Thursday, June 13, 2013

RR RoboCop: The Series

Part Robot. Part franchise. All TV series.

Name: RoboCop: The Series aka RoboCop - The Beginning: The Complete Series 
Created by Stephen Downing
Original run 1994
Genre Science-fiction drama

In the early 1990s RoboCop's popularity and appeal to the audience was still pretty high.

RoboCop was adapted into several video games and comic books. There's also been a reasonably popular animated series.

So when the opportunity to bring the part man, part machine, all cop hero presented itself, the producers naturally jumped at the idea.

RoboCop: The Series was co-produced between Orion Pictures and Canada. They shared the rights with Canada's Skyvision Entertainment, where they could make the production cheaper and even reconstruct part of an old Detroit area for the settings of the show.

Since the producers blamed the negative reception of RoboCop 3 on Frank Miller, they decided to go back to the roots of the series for this series. Which was a great timing when Paul Verhoven's original writers on the first RoboCop, Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, got in touch with the production. Apparently they still retained part of the rights behind the series.

They decided to make the pilot for the series out of Verhoven's original unused script for the RoboCop 2 he would have directed had they waited back then.

The pilot was made into a full on feature length mini-film. It was originally meant to air right around the third film's release.. but due to its unsuccessful release they waited for a bit longer before airing it. And so the series debuted first in Canada later in 1994.

RoboCop: The Series takes place about two years in the near-future of Old Detroit since we last saw our favorite cop.

The series does follow the film trilogy and builds upon the same themas explored on the big screen, yet it mostly ignores mentioning aspects from the sequels. Delta City is far from being established for good. OCP is still running the town.

RoboCop has now been transfered back from Metro West (seen in the movies) to his first job back in Metro South.

He has been partnered up with his first partner Detective Lisa Madigan. And under the orders of Sergeant Stanley Parks is now back on duty protecting the innocent and upholding the law.

But things get complicated once again once OCP executive Chip Chayken starts meddling around.

Our heroes get quickly joined by a young woman, ex-OCP secretary turned super computer and now virtual character named Diana. A young street rat named Gadget basically lives at the police station, at least that's better than going back to the orphanage.

Quickly RoboCop runs it with several kinds of villains as he tries to clean the streets of Detroit. The psychotic Boppo the Clown, Dr. Cray Z. Mallardo, the RoboCop-obsessed burn villain William Ray "Pudface" Morgan or ex-OCP employee Commander Cash who was responsible for the extremely popular Commander Cash toyline. Yep. OCP is behind 99% of the things that go wrong in this city. At least their 1% good turned out to be a Robo-Cop.

The series lasted for about 22 episodes of this one and only 1994 season.

It wasn't canceled for its reception or lack of a viewership, mind you. But because the average episode cost about $1.25 million USD to produce! It was way too expensive to afford as an on-going series. (they should have just made several mini-series instead)

After a solid 2-parter hour long pilot of what RoboCop 2 might have been as Verhoven and the original crew intended it (with a more budget and a PG12 rating), the series then establishes a more episodic formula. With villains of the week and storylines alternating between corporate conspiracy and a more comic book-ysh approach.

For what it's worth, the show maintained a great surprising quality you wouldn't expect from Canadian TV at the time, the special effects still hold up pretty well to this day.

The show was a great return to the satire tone of the original and mocking here and ther medias, politics and modern urban life.

There's even some footage from the first film recycled here and there helping the sense of continuity. It was light on references of the 3rd movie (but you didn't have Anne Lewis around no more as well), though there was a sense of progression from it story-wise.

Alex Murphy was a man and doesn't it ignore it anymore. Although he also has embraced his RoboCop side now.

Replacing Peter Weller from the 1987 movie, Richard Eden took over everyone's favorite cop. Originally they asked for the one and only first RoboCop to come back but Weller didn't want to have to move to Canada for the role. Richard Eden did a fairly good convincing RoboCop. Although the voice wasn't quite there in the first episodes, he got the role down much better than Robert John Burke in RoboCop 3 who was too much robotic. Eden was able to give him a more humane tone in the emotional scenes and mimicked Weller's movements just right. He also appears as "Murphy" in the credits sequence. It's a role the actor has grown to love and often mentioning over the years.

Taking over RoboCop's new partner, Yvette Nipar's Lisa Madigan along Blu Mankuma as Sergeant Parks were absically Lewis and Sgt. Reed.

The writers were able to develop RoboCop a bit more in the show. Expanding upon his background, such as having Nancy Murphy (originally Elen in the movies, several names had to be changed due to copyright issues) and Jimmy Murphy as regulars.

Let's be honest.. the show was a bit campy at the times.

It was a very fun show that didn't shy away from embracing its silly over the top nature inherent to RoboCop.

The satire of conservatives, the privatization of health care, it's all still here at the heart of the show. There's a lot more black comedy though.

Easily amongst the best RoboCop-produced material since the original RoboCop movie. It captures the tone more so than any previous theatrical sequels. Sure, it was all toned down for TV, but keeping around the element of satire.

There was a bit more comic book-style humor, mostly with the villains that keep returning time after time to seek revenge on RoboCop (Pudface Morgan first).

Featuring the intrusive media presence in the form of news segments and the often silly parodical commercials.

The series was aimed at both a younger audience and teenagers - thanks the cartoon and toys for that. Which explains why the violence and graphic nature had to be simplified. But they find some alternatives, mostly in the scripts and cinematography to retain RoboCop the same.

There were some great ideas, such as the OCP Chairman back, but to a more neutral role unlike the foe he became in RoboCop 2.

An episode, "Prime Suspect", was even able to remake The Fugitive.

Overall, RoboCop: The Series was probably one of the better movie franchise adapted to the television format.

If you like the films, this should be really right up your alley. Give it a chance, it's worth the look.

Sadly it didn't last that long (though that can also be seen as a positive point).

Don't let the lack of violence mistake you.  This series was a lot closer to the original film than any of both Frank Miller-penned sequels ever were. The show had some great solid writing and a great soundtrack to boot!

At least it sold many VHS tapes at the time, lots of episodes made it on home release before we finally were treated to the complete series set on DVD.

RoboCop is still very much popular to this day (although to a lesser extend) and perhaps even more relevant nowadays.

The Series was followed by a second animated series, RoboCop: Alpha Commando, some years later in 1999. As well as another TV series/slash/mini-series, but that will be for another time...

I give it:
2.5 / 3 UFOs!


  1. Wow, I didn't even know this existed. I'll have to check it out.

    Good stuff, bro.

    1. The series was pretty decent.

      Sure, since its TV it lacks some of the violence, but it's tons better than RoboCop 2 & 3.