RoboCop: The Series

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Lance, May 11, 2013.

  1. Reverend

    Reverend Vice Admiral Admiral

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    True, but the movie did it much better because it wasn't anywhere near as self aware as I remember the show being. Again, it's been ages but I vaguely recall the villain being this WAY OTT scenery chewing, cartoony walking cliche that felt like something out of 'Dick Tracy'.

    I don't mind cartoons at all. I love cartoons. I will always love Roadrunner and Daffy Duck as my two all time favourite cartoon characters...BUT live action cartoons *rarely* work and as you said, Robocop was drawn from comic books, not even remotely the same as the kind of cartoon we're talking about.

    I suppose what I'm getting at is that Verhoeven did a much better job at balancing the satire against what's a really human story. He sort of did the same thing with Starship Troopers...though with considerably less depth as was befitting the subject matter. Bottom line, there was a lot less mugging at the camera.

    I don't disagree regarding Robocop 2, but no, that thing with the wardrobe really was silly.

    The fact he's walking around with the mother of all machine pistol and only uses it to attack conveniently placed furniture only serves to highlight how ridiculous it is. Who knows, maybe they were carrying the parody all the way into the TV world with how unrealistically non-violent shows like the A-Team were.

    I get it's a TV show for kids so of course they can't have him shooting rapists in the bollocks. Still, if they needed how to be able to take down baddies, then why not give the gun a non-lethal mode, like a taser shot or some kind or quick-setting expanding foam round? It's not like the IP has been shy about borrowing anything else from Judge Dredd! ;)

    Does the bloke at least learn to walk and move in the suit properly? I know it's nick-picky but it's always irked me how only Weller could pull off that deliberate yet flowing choreography that made him look like he really was a machine and not some bloke in a suit doing a comical impersonation of Robbie the Robot.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As I said, there is some broad villain acting in the show, but there's also some more subdued and dramatic stuff later on. Personally I like the cartooniness of the show; I think it's part of its charm. And I think Cliff De Young in particular did a marvelous job playing a broad, melodramatic supervillain; I often thought he would've made a really good Joker. Sometimes it's fun to watch actors just enjoying themselves and chewing the hell out of the scenery. But maybe that style is not for everyone.


    Well, there is precedent in fiction. Think about the Lone Ranger. He was a character who used guns but never used them against a human being, so he always used fancy trick shots to disarm or incapacitate villains without hurting them. (Never mind that shooting a gun out of someone's hand would cause the bullet to fragment and produce potentially lethal shrapnel. Well, the Lone Ranger's silver bullets might've been less prone to producing shrapnel due to the softer metal, but for the same reason, the bullets would've been less uniform and less conducive to precise aim.) So really this was a revival of a heroic trope dating back to the 1930s, one based in balancing a hero's use of a gun with an obligation to keep things kid-friendly and not too violent.

    Personally I liked the trick shots, because I respect creativity more than brute force. What's cool about the show's RoboCop is that he's not just a fighter but a thinker -- a keen observer, a skilled detective, and a creative problem-solver. Yes, there was censorship limiting the violence, but I like that, because it required the characters to be more creative.


    Keep watching and you'll see plenty of uses of nonlethal "tac weapons," many of which, as I said, were based on real-life research into reduced-lethality weapons and restraint systems. But these were separate items from RoboCop's gun, probably because the gun was part of the character's basic image and they didn't want to tamper with it.


    Richard Eden's physical acting is just as good as Weller's, and he moves in much the same way. And as I've said, I think his vocal performance was much better than Weller's. To me, he's the definitive RoboCop.
     
  3. Reverend

    Reverend Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Like allot of this it comes down to subjective personal taste, but it didn't feel right to me.

    I kind of class it in the same vein as the Schumacher Batman films where it's taking what is clearly a ridiculous premise and just hamming it up to eleven. To me, it works better if the characters treat it seriously and aren't as self aware...not too serious of course because then you get something like Dark Knight Rises.

    Just my opinion, but I wouldn't hold up The Lone Ranger as the yardstick of non-silliness. ;)
    Seriously though, I don't think it needed to go to that extreme. It's fine in and of itself but for me it went against the grain of what Robocop is.

    Now I'm not saying there isn't an aspect of the classic gunslinger's imagery about him, nor am I saying he should go around shooting everything that moves. Indeed, I think even in the film he only ever shot a perp that either A) fired at him first or B) was holding a gun on an innocent civilian (yeah, I know the Old Man wasn't exactly "innocent", but you get what I mean) and even them I'm pretty sure he always offered a verbal warning. I'm no expert of police procedure, but I'm pretty sure that's closer to "by the book" as most cop movies go.

    Also remember the context of the world the character inhabits. When we first see Murphy, the cops are essentially in an urban war, losing something like 5 guys a week. Hell, Murphy was killed the first day on the job!

    What's tampering? You just stick a tiny blue light on the side and just like that, you have your taser mode. Also, you can make it into a toy and make money to keep the suits happy. Ever wonder how many toy wardrobes that show sold? None, that's how many! :D

    I don't know, looks pretty much like a Robbie the Robot impersonation to me with the jerky stride and the wildly swinging arms. I'm not getting down on the actor, it's not an easy thing to pull off. Weller is the kind of physical performer who knows how to use both stillness and motion to great effect. It was deceptively subtle. I assume he had some mime training somewhere along the way.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think the difference is one of execution. Schumacher was way too over-the-top. This show, for the most part, was just over-the-top enough, although it did go a bit overboard in the early episodes.


    I never said the show wasn't silly. But sometimes silliness works. I'd rather see clever trick shots that I can laugh about than scenes of people spurting blood and dying.

    I covered that in my first post in the thread (or rather, in my blog analysis which I quoted in that post). And you're right. In the original movie, Robo mostly avoided deadly force except in unusual circumstances or situations where there was no alternative. In his initial patrol montage, he did rely on nonlethal force and trick shots just as he did in the show, although his methods were more overtly injurious to the perpetrators than they were on the show.


    But the show is set 3-5 years later (references are inconsistent) after Delta City has largely been built and Robo's been on the job for quite a while. There are still plenty of dangers, but it's not as much of a war zone anymore.


    I'm not saying I disagree with you. But sometimes corporate or studio decision-makers can have some odd priorities.



    I don't see any wild swinging except maybe in one brief shot. I think maybe we're both seeing what we want to see in it. Anyway, this was the pilot episode, so maybe it's not the best example of Eden's performance. A lot about the pilot is rough around the edges and not as refined as the rest of the series, as is often the case with a pilot.

    And man, I love that music. I was surprised to discover, when I revisited the original film a couple years back, that the music in that sequence you linked to is based on a motif from the movie score, that six-note rising passage, as well as the main theme.
     
  5. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The best way I can describe the change in tone is that R:TS can be a little difficult to get used to, especially after the deliberately over-the-top violence the first movie had. But once you do get used to the softer tone, it feels like RoboCop to the core. I think like Christopher I actually kind of prefer it.

    Oh, and I also agree with Christopher that in the first movie, RoboCop prefered non-lethal take downs as well. This is no-where better opitomized than in the scene with the mugger, where he doesn't just blow the guy away... he deliberately targets somewhere that'll hurt, but (probably) won't be fatal by the time the paramedics are finished with him. Well, unless he plans on having kids, anyway. ;) The second movie did miss the point of this, RoboCop became just another character who shoots first and asks questions later. He was far more nuanced than that in the first movie (and in this series as well).

    Anyway, on with the next episode...



    "What Money Can't Buy" (4/5)

    A little boy is on death's door and needs a desperate lung transplant. The OCP chairman has taken an interest in the case (spured on only slightly by a PR rep) and has pledged money to the cause, and Robo himself feels a personal connection with the boy. But when the facility that holds the organs is raided by members of a group who sell them on the black market, the little boy's future looks bleak, unless Robo, Madigan and Diana can track the group down and recover the live-saving organs.

    Continuity note: Neither Gadget nor Sergeant Parks appear in this episode (as far as I can tell anyway).

    A solid episode that really tugs on the heartstrings in places. Murphy feels a distinct connection with the boy (no doubt from being on death's door and brought back by a life saving procedure himself).

    Nice to see Madigan really getting her teeth into a regular case. The scene where she and Murphy do a little intel gathering together shows what an awesome team they make. And yes, she is absolutely gorgeous. :adore:

    Despite the alleged 'kiddy friendly' nature of the series (a reputation that I think is over-stated by some people), the two main villains here are real pieces of work, particularly their sexual interplay. Lots of crap getting past the radar in their discussions, especially the lady saying how she escaped from being bound to a chair: "They didn't tie me up as good as you do". Kinky as! :eek:

    I'd actually say this episode actually skirts the boundries of its timeslot much closer than any of those before it. The dialogue between the two villains is surprisingly sexually charged, but it's also the first episode with bad-guys who (IMO) genuinely seem nasty. Maybe it's because of *what* they are doing (particularly juxtaposed against the dying little boy), but they come across as complete monsters. They certainly aren't.... 'broad' almost cartoon-like villains, such as the previously established Pudface or Dr Mallardo (though I hasten to add both of those guys are dangerous, but they're kind of psychotically dangerous rather than the straight laced nature of these guys).

    I know I didn't mention this in my review of "Trouble In Delta City", but I really like the car chases in Robocop:The Series. They're all really well done and exciting, and this episode is no exception, with another really good one with Robo chasing after the two suspects. They escape by shooting out his squad car tyres, I love the kind of 'Oh crap' moment Robo has when he's inspecting the damage afterwards. :D

    My favorite scene of the episode: Indisputably the scene where Madigan and Robo 'interview' two suspects and do the good-cop-bad-cop routine. Robo is very good at playing 'bad cop'!

    I think this is the first episode where the Commander Cash cartoon actually ties into the main plot. We even get to see a cardboard cut-out of Commander Cash and his sidekick in the hospital foyer. Have I mentioned about this little 'show-within-a-show' yet? It took me a while to get used to the Commander Cash interludes, but I think I'm beginning to roll with them. ;) I knew straight away they were animated by the famous Nelvana animation studio, it looks very much like their work, a sorta precurrsor to The Fairly Odd Parents in it's style (another series animated by Nelvana). :) I do know that Commander Cash plays a bigger part later on in the series... I never actually got to watch this show at all when it first went out in 1994 (for various reasons), but I did actually have all of the action figures because I was such a fan of the movies. IIRC I had Madigan, the squad car (which was REALLY cool and well detailed), RoboCop himself, and Commander Cash.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except that phrase doesn't really fit, because there was only one person that he didn't shoot to kill, and that was only so that he could ask questions. Everyone else he shot died instantly and was no longer available for questioning. Which hardly constitutes effective police procedure.


    Oh yeah, this was the one with Ann Turkel, wasn't it? She was in a lot of shows around this time and was really hot.

    Umm, did you skip "Officer Missing"? That was part one of the story arc which "What Money Can't Buy" concludes.


    I guess because they couldn't do too much gunplay, they emphasized the car chases instead. And yeah, they did do a good job, although the main thing I like, again, is the music they generally used to underscore the big car chase sequences. I think it debuted in the teaser of "Trouble in Delta City."


    Yeah, Commander Cash is a major part of the show's satire of commercialism and media violence. Thematically it's in much the same vein as the original movie -- basically this is the part of the show where they could get away with over-the-top violence and callousness like the movie's, because it's all "just" a cartoon.

    The CC "commercials" were written by animation writers Pamela Hickey & Denys McCoy, who would later write the episode "RoboCop vs. Commander Cash," which is one of my favorites.
     
  7. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Hmm, I'll have to have a look at that I think. Maybe the episodes are a little mixed up on my DVD set (which I've known to happen before), or maybe I've just accidentally overlooked it (the DVD menu is actually really confusing, listing the episodes by number rather than title).
     
  8. Davros

    Davros Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    There were some stupid moments of the show but over all they pulled it off. Possibly one of the better transitions from big to small screen.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    On my DVD set, "Officer Missing" is the first episode on Disc 2 and "What Money Can't Buy" is the second.
     
  10. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Hi Christopher, I can confirm (as I hypothosised above) that my DVD set has got the episodes in the wrong order. "What Money Can't Buy" is listed on the menu as 'Ep04', while "Officer Missing" is listed as 'Ep05'. Completely the wrong way around.

    Which DVD set have you got? Mine is a PAL Australian release, so it's probably only the PAL distributors who've made the mistake when authoring the sets, accidentally presenting the two episodes the wrong way around. Doh! :(

    As you say, having now watched "Officer Missing", I agree it is clearly 'Part 1' of a two-parter that is concluded in "What Money Can't Buy", as it features the same family with the sick kid. It also sheds more light on why the Chairman is kind of swinging behind the kid's recovery in "WMCB" (namely, the chance of securing the patent). I also thought Robo's reprise of "My Name Is Murphy" from the first movie was quite appropriate. :)

    Certainly on future rewatches I'll be more cautious to watch these episodes in the right order, with "Officer Missing" first.

    Christopher, are there any other multiple-part storylines later in the series I should watch out for? Just in case my DVD set has got them the wrong way around as well? :confused: Of course I have a preference to watch the episodes in the correct order if I can.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Mine is, I believe, the Canadian release, which is inexplicably mistitled RoboCop: The Beginning.


    Well, it's more than that. "Officer Missing" is basically about Robo and Diana pulling a Christmas Carol gambit on the Chairman, showing him the error of his Scroogelike ways. The Chairman is a product of the "greed is good" corporate culture that spawned OCP, to be sure, but he's basically decent and has a compassionate side, even if it's sometimes blinded by his pursuit of profit and his isolation from the ordinary people who pay the price for OCP's policies. I liked the relationship between him and RoboCop. The Chairman is one of the few people in this continuity who knows that Robo is Alex Murphy, and one of the only people aware of Diana's existence, so he's a confidante for both of them, sometimes an ally, albeit sometimes an unwitting adversary. I liked how "Officer Missing" established the relationship among them.


    No, there are no more 2-parters, although there are some character threads that develop over non-consecutive episodes. Here's the episode order for the rest of the series:

    6. Ghosts of War
    7. Zone Five
    8. Provision 22
    9. Faces of Eve
    10. When Justice Fails
    11. The Human Factor
    12. Inside Crime
    13. Robocop vs Commander Cash
    14. Illusions
    15. Tin Man
    16. Sisters in Crime
    17. Heartbreakers
    18. Mothers Day
    19. Nano
    20. Corporate Raiders
    21. Midnight Minus One
    22. Public Enemies
     
  12. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That is a strange change of title. Mine is labelled RoboCop: The Series, but at least yours has got the episodes in the right order. :)


    :techman: Cheers Christopher, I'll check that list against the order they're presented on my Aussie DVD set, to ensure that I am viewing them in the correct order from now on. :)
     
  13. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    6. "Ghosts Of War"

    Thought this one was a very strong episode. Vietnam war allegory, the raw vets of the 'Amazon Conflict' are being used for nefarious purposes. An obvious storyline in a way, but very well told here. I thought it was terrific the way 'Combat Bill' was in actuality Frank Uno, one of Murphy's old childhood friends, and the flashbacks really hit an emotional nerve for me in this one. :(

    The continuity nods to the Amazonian conflict were nice. This is one of the few little pieces of continuity that was carried through a few of the original movies, so it's very nice to see it being used as the basis for a story here.

    It seems to me Diana is pretty exposed security-wise. Is it really helpful that the computer which literally controls everything in this future Detroit can seemingly be shut down so relatively easy? What happens if there is some kind of naturally occuring power failure? I can't help but wonder what kinds of fail-safes there are to protect the system (especially the living person within it!). I don't know, I could be missing something. It seemed a little too easy to throw her into shut-down mode here. Felt like artificial danger. Mind you, the gang have presumably got all sorts of high-tech they stole from the OCP warehouse at the beginning, so it could be that there was a piece of dialogue I missed which covered this.

    For those who feel the series has toned down violence, the Commander Cash skit in this one ought to be a real eye-opener: an advert for a children's toy gun, complete with an exploding Bag O' Guts which is depicted quite viscerally. Mind, I suppose it is technically "cartoon violence"... ;)
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Yup. Like I said, the cartoon segments were where the show was able to cut loose with the Verhoeven-style parodic ultraviolence, since it was just a cartoon and thus could get past the censors.

    I don't remember enough specifics to address the point about MetroNet/Diana's security. But in general, a lot of fictional crises would never happen if proper security or safety protocols were in place. It's just one of the accepted breaks from reality in fiction.