If you’re interested in picking up your very own copy of RoboCop: The Series, then you can follow the link right here for more details. It’s available in either Blu-ray or traditional DVD.
By their very nature, feature films invest a significant chunk of their change into making characters, costumes, environment, and set pieces look larger-than-life: it’s why they call it ‘the movies,’ after all. In some cases – especially when you’re dealing with franchise properties – no expense is spared in giving the motion picture the visual clout needed to compete in the ultimate venue of cinematic ideas. Audiences can expect to be more than reasonably entertained in exchange for the price of a ticket, and studios are inclined to put-up-or-shut-up with the hopes of wooing them back again should the prospect for a sequel get introduced.
Indeed, RoboCop was a force to be reckoned with up in the lights, but the constraints of weekly television production understandably meant dialing some of that cinematic excess. The premiere installments – a two-parter titled “The Future Of Law Enforcement” – picks up a few years after the events of the 1987 motion picture, completely (and thankfully) ignoring the developments of the inferior sequels. That’s not such a bad thing, per se – anyone showing up to watch anything with ‘RoboCop’ in its name is certainly most interested in our hero himself – but that’s why maybe the show made a calculated gamble with this script serving as its debut:
Alex Murphy isn’t in a good percentage of it.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“RoboCop and Officer Lisa Madigan uncover a deadly conspiracy between insane genius Dr. Cray Mallardo and ruthless OCP executive Chip Chayken to create Neuro Net, a computer linked to a human brain designed to run the entire city. The hitch: finding a brain capable of doing the job.”
It’s certainly no weakness to build a weekly police procedural around an established character like RoboCop, and showrunners Kevin Gillis, Brian K. Ross, and Stephen Downing made great strides in adapting the property’s cinematic constructs for the Boob Tube. The satirical newscast, the unintentionally funny commercial advertisements, and the grim urban landscape of Old Detroit all come along for active duty. Actor Richard Eden takes on the big task of filling those big cybernetic shoes, but – for some reason I’ve not yet been able to uncover – the character of bubblegum-chewing Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen in the film) is jettisoned in favor of bubblegum-chewing Lisa Madigan (played here by the lovely Yvette Nipar). Given the fact that both female partners would appear to be the same person, I’m at a loss to understand why the change.
In any event, the action is toned down considerably from what one experiences in the movie – I’m certain TV network censors would’ve had issues with that anyhow – but that’s a negligible change: what matters most is that RoboCop is back on the job, and that fact alone make much of “The Future Of Law Enforcement” (Parts 1 and 2) watchable.
And – dare I say? – actor Eden does an admirable job picking up the Robo-mantle from his theatrical counterparts. Granted, one might think that getting suited up into that alleged 90-pound cybernetic carriage alone gives any Thespian ample leverage to use in executing a character, but the man clearly has the movements down as well as some effective speech patterns maximized in every scene. He’s clearly done some work to prepare for the gig, and I’m excited to see where he’ll take this journey over the twenty-plus episodes.
If I have any significant gripe with the debut (and – c’mon – it’s me, you know I’m gonna have at least one gripe), it’s the choice of story. Without spoiling too much of it, our singular hero gets – ahem – significantly sidelined for much of the second half. IMDB.com reports that the script emerged from a script penned originally for RoboCop 2 by Robo’s creators Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner; and perhaps they were thematically trying to take these events in a slightly more ‘redemptive’ direction than one generally gets in episodic television. There’s nothing wrong with anyone rising from the grave, but I think that ‘Second Coming’ is stuff best left to religion and those who practice it.
RoboCop: The Series was produced by Robocop Productions Ltd., Rysher Entertainment, and Skyvision Entertainment. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated via Liberation Hall. This Blu-ray set contains five discs and boasts a runtime of approximately seventeen hours.
As for the technical specifications? Well, I’ve read online that some longtime fans of the show are a bit upset with this release: the episodes have all been formatted 16:9 for widescreen televisions but the show was original broadcast in standard 4:3. My expertise is certainly not in the technical areas covered by some who do reviews, but I can say – after viewing a few episodes – there are some hiccups regarding cropping. It’s nothing glaring – only a handful of scenes ended up looking shot with a person’s head out-of-frame – so I’m not inclined to make a big deal out of it. However, there are also a few scenes of obvious grain I suspect are a result of the increased focus; again, it’s nothing ‘tragic,’ but it is what it is. (I’ve seen other shows broadcast on HD channels reformat older programming that looks vastly worse than this.)
As for the special features? The set provides a handful of the typical behind-the-scenes whatnot including extras kinda/sorta repackaged from the show itself. Cast profiles are also a nice touch, along with some other documentary-style shorts about the show, some of its props, etc. For what it’s worth, I thought it a nice assortment for folks either casual or die-hard enthusiasts of the greater RoboUniverse. Well done.
Recommended. I think it’s fair to say that RoboCop: The Series really only got off to an affable start in “The Future Of Law Enforcement: Part 1” and Part 2. Honestly, Part 1 is vastly better than Part 2 – largely because the plot as constructed has our hero sidelined for much of the action (won’t spoil it, but it’ll be damn obvious), and the tone of the big climax gets a bit too wacky for my tastes. The conventions and restrictions of episodic television might keep the big guy from achieving status anywhere near what he did on the silver screen (even in the lesser sequels), but I’m holding out hope that the producers have a little something up their sleeve for future installments.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Liberation Hall provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Robocop: The Series by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.