Remembering “RoboCop: The Animated Series”

It’s surprising how much “RoboCop” has managed to stay relevant in this day and age. Despite being a science fiction classic with excellent biblical overtones, Hollywood has sought out to re-invent the series time and time again. After the passable remake years ago, RoboCop proved he still had some pop culture momentum with his baffling appearance in a KFC commercial (even with original star Peter Weller in the costume). After the ballyhoo with the reboot failing to gain steam yet again a few weeks ago, I felt like re-visiting “RoboCop: The Animated Series.” The 80s was a time where pretty much nothing was off limits and studios spent an odd amount of resources trying to tailor adult properties to kids.

Violent characters and cult films like Rambo, The Toxic Avenger and Conan the Barbarian were turned into lovable PG-friendly superheroes. Robocop was eventually added to the chopping block, and remains something of an animated oddity to this day. As we all know, Robocop is the 1987 classic sci-fi film that skirted an X-rating for scenes like its titular hero shooting a rapist in the private parts in an effort to keep him from murdering a female victim. And yet, miraculously, RoboCop became an animated superhero for a PG-rated animated series. Sadly, the de-evolution of RoboCop didn’t just stop there.

While anti-heroes like Rambo and Chuck Norris had their day as cartoon characters before reverting back to their respective adult properties, RoboCop only descended further into becoming a Saturday morning children’s mascot along the lines of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. He had action figures, lunch boxes, video games, and he even appeared in the WCW teaming up with Sting. The 1988 Series is a noticeably flimsy production by Marvel Productions that suffers from a lack in quality. It’s a loud, fast paced and often irritating spin-off that chooses to completely side step the original film.

The series features Alex Murphy as a somewhat lovable superhero with a perpetual smile on his face, so as to welcome young viewers. In the movie Murphy looks like a corpse’s head sewn into machinery… suffice to say that Murphy’s appearance in the animated series is much easier on the eyes. RoboCop is even a public figure now, spending his time driving around and making appearances at local restaurants. Murphy’s hard boiled partner, Anne Lewis, is turned in to a whiny and annoying love interest of Murphy’s who does more to badger her partner than to help him fight crime.

Her attitude is still kept intact (for the most part), but half the time she seems to be trying to get romantically involved with Murphy. At one point she even invites him to dinner and gets angry when he has to leave to stop a criminal called “The Scrambler.” Most of the series revolves around OCP trying to halt RoboCop’s efforts to stop crime and end the corporation’s reign on Detroit. All the while, they enlist a new series of foes with every new episode. This also includes the ED-260, who appears in one episode, but at least appears.

Like many of the series adapted for kids from adult movies, “RoboCop: The Animated Series” didn’t last very long, only managing to run for twelve episodes total, before being launched into syndication. RoboCop sank pretty much further down the rabbit hole in terrible PG-13 TV movies, a short lived syndicated live action series, and another attempt failed effort at an animated series ten years later. I think even the most forgiving RoboCop fans might find this oddity worthy of viewing. As it stands, the series is a hackneyed and rushed attempt to bank on Verhoeven’s film and fails pretty brilliantly, but it’s a bit better than “RoboCop 3” if that counts for much.