Updated: 2 days ago
COPS isn't the first '80s cartoon that comes to mind for most people, but I have fond memories of watching it during the early '90s at my grandmother's house (which I've since inherited and built an arcade in). A syndicated program at the time, COPS aired well before the more popular cartoons like Tiny Toon Adventures and the Disney Afternoon lineup. (Darkwing Duck, anyone?) With its unusual timeslot and channel, COPS felt like a secret show. Every day I would worry that COPS wouldn't be on, and eventually it wasn't. Somehow, I survived. COPS lasted sixty-five episodes, spanning 1988 to 1990, with re-releases of the program in 1993 on CBS and 1995 on the USA network.
Coincidentally, the long-running TV series Cops began airing on March 11, 1989. For this reason in 1993, the COPS cartoon was rebranded as "CyberCOPS" to avoid confusion. This show is also referred to as "C.O.P.S.," "COPS and Crooks," "C.O.P.S. 'N C.R.O.O.K.S.," and every variation thereof. It's not even consistent on my DVD! For our purposes, it's just COPS.
Cookie Jar, the now-defunct company that acquired the DVD rights to COPS from DIC Animation, had a streaming service called Jaroo. Launched in 2009, jaroo.com was briefly the place to go for '80s cartoons such as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! and Inspector Gadget. Cookie Jar owned the rights to over fifty '80s cartoons; live-action shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? were also on Jaroo's docket. Cookie Jar's website looked to be the future of retro TV.
But behind the scenes, Cookie Jar had a slew of legal problems. Cookie Jar's co-founder Ronald A. Weiberg ended up serving eight years and eleven months in a Canadian prison for securities fraud! (I guess he had his hand in said cookie jar. It's kind of ironic that a criminal owned the rights to COPS.)
Mill Creek Entertainment, masters of the DVD multipack, issued my COPS DVD under license from Cookie Jar in 2011. Mill Creek wasn't the first company to buy the rights to the series, with Shout! Factory releasing twenty-two episodes on DVD in 2004.
I scored The Best of COPS for a tenth of its stickered price. Not bad, considering inflation! Speaking of which, The Best of COPS was the last Dollar Tree purchase I was able to make before most items there became $1.25! Boo. Hiss.
Set in then-distant 2020, the tagline for COPS is "Fighting Crime in a Future Time." If COPS had played out as predicted, high-tech criminals would be thwarted by the Central Organization of Police Specialists. (Get it? COPS? Har, har.) Instead, 2020 gave us a bunch of lunacy. I like Hasbro's 2020 better.
Empire City is at the mercy of Brandon "Big Boss" Babel, a straight-up Edward G. Robinson ripoff. It's up to the COPS, lead by the cyber-enhanced Baldwin P. "Bulletproof" Vess, to bring him and his bizarre gang to justice. The villains are the real draw of COPS, with a rogue's gallery including Doctor Badvibes (a mad scientist with a clear dome around his brain), Buttons McBoom Boom, whose cybernetic torso opens like a door to reveal dual machine guns, and the inhumanly-strong Miss Demeanor, who reminds me of Hillary Clinton!
The Best of COPS title is a little misleading, as the DVD isn't a compilation; it's the first ten episodes of the series in chronological order. But at a buck, who can complain? This disc also includes the "It's Sports" episode of Hey Vern It's Ernest!, Jim Varney's legendary kids' show which burned brightly for thirteen episodes.
As was the case with every '80s cartoon, 1988's COPS was created to sell toys. The action figures behind this show were known as "COPS 'N CROOKS." Hasbro was at the helm, releasing the show through their Claster Television division, the folks who unleashed The Transformers cartoon to an unprepared public. The cel animation work for COPS was handled by DIC Animation City. People have accused COPS of having choppy, low-budget animation, but it seems on par with other cartoons of the era to me. And what would '80s cartoons be without public service announcements? COPS had a few, warning young viewers about things they'd heard a million times before. (PSAs probably just got kids into more trouble.)
Sales of COPS toys wouldn't be up to Hasbro's expectations: I'm guessing that parents didn't want those cap guns stinking up the house! (You can almost smell them in the below commercial.) Some of these action figures and vehicles sell for small fortunes now. Ultimately, the COPS cartoon became a cult favorite, outliving its source merchandise. And yes, you can watch the entire series on YouTube.
In the spirit of COPS, I'll close this article out with my 1995 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. I always kept an empty Dunkin' Donuts box in the back seat! I drove this monster to Lyons, NY to tour the filming locations of Slugs: the Movie. It was eventually traded for this awesome 1987 Cadillac Fleetwood hearse.
Thanks for checking out my COPS tribute. Represent your favorite '80s cartoons and/or toys in the comment box below!