Most everyone knows at least of Police Academy — the seven-film series that ran from 1984 to 1994 about a group of wacky cops who somehow fight crime between a whole lot of slapstick and pranks. It’s perhaps best-known for both its prolific nature and rapidly declining level of quality.
Some people may even be aware of the 1988 animated cartoon series that ran for a couple of seasons. I remember watching a few episodes back in the day. It did the job of eating up 20 minutes of my time but didn’t really do much in terms of entertainment.
But there’s another chapter of the Police Academy franchise that virtually no one remembers, which is a live-action television series that emerged as a single 26-episode season in 1997 and 98. Being a syndicated show probably had a lot to do with its lack of name recognition, but I’m guessing that the project didn’t exactly attract Emmy-quality writers and actors, either.
Still, it wasn’t the worst idea for a series — I mean, look at what Brooklyn Nine-Nine did with kooky cops a couple of decades later. And Police Academy fans were already used to the constantly rotating cast of characters, so it shouldn’t have been too jarring to have an almost-completely new class to follow.
Almost, I said, because Michael Winslow reprised his character Jones, the sound effects-producing sergeant, for half of that run. A few others from the movies also made cameos, such as Leslie Easterbrook (Callahan), Art Metrano (Mauser), George Gaynes (Lassard), Bubba Smith (Hightower), Graf (Tackleberry), and Tim Kazurinsky (Sweetchuck).
But like Scrubs’ weird last season, Police Academy: The Series tried to hand the baton off to a group of thinly veiled copies of the film’s cast. These included Cadet Casey (Matt Borlenghi), who became the group’s leader, a couple of Tackleberry nephews, and some brown-nosing antagonists.
After watching a few scenes — and thereby increasing my risk for at least seven types of cancer — I can confirm that the quality here was pretty low. Think, Fox-sitcoms-in-the-late-90s low. Lots of musical stings to emphasize comedy that couldn’t launch on its own, overexaggerated acting, and a general malaise of been-here-done-that. It’s not as though this franchise begged for any sort of continuation, so let’s just call this what it is — cashing in on a degraded namesake — and move on.