Well, this certainly turned out to be a longer article than I anticipated, to the point where I had to split this into two parts (part one here). First up RoboCop as a live-action TV show…. oh dear…
No, this wasn’t a remake of the original film but a live-action TV series. Originally airing in 1993-94, this show only lasted for 1 season and 23 episodes. ‘Technically’ 23 episodes, I should say. The pilot was basically a feature-length episode that was later split into two parts but counted as 1 episode. I have to admit to being a little confused as to where this sits in the timeline. It seems to be a direct follow-up to (or at least based on) the first film and it also seems to ignore the sequels… but its tone and style are much more in line with the kid-friendly RoboCop 3 film. There is no over-the-top violence that those first couple of films were known for, there’s no swearing or even the slightest sniff of any adult-themed content. According to robocop.fandom.com, this show takes place 5 years after the events of the first film.
Plus most of the characters of the original film have had name changes. Murphy/RoboCop is still here but Lewis is now Lisa Madigan, as an example. Sgt. Reed is Sgt. Parks, even Murphy’s wife and kid were renamed, I believe the name changes were a rights thing. The producers got the rights to the RoboCop character to make this TV show (and other elements of the character) but not the rights to other characters from the films. I really do not know how that works out, how can you get the rights to use RoboCop… but none of the other characters? To make things even more mysterious, this show uses footage from the first film. The flashbacks that show Murphy’s ‘death’ include Clarence Boddicker and his gang, with all of the original actors too. There are clips from Murphy being taken into hospital and more taken directly from the first film. So they secured the rights to use footage, the Murphy/RoboCop character and so on, but none of the other character names? I mean, they reshot scenes of Murphy’s death to replace Anne Lewis with Lisa Madigan as his partner. So this is a direct sequel to the first film then… but everyone changed their name (and face)? Honestly, this makes no sense.
What is rather interesting about this kid-friendly show is that the pilot was written by RoboCop’s creators, Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner (or at least adapted from one of their film sequel scripts). They actually okayed this, they willingly put their names on it. So it must be worthy of the original film… right? Originally, the producers even tried to get Peter Weller to return and reprise the main role. However, he showed zero interest, so they cast Richard Eden as Murphy/RoboCop instead. You know what? Eden is actually a pretty decent RoboCop. But this show suffers the same issues that RoboCop 3 had. The actor was decent enough, he just had shit scripts to work with. Which does bring me to the meat of this show.
Again, this TV show decided to be more kid-friendly, à la RoboCop 3. Episodes featured villains that RoboCop would take out using non-lethal means. Plus all of the bad guys felt very 1960s Batman TV show. I mean, one of the main villains was called ‘Pudface’, so that will give you an idea of the quality here. In fact, the whole show has that 60s Batman kind of a flavour to it. The leaders of OCP are played up for laughs, instead of being the cutthroat corporate bastards that they were in the first film and so on. RoboCop even gets a really annoying kid sidekick called Gadget… because of course he does. This really is more like a live-action version of the previously covered animated show, over the movie it was based on. By now and after the release and failure that was RoboCop 3, the franchise was a bit of a laughing stock anyway, so there really wasn’t a great deal of expectation for this TV show. In that regard, this is a very typical 90s kids/early teens cop show.
RoboCop (the TV show) is a very, very ‘meh’ effort. But, to be honest, I never really expected much from it at this point in the franchise. The episodes are a bit cheesy and the villains do feel very pantomime for the most part. RoboCop feels more like a kid-friendly superhero here than a bad-ass cybernetic cop from the first film. This is the kind of show that would be on before a film, early Saturday evening. So you’d put the TV on ready to watch the said film, only it hadn’t started yet and this was on. But you just couldn’t be arsed to change the channel, so you’d just watch this while waiting for the film to start.
RoboCop: Alpha Commando
And so here we are, the second animated version of RoboCop. Again, I have no idea where this is supposed to sit in the timeline. Lasting for just 1 season but a whopping 40 episodes, airing between 1998 and 1999. I don’t know if this is a sequel to the previous animated show or a stand-alone thing. Many of the writers on this also worked on the other animated show, so there is that connection at least. It does have an awesome theme tune with some of the greatest lyrics you will ever hear though… honest.
You already know the score by now. Lots of lasers, bad puns and non-lethal means to stop the villains… who are typical 90s animation bad guys. Nothing like its source material and an even more kid-friendly version of the ultra-violent film. Very much a standard 90s kids cartoon with plenty of ‘tude’… RoboCop even has inline skates and calls women ‘babes’! Really, this has even less to do with the source material than anything else before it, that’s including RoboCop 3. The only returning character, other than Robo himself, is Sgt Reed (so it’s connected to the film series then?). Lewis even isn’t in this and there is no explanation why either (so it’s not connected to the film series then?). The art style is also a load of shit. I mean, look what they did to RoboCop…
RoboCop: Alpha Commando is strange, to say the least. Save for the main character and Sgt Reed, this has nothing to do with any RoboCop lore before it. Seriously, this could very easily have had a different title character and still been the exact same show. Even the other animated show connected to the first film and had Clarence Boddicker and his gang, it had other returning characters and while it was massively toned down, it was still connected to the first film. This show though… nothing. The other animated RoboCop show wasn’t great, but it was somewhat watchable and at least recognisable as being a spin-off of the film. That other one even had kid-friendly messages about racism and such, it even addressed Murphy’s humanity. This one has RoboCop falling into a janitor’s closet and having a bucket end up on his head. RoboCop: Alpha Commando is more like an updated version of Inspector Gadget than a Robocop-based show. This feels more like a parody of RoboCop than something that is supposed to be an official addition to the character. Of the two animated shows, I’d suggest you avoid this one and give the first one a chance instead. That first one wasn’t great, but it wasn’t this either.
RoboCop: Prime Directives
So now we have a TV mini-series, released in 2001 and was somewhat of a return to form, to be honest. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way saying that RoboCop: Prime Directives is on par with the first or even the second film. But it is a massive step up in quality from what came after those first two films. This was actually four feature-length episodes: Dark Justice, Meltdown, Resurrection, and Crash and Burn. Now, I’m not going to go over all four episodes individually but just go over Prime Directives as a whole.
First up, this takes place 10 years after the events of the first film and works as a direct sequel to the original that ignores events from the sequels. This is also another one of those ‘strange rights’ things as the production company of this didn’t have the rights to use footage from the film… even though the 1993-94 live-action show did, when that re-wrote the characters to be all new and unconnected to the first film. They also couldn’t use ED-209 as that character has its own copyright too. RoboCop rights really are a bit weird. Well okay, there is some footage from the first film in one of the episodes but it’s been slightly altered and not shown how it was originally screened. I don’t know if that was done to get around copyright.
Anyway, even though this is a direct sequel to the first film, the only returning character is RoboCop. After some digging around, it appears that Lewis did exist in this universe but she died before the events of this mini-series are shown. How she died is not known and it (supposedly) isn’t connected to her death in RoboCop 3 at all, she’s just dead in this timeline. Other character disappearances are not addressed. It’s been 10 years since the first film, people move on I guess?
The basic plot of RoboCop: Prime Directives revolves around RoboCop being obsolete and how a new RoboCop is created. Yeah, it does sound a bit like the plot of RoboCop 2 but it’s also very different and very much does its own thing with the idea. The four episodes can really be split into two acts the first two episodes focus on the older and newer RoboCop as they battle it out, only to later decide to team up and take on the big bad of the series. The last two episodes follow the two RoboCops as they do what they do and clean up the streets and take out Dr Kaydick, who is threatening to destroy all known life with his ‘bio-tech’.
Look, I’m not going to sit here and say that RoboCop: Prime Directives is a well-written piece (or four pieces) of TV but compared to anything post-RoboCop 2, this is fucking Shakespeare. In terms of tone, it kind of hits the middle ground between the violence of the first two films and the kid-friendliness of the first live-action TV show. Some of the bad guys that RoboCop goes up against can be a bit ‘pantomime’ but at the same time, the character kicks some arse. In the opening 10 minutes of the first episode, RoboCop shoots someone in the head… with a bullet too and not some kind of non-lethal device, then another person gets blown up when a bomb strapped to his chest is shot with a mini-gun. This is a violent TV show, not as graphic as the original film and you don’t see blood spraying everywhere, though there is blood in the series, it is used sparingly.
The way it is filmed is darker and grittier too, miles away from how the other TV show looked and felt. Along with the violence, there is swearing. Like the violence, it’s not terribly graphic but there is some swearing. You won’t hear anyone screaming “fuck me, fuck, me, fuck me” over and over, but you will hear the odd ‘shit’, ‘son of a bitch’, ‘bastard’ and so on. Speaking of bastards, that is how the OCP executives are portrayed too. Not the comic foils they were in the other TV show but more hard-nosed and ruthless. Plus the satire of American culture is back It has a lot of what the first two films featured… just not as well implemented. Page Fletcher plays Murphy/RoboCop and he’s pretty good in the role. He’s no Peter Weller but he ain’t too bad at all. Fletcher plays the character similarly but his movements are faster and more urgent.
Overall, RoboCop: Prime Directives is actually pretty decent. Okay so it’s not original film great, but it is certainly far better than anything from RoboCop 3 onwards. If I had a gripe, then that would be that with the four episodes being over 90 minutes each, they can drag on a little bit. An edit to bring the total runtime down to 4 hours would be great as there are some scenes that seem overly long for no reason and other scenes that seem very redundant. Plus, there are times when you can tell that the budget for this that wasn’t great. I can’t blame the show for not being big-budget, it’s a TV show of a franchise that was all but dead at the time.
The show even delves into Murphy’s history a bit more before becoming RoboCop. There are a few continuity errors given that this is supposed to be a direct sequel and it’s a shame they didn’t (or couldn’t) use other characters other than RoboCop as this really could’ve been lifted higher with the addition of Lewis, etc. Generally speaking, RoboCop: Prime Directives is watchable, even pretty damn good in places. After going through the entire RoboCop franchise for this article, it’s nice to end on something that’s not too bad and proof that given a better budget and more care, a RoboCop TV show could work. Oh yeah, it’s not quite the end yet, is it?
I guess it had to happen at some point, the dreaded remake. Now, I’m not somebody who has anything against remakes, generally speaking. Remakes can be good and I honestly welcome the idea of seeing a different take on a story and characters that I enjoy. Still, I am fully aware that remakes can be and usually are fucking terrible. Even so, I did go into this version with an open mind and on paper, it really had a lot of promise. There are some great actors in this, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. ‘mother fucking’ Jackson. The trailer looked good too, not great but good.
So this one is a full-on remake of the original. Through the franchise, we have had film sequels, animated TV shows and live-action TV shows that have both worked as direct sequels and alternate timelines. But this was the first and proper full remake. Released in 2014 with Joel Kinnaman playing the title role. Originally, the RoboCop remake was due to come out in 2010 with Darren Aronofsky on board to direct… which could’ve been amazing as Aronofsky is a wonderful director. However ‘creative differences’ had Aronofsky leave the project and the film was delayed. So why did Darren Aronofsky leave? Because he wanted to make a hard adult-themed film in line with the original, whereas the studio wanted something more ‘bankable’… or PG-13 (mainly because the studio were having financial difficulties at the time). So Aronofsky was out and after a delay or seven, José Padilha was brought in as director instead, while Aronofsky went on to make Black Swan.
Anyway, as mentioned, what we got was a ‘safe’ PG-13 take on the notoriously violent RoboCop. Okay, so this wasn’t as toned down as some of the other projects, like the third film, the animated shows and the live-action attempts… but this still felt very diluted. And it wasn’t just the lack of violence either as this version completely missed out on the subtle humour and satire that the first film was famed for. Overall, RoboCop (2014) is very dull. In terms of being a remake and judging it as a remake, it’s okay at best. In terms of being part of the RoboCop franchise, it is piss poor and a wasted effort.
There are things that I do like about this version. There are some great performances all through the cast. The likes of Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. ‘mother fucking’ Jackson are really enjoyable here, even if their characters aren’t very interesting, their acting is worth it. Then there is Joel Kinnaman playing Murphy/RoboCop, he’s actually really good too. Some of the updated tools that RoboCop has do make a lot of sense, like being able to connect to (basically) wi-fi and search for police suspects. But then there are parts that make zeros sense, like RoboCop having non-lethal means to take out the bad guys. That’s something from the toy range and RoboCop 3 when they wanted to make the character more kid-friendly and PG-13. RoboCop, as a character, isn’t, nor should he ever be, kid-friendly.
The plot is devoid of any depth. Just going back to the first film, on the surface, it is just a film about a cyborg going out for revenge. But it is also a film with a lot of layers to it when you really explore it. There is a reason it is still talked about and revered 35 years later. Here, there is nothing but a bog-standard action flick to sell to the masses with little to no depth. There is no battle with Murphy’s humanity because they changed the character from not knowing who he is, to knowing exactly who he is. Worth a watch… as in singular. This really is a shame too because a more satirical and deeper Robocop remake that was aimed at adults could’ve been awesome.
That is all of the main big and small screen appearances of RoboCop, but the character has popped up elsewhere in some very strange instances too. So here, I’m just going to sum up a few other notable times that RoboCop has ‘entrained’ us over the years. Outside of the usual novels and comic books attached to the franchise, RoboCop has appeared in some very strange places since the first film was released. From meeting an ex-president of the United States to selling noodles and insurance. Here are all of the curious appearances of RoboCop that I could find.
RoboCop met Richard Nixon. Yup, this actually happened. Just think about that for a second. RoboCop, who is known for upholding the law (it is one of his directives) meeting one of the most famously crooked politicians/ex-presidents in American history. You may think that sounds stupid (it does), you may think it never happened and that I’m just making it up, but…
… it happened alright. So then, the big question is ‘what the fuck?’. Well, after some digging around I found out that this picture was taken in 1987 by Chuck Pulin. For those that don’t know, Pulin was famed for his shots of rock stars in the 60s and 70s. It was a charity event and the meeting of RoboCop and Nixon was done to help promote the VHS release of the first film. It was published in the December, 1987 edtion of Billboard Magazine and the caption under the photo read:
Richard M. Nixon is escorted by RoboCop at a national board meeting of the Boys Club of America. The RoboCop character was on hand to call attention to Orion Home Video’s RoboCop RubOut promotion. Sweepstakes tickets, packaged with each “RoboCop” cassette, offer a number of instant prizes for retailers as well as $25,000 in donations to the Boys Club. The sweepstakes is part of a $3 million promotional effort launched by Orion in conjunction with the action-adventure film’s video release. The cassette will be available in video stores beginning Jan. 28 for a suggested list price of $89.98.
As you can tell from the photo, that’s not the ‘real’ RoboCop (as in, that’s not Peter Weller). The suit looks like something that a drunk cosplayer would knock up in 10 minutes. It’s fucking terrible and proof that they were bastardising the character long before RoboCop 3 existed. Still, RoboCop meeting Richard Nixon is pretty ‘out there’… and that’s not even the strangest thing RoboCop has ever done.
RoboCop teamed up with some Marvel heroes. Long before the MCU was even thought of, RoboCop was already kicking arse with some of Marvel’s biggest superheroes. Okay, so he didn’t so much kick-arse as he just pulled a lever. Still, you really want to see RoboCop teaming up with Captain America, don’t you? Well, it all happened at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade in 1987. But why? Well at the time, Marvel had secured the rights to use RoboCop for their comics. A series of RoboCop comics were released in the 90s but before those, there was a comic book adoption of the film released in 1987 from Marvel. So anyway, for a while, Marvel had the RoboCop rights… so they put him in a Thanksgiving Day parade with Marvel heroes, logic? It is a very quick ‘blink and you’ll miss him’ appearance but here it is and it all happened using the theme from Back to the Future because?
So then, after teaming up with some of Marvel’s finest, where can RoboCop go from there? Saving Pee-wee Herman, obviously. Oh yeah, before Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) was caught playing with his pee-wee in a porno cinema, he was attacked by ED-209 for RoboCop to come and save him. No, this isn’t some deluded fever dream I had, this really happened at the 1988 Oscars. Just as Pee-wee is about to present an Oscar, ED-209 bursts into the theatre and begins shooting at Pee-wee as he starts to fly… yes fly. RoboCop turns up and shoots ED-209 with his left hand… even though he’s right-handed (the things you spot where you’re a big RoboCop fan) with some very questionable effects work. And then… hang on, why the bollocks am I describing this to you when you can watch it right here?
RoboCop even did a bit of professional wrestling… kind of. Capital Combat: Return of RoboCop was a one-off PPV event at some wrestling thing held in 1990. Look, I don’t watch wrestling, I have no idea what this is or what the ‘eff was going on. There was some kind of backstory thing and one of the wrestlers put another one in a cage. RoboCop turned up and ripped the cage door off its hinges (read: lightly pulled the fake and obviously unlocked cage door of a fake cage) and that was it. The best bit was when RoboCop accidentally opens the cage when he was clearly not supposed to… to then pull the door off its hinges even though it was open. Basically, RoboCop 2 was set for release and so this event was set up as a promotion for the film. Click this link to see the few seconds of RoboCop’s short wrestling career. He doesn’t even do any wrestling… in a wrestling event named after the character. They filmed a short promo for it too if you want to watch it.
So now, I have a few Asian ads that make little sense in their own right and feature RoboCop to make far less sense. I don’t have exact air dates for these, but I’m pretty sure they all came from the 90s. First up RoboCop killing bugs. There really is little to say here other than that there must be very little crime in Japan (I think it’s Japanese) if all RoboCop has to worry about is CGI bugs. Next up, RoboCop advertising GoldStar (now LG) TVs. I have no idea what was going on there but I’d definitely buy a TV from RoboCop. This next one could be the most bizarre ad yet… and that’s saying something. Do you want a TV ad where RoboCop comes out of a TV, eats some fried chicken and then steals a fridge? Of course you do, click here. I think this one is Korean and aside from the very, very shiny and chrome RoboCop, did you hear what was playing in the background? It’s not very loud but listen carefully with the volume turned up… that’s the Back to the Future III theme. After the 1987 Thanksgiving parade using the BttF theme, I have to ask why is RoboCop stealing BttF music?
Then we have RoboCop advertising instant noodles… cos you know… Asian. There were actually a series of these ads, I don’t know how many there were in total, but here’s a video of two of them. I did find a site claiming that these ads were from the 80s. However, a copyright pops up at one point that clearly says “RoboCop 3 1992”. Though RoboCop 3 was released in 1993, it was meant to be released in 92 but was delayed when Orion Pictures went through Bankruptcy. So I assume that these ads were originally made to help promote the original 1992 release of the film? Oh yeah, I also found someone selling the RoboCop eclectic toothbrush that was made to help promote the noodles, as shown in the last ad.
This last ad (so far, before a slight break), also from the 90s, didn’t feature the official RoboCop, nor was it Asian. But I just really had to include it here because it’s so fucking stupid. I mean, fake and rose-pink ‘RoboCop’ going to buy a new exhaust (I am English) for his car? Then a ninja appears for no reason and fake RoboCop does nothing other than praise the price of his car part. Two thumbs up for its utter nonsense.
From 1993 was RoboCop: The Ride. Not based on any of the films, but it was released to coincide with the release of RoboCop 3. This was one of those ‘sit down in a chair with loads of other people and get thrown about while looking at a big screen’ type of rides… or a motion ride, as they are called. This one popped up in several places like the Granada Studios Tour in Manchester. It also appeared in Texas, California and a few other places. The basic plot of the ride was you tagged along with RoboCop, as a new recruit, patrolling Detroit. The mayor is kidnapped and you have to save him. It was a mix of live-action and CGI sections. There’s a good video that takes a deeper look at the ride right here. But footage of the entire ride does not seem to exist. Now for an all-star cameo featuring a T-Rex (presumably from Jurassic Park), Darth Vader, Ferengi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a Cardassian soldier from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, G.I. Joe and yes, RoboCop. From the 1995 film, The Indian in the Cupboard, this little snippet is a cornucopia of popular character cameos at the time.
Alright, let’s have a few more RoboCop TV ads before I end this retrospective. Once more, there were a series of these ads, how many in total? I have no idea. But what is RoboCop pushing onto punters now… KFC, obviously. We already know he loves his fried chicken following that Korean ad previously. But now, he’s taking on the king of fried chicken with the Colonel himself. Here’s a link to a collection of the KFC ads. This KFC ad campaign seems to come from 2019, that’s pretty recent. What I love is that they blended both the famed Colonel Sanders and RoboCop to make Colonel RoboCop, as if the Colonel died and was bright back as a cyborg. Even better… that’s Peter Weller. The original RoboCop actor back playing the character that made him famous. Now, I’m pretty sure that’s not Weller in the suit, he would’ve been around 72 at the time. But it has been confirmed as being Peter Weller’s voice.
The last RoboCop ad (so far) was as recent as 2020. It was for Direct Line insurance. Playing RoboCop this time was Derek Mears, a name that you may not recognise, even though he’s played some of cinema’s biggest characters. Mears played Jason Voorhees in the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th, he played a Predator in Predators from 2010 and he was also the title character from the 2019 Swamp Thing TV show.
For the final RoboCop appearance, I just want to quickly look at a statue. A more than 11-foot tall, 2.5-ton bronze statue of RoboCop was made and it took 11 years too. Here is a video of its reveal and an article looking at its making. Basically, the statue was made because Philadelphia had a Rocky statute and someone on Twitter asked why doesn’t Detroit have one for RoboCop. Over a decade later and RoboCop finally had a massive statue made. Originally set to be placed outside of the Michigan Science Center, Detroit in 2021… it never was. As of writing, the statue is in storage with it set to be publicly placed and unveiled elsewhere in Detroit this summer.
And that is ‘yer lot for Robocop on the big and small screen… and some wonderfully bizarre appearances. There was been a lot of talk of a direct sequel to the first film coming out. Called Robocop Returns, the film is said to have a completed script that has been penned by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, who co-wrote the original film together. Neill Blomkamp was originally attached to direct but he left the project in 2019. Abe Forsythe then came on board as director… and then the whole covid thing happened and it has been very quiet on the Robocop Returns front since then. News on the film is non-existent (or top secret) and I have no idea if the project is moving ahead or not, as of writing this article.
I hope it does though, the idea of a new sequel that ignores most of the franchise to create a new timeline is something that worked with Halloween. I’d love to see a new Robocop flick and seeing as the remake was utter arse-gravy, the franchise needs to get back to its roots. It would be great to see Peter Weller return in the lead role too… but perhaps not in the famed suit itself. Weller is (as of writing) 75-years-old. I really don’t think he’d be up to playing the character again, at least not physically. But there have been some great leaps forward in digital technology these days. They could get a younger actor in the suit and have Peter Weller’s face digitally added, with Weller providing the voice too. I mean, he did come back to advertise KFC. That is, of course, if Robocop Returns ever does go ahead.
Well, now I have covered everything about Robocop in terms of TV and film, time to take a look at some games.
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