Cop Rock, Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law

Cop Rock (1990)
Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)
L.A. Law (1986-1994)
Type: Crossovers
Group 2

   Why? Why God why? This hurts. This one hurts really bad. I am obviously fascinated by crossovers and shows sharing a common reality. And I have encountered some weird crap in tracking this stuff. Knight Rider and Star Trek hooking up? Weird but oddly cool. St. Elsewhere being a sort of crossover nexus connecting tons of shows? No problem. But. to have shows connected via Cop Rock. well, I just feel oddly dirty. It doesn't seem right. Thank you Steven Bochco, thanks a lot.

   See, Steven Bochco is one of the High Kahuna's of television. In the late 1990's and the start of the new millennium David E. Kelley became the Uber Producer who couldn't seem to make a TV show that wasn't a hit. But before him, Steven Bochco was the Producer who could not make a bad show. And then there came Cop Rock.

   But that's getting ahead of the story. Before Cop Rock Steven Bochco created some classic television dramas. He did this by taking existing genres and injecting them with characters more human, more flawed, more real than was the norm. Hill Street Blues was a cop show sure. But the cops working Hill Street were not super cops whose only focus was the job. They had to deal with personal lives, love lives, budget cuts.

   The gang on L.A. Law lead a life that was more upscale than the cops on Hill Street Blues but they were also characters with more dimensions than those found on other law shows. Perry Mason was mostly about winning the case. It was rare to never that you ever saw Perry Mason worrying about his love life or dealing with interoffice politics.

   Where to go next? What else could he do to shake things up? Maybe. maybe inject course language, nudity and violence into the police drama so as to better portray the gritty realism of being a New York cop in a little show called N.Y.P.D. Blue? Well. apparently that was his back up plan because first he decided to try taking the police drama and injecting it with gritty realism through singin' and dancin'! I said singin' and dancin'. Seriously. If you haven't ever heard of Cop Rock, that's honestly what it was. Don't look at me like that, it wasn't my idea.

   Lets be clear though. Cop Rock wasn't a sanitized MGM musical version of cops. Nope. Like I said, he was going for showing the gritty seedy side of police work. just with singing. Again, I'm serious. It didn't fly. The show tanked in less than a season.

   Why did it tank? Okay, that isn't a rhetorical question. Seriously, the premise alone didn't sink it. I mean the movie Dancer In The Dark presented a bleak and dark story in the form of a musical and it worked really well. So the possibility that Cop Rock could have worked is not utterly impossible. mostly impossible but not utterly. I think one of the biggest obstacles it had beyond the premise was that for any musical to really work, you need great songs and great production numbers that stick with people. Well, I don't care who you are, you aren't going to be able to crank out three or four classic musical week after week. Actual stage musicals get worked over for ever and ever to get the numbers just right, to get the bugs out. With a TV show you don't have that ability. On top of that, in a good musical the songs almost always push the story forward, advance the plot. From what I've seen of Cop Rock, that was not always the case. The numbers often didn't advance the plot but instead stalled it.

   Here's an example. A couple of cops are investigating a murder victims house. In the middle of this they break into song about how rich the victim was and how he has luxuries they don't have. Uh, okay. And I care because? A guy has been murdered, I as a viewer want the killer caught but instead I have to sit and wait for that. First I have to listen to two cops bitch and moan IN SONG about how their lives suck. Shut up!!!! Stop singing!!! Go catch the killer!!! Can't you at least sing about how you found the murder weapon? Or a clue? How about even singing about how bad you really have to pee. That would have more tension and drama that somebody waxing musical about their station in life.

   (Set the pain aside. I must set the pain aside.)

   Anyway, as I've said, Steven Bochco produced Cop Rock after Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. When Cop Rock hit the air on ABC, Hill Street was history while L.A. Law was still running over on NBC. But, since all the shows were his "babies" and Cop Rock, would-be gritty or not, was a bit of fun, Bochco decided to have a little cameo crossover fun. Cop Rock's seventh episode, "Cop-a-felliac", featured an uncredited cameo by James B. Sikking in his role of Lt. Howard Hunter from Hill Street Blues. The next episode, "Potts Don't Fail Me Now", likewise had Jimmy Smits and Michele Greene pop up as their L.A. Law characters of Victor Sifuentes and Abby Perkins.

   End result of these crossovers? Rather than being a standalone television oddity, Cop Rock ends up being part of a huge shared reality. Not only that, it ends up helping to link L.A. Law into that reality. Normally I'd think, great, the more shows linked the merrier. But in this case L.A. Law's only connection to these other shows (except for Civil Wars) is through this oddly questionable tie. I mean. it's a reality where cops sing and dance for God's sake!

Other Hill Street Blues Crossover Links
Hill Street Blues and Beverly Hills Buntz
Hill Street Blues and N.Y.P.D. Blue

Other L.A. Law Crossover Links
L.A. Law and Civil Wars

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