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RoboCop has arrived!

Well, my DVD set of RoboCop: The Series arrived the other day, and I’ve been happily making my way through the episodes.  Not so happy about the packaging, though.  It was the kind where three discs are sort of semi-stacked atop each other in each tray and loosely held, so two of the discs had come loose and one had scratches on it.  I was worried about whether it would play back okay, but I had no problems with it.  Still, to be on the safe side, I decided to take advantage of some of the empty DVD cases I bought for my tape-dubbing project and transfer the discs to them for long-term storage.  That required a little surgery on the outer cardboard box, though; I had to pull open the bottom and retape it more loosely so it could hold the disc cases, which were a bit too tall to fit otherwise.  And just now, I scanned the cover of the original interior box and printed out cover inserts for the DVD cases.  Turned out reasonably well, considering.

For some reason, this Canadian DVD release is titled RoboCop: The Beginning, which is inexplicable and misleading, since it’s set several years after the original movie (5 years according to the pilot, 3 years according to a later episode).  Also, the cover uses the “Part Man, Part Machine” portion of the RoboCop tagline, but leaves off the conclusion of the formula, “All Cop.”

As for the image quality, it’s evidently not digitally remastered; the images are okay, but sometimes seem a bit faded, the contrast too low, at least in night scenes.  I’d thought that was just a problem with my faded VHS tapes, but there’s a bit of it here too.

So this isn’t exactly a prestige treatment of the series.  But after 15 years of waiting, I count myself lucky to have it at all.

Going through the episodes has reminded me of how repetitive they tended to be, particularly in the first half of the season.  RoboCop was constantly being damaged or taken offline in the early episodes, making him seem like a bit of a pushover at times.  An implausible number of episodes involved RoboCop/Murphy’s wife and/or son getting into trouble and Robo having to save them without revealing his identity.  But then, I guess that’s no worse than Superman constantly having to save Lois and Jimmy.  It’s just the way episodic television tended to work back then.  And I can excuse the contrivance because I thought it was a good way to humanize RoboCop, to explore his dilemma of being unable to be a father and husband to them yet still longing to take care of them.

Also, the early episodes made too much use of Gadget, the Resident Cute Kid, often contriving things so that she figured out solutions that all the grownups missed, even though she wasn’t portrayed as particularly smart.  But as the season progressed, they improved the treatment of the character, making her less a knowitall and more a vulnerable figure needing guidance and protection.  And Sarah Campbell was pretty darn cute, managing to be amusing and kind of sweet rather than annoying.

Aw, heck, I freely admit RoboCop: The Series isn’t brilliant television, but it was consistently fun, had a terrific cast and a terrific musical score, and was a damn sight better than any other RoboCop sequel I’ve ever seen.  (Well, maybe the Marvel-produced animated series was decent, if unmemorable.  But the two feature sequels and the Prime Directives miniseries were dreadful and the second animated series was rather lame and too great a departure in the format and Robo’s characterization.)

  1. March 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I have to disagree that Robocop 2 was ‘dreadful’. I am actually a big fan and I think it did a great job of staying true to the original and giving a compelling continuation of the Murphy story. Not perfect, but certainly good.

    • March 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      Well, to each their own. I think it stayed faithful to the wrong parts of the original, keeping the ultraviolence but sacrificing the characterization. I’ll grant it has its merits — maybe I was a little harsh on it — but I don’t think it’s as worthy a continuation as the TV series. The main thing it has going for it is that it features probably the last great stop-motion animation set pieces in cinema history.

      Anyway, I’ve hit a snag with the DVD set. Disc 5 has a pretty deep scratch that screwed up the final minutes of one of the very best episodes, “Heartbreakers.” And my attempts to polish the disc have apparently only made things worse. I’m going to try to find someplace that can refinish it for me, but I may have to try to replace it, which might be tricky given that I’ve already damaged the packaging. And what if the replacement set had similar damage? Well, at least I still have the episodes from that disc on VHS. (And it turns out I’m actually missing three episodes on my VHS collection, including the finale. Hopefully the final disc will play okay.)

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