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Watch a clip from the long-lost TV musical Cop Rock, one of the weirdest shows ever made

It involves criminals singing and dancing. You've been warned.

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

In the annals of historic TV flops, Cop Rock stands near the pinnacle.

The 1990 project hails as one of the first-ever attempts to create an all-original TV musical, and it centered on police officers and the criminals they busted. Only instead of heartfelt monologues about the weight of crime (and/or fighting it), the characters would burst into song, because sure.

The project was part of a historic 10-series deal that Cop Rock co-creator Steven Bochco signed with ABC in the late 1980s. Back then, Bochco — the co-creator of Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law — was essentially without competition as the greatest TV drama writer of all time, at least so far as TV executives were concerned.

But Bochco used what was effectively a blank check to indulge the odder corners of his imagination, which is how Cop Rock (co-created with William Finkelstein) came to be. The series' songs included tunes written by Randy Newman, who even appeared behind the keyboard in the show's title sequence. (He had also written the theme song.)

Not every show Bochco ultimately created for ABC was a misfire. During Cop Rock's short-lived tenure, the network was also broadcasting Bocho's much more successful Doogie Howser, M.D., and just a few years later, Bochco and David Milch would rearrange the TV drama landscape with NYPD Blue. But Cop Rock came to be remembered as a legendary failure that was almost impossible to revisit, outside of a few stray YouTube clips.

Until now, that is.

Shout! Factory will release the complete series (all 11 episodes!) on DVD for the first time on Tuesday, May 17. As a preview, Vox is debuting the above clip, in which a police lineup of Latino men breaks into a song about racial profiling. ("We're the local color with the Coppertone skin," goes a sample lyric.)

The clip will give you a sense of what was good about Cop Rock (its attempts to engage with important social issues of the early 1990s) and what was bad (uh, pretty much everything else). If nothing else, it should get you excited for what promises to be a lot of cheesy fun once Shout! releases the series on DVD.

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