he’s comfortable being RoboCop and he’s just a guy who’s really awesome at fighting criminals it’s not as exciting. Or at least these cartoonists and Canadian TV people didn’t know how to make it very exciting. Obviously somebody out there could do it better.
I think part of the problem is that Verhoeven’s character is kind of a parody. He’s supposed to have the qualities of an American action movie cop and a super hero but exaggerated to ridiculousness to make a point. To a certain extent we can enjoy that for what it is (much like you can enjoy watching pretty people shoot giant bugs in STARSHIP TROOPERS) but what takes it to the next level is the guy programmed to do that shit struggling to maintain his humanity and sense of right from wrong. Once you take that out, or do a poor job of it, you just have a robot shooting people and things, and if that’s all you got you better do a better job than this. As Tawdry Hepburn pointed out in his film school term paper that he posted on a previous thread, RoboCop pretty much became T.J. Lazer, the TV character he imitated to impress his son.
Another thing I learned from watching these shows is that the original RoboCop design never gets old, so just seeing him walk around is enough to make any old crap semi-watchable. And seeing him try to act casual in normal human settings is always enjoyable. I’d like to see one where he goes grocery shopping or something.
(does RoboCop eat, by the way? I guess he doesn’t have a stomach?)
Oh yeah, of course he does. I forgot.
Of these TV RoboCops, I think my favorite portrayal of the character was the one from the second cartoon, Alpha Commando. It’s not so much his hulk proportions or his voice (although those are fine), it’s his well-delivered bad puns. I like that he tells jokes and you can’t tell if he knows they’re jokes or what.
Before we end the celebration I would like to point you to a few things for further viewing, reading and listening. First up, we have a pretty incredible video of RoboCop’s participation in WCW wrestling. This was pointed out to me by James Matthew Baker, but I know some of you have mentioned it over the years. Note that at least according to whoever posted it on Youtube it’s one of the worst moments in the history of wrestling.
That wasn’t Robo’s only public appearance, by the way. Here he has a brief cameo where he performs the important duty of, uh, pulling back a large lever that Captain America pulled the other way? I’m not sure what he’s up to here, actually.
I mean, he did alot of stuff outside of that one great movie. He endorsed a few products, for example.
Here’s a couple commercials for one of many lines of ROBOCOP toys. You know, from when he was working with The Ultra-Police. Alot of people tend to forget that part of his law enforcement career.
RoboCaps were a pretty major innovation I guess. There were talking RoboCop dolls too, for kids who were lonely.
Also video games
This is not an official ROBOCOP product, but it’s something I remember from the late ’80s that I bring up alot and nobody seems to know what I’m talking about. There was an electro song called “Robo Cop” which used samples from the movie and had a robot voice chanting I guess about the movie, but I can’t really tell what it’s saying other than “RoboCop” and “everybody dance, come on let’s dance.”
I had to look it up to find out that the group was called Sleeze Boyz. I love their album cover, where there are four guys wearing hooded windbreakers over silver masks (one with sunglasses). There are some pretty great song titles on there too, like “Show Me Your Panties” and “Put Your Tongue On it.” Their CD is kinda pricey though. There are alot of different 12″s you can find on ebay. One of them is historic because it has additional programming by Dr. Dre.
Anyway, if you’re tired of all this non-Paul-Verhoeven shit I would like to recommend the oral history of the first movie that Simon Abrams recently did for Esquire
And finally, I can’t possibly recommend enough the ROBOCOP episode of the Projection Booth podcast. They interview Ed Neumeier, Michael Miner, Nancy Allen, Miguel Ferrer and others, and they talk about the movie, sequels and TV shows and have some good sound clips. Really well put together. I probly should’ve listened to it again before doing these reviews this week.
Thanks again everybody and happy RoboCop.
Appendix: More RoboCrap