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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

'Hooperman' S2 DVD: Strong Sophomore (and Sadly Final) Season for Bochco/Ritter Dramedy

The following musings regarding the Olive Films January 24, 2017 DVD release of S2 of the late-80s Steven Bochco dramedy starring John Ritter are a follow-up to a review of the S1 release on the same date. The prior post provides a primer on this series about the titular dedicated San Francisco police inspector/reluctant landlord/loving dog parent.

In the interest of ripping off the Band Aid in one painful swipe, this review will address the abysmal Ritter-produced failed pilot "Poochinski" that Olive provides as an S2 special feature before moving onto discussing the solid second season of "Hooperman."

The best way to put the following unusual harsh words in context are they are from a big fan of the failedcom "Mr. Merlin" (How about a release, Olive?) and the never-made-it-past the pilot "Danny and the Mermaid." In other words, it is rare that Unreal TV meets a sitcom that it does not adore.

The titular cop this time is recently deceased Chicago detective Stanley Poochinski, played by Peter Boyle, whose soul gets transferred into the bulldog whom he literally rescues and subsequently adopts soon before the aforementioned death. Boyle, charmingly goofy oft-Superman voicer George Newbern, and future Mrs. Ritter/ "Wings" star Amy Yasbeck sadly are not enough to save this show that deserves every dog joke in the reviews of the time. Olive does deserve thanks for the chance to see those talented stars in their "Howard the Duck" that makes "Turner and Hooch" look like "Old Yeller."

A shift from dram to edy in S2 of "Hopperman" begins with the titular officer facing delivering a eulogy for a despised old-school in every sense shoot-first, ask questions later style cop in the season premiere. The above-average circumstances under which this comes about and the manner in which Hooperman resolves the dilemma awesomely reflects the wit and edge of series creator Steven Bochco, who already has "L.A. Law" and "Hill Street Blues" under his belt.

Other sitcom plots in early S2 episodes have Hooperman engage in a slow-speed chase through hospital corridors after undergoing surgery for an embarrassing work-related injury and having him quickly regret renting an apartment in his building to a fellow officer.

An episode in which Hooperman faces the dual challenges of dressing in drag to capture a killer preying on transvestites on the day that Hooperman appears on a "The People's Court" clone to regain custody of feisty Jack Russell Terrier Bijoux soon returns the show to its S1 tone. The Bochco touch really comes through regarding special compassion for a closeted victim of the killer.

A surreal S2 offering has Hooperman experiencing a truly Hellish experience that is complete with fire and excruciating torture. The humor in this one includes trying to outwit the devil and making cute penance for a childhood act of genocide. Another exceptional early S2 episode with strong elements of "Law" and "Blues" has an arrogant teenage drug dealer knowing that a short stint in juvie is the worst punishment that he can receive for his numerous crimes.

Amping up the humor in some S2 episodes reflects the blessing and the curse of "Hooperman." Like the (subsequently lauded) failed Bochco 1990 musical police drama "Cop Rock," "Hooperman" is a little ahead of its time in combining grit and humor. Additionally, Ritter coming to the role after almost a decade of playing the goofy prat falling Jack Tripper makes the character of Hooperman a drastic change for his fans. One scene in which Hooperman adopts a Texas accent to characterize a faucet geyser as an oil strike is PURE Tripper.

The increased humor remains up to the final S2 episodes that close out the season; however, the Bochco touch also is awesomely enhanced in ways that include outdoing the classic "Law" S1 bit regarding a gorilla suit. One spoiler regarding the "Hooperman" variation is that building a cup into that costume seems advisable.

Other season-ending strong moments include Hooperman and his partner being forced to play a version of "Weekend at Bernie's" due to difficulty transporting a murder victim, and "Company" landlord Norman Fell playing a ventriloquist whose dummy is stolen in the season finale. That episode also finds Bijoux hilariously terrorizing Hooperman S2 love interest played by that that pretty blonde who was in that thing Daphne Ashbrook. One spoiler this time is that a pregnancy is a factor regarding the hostile acts.

The eulogy for "Hooperman" must note that, like Ritter, it met an untimely end. The range of comedy from a desk fire to Emmy-worthy wry one-liners that are a Bochco trademark combined with the grit of "Blues" earns the distinction of being the one that got away. It is equally sad that ABC did not give accept the offer of Bochco to play a more active role in producing a third season of the show. One can only speculate that renewing the show would have prevented renewing "Full House" or "Perfect Strangers."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Hooperman" is strongly encouraged to email me; you also may connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.