This time, the subject of this "Lacuna Matata" installment isn't exactly a classic or a buried treasure worth digging for. Remember this curio from a few years ago?
Funky Cops was a bawdy, Austin Powers-style French cartoon show about a pair of disco-dancing '70s San Francisco cops with scary-looking Jay Leno chins that I caught a few times on Fox's Saturday morning schedule in 2003. It was apparently big in France, and it spawned two volumes of not-so-bad original music from the show. The Brand New Heavies-esque tunes are easily the best part of Funky Cops.
I can't say I liked Funky Cops. For the disco sequences--I think each Funky Cops episode was 80 percent disco sequences, 20 percent cop show stuff--the animators took CGI animations of the cops' dance moves and rotoscoped them, and the cels and robotic character movements in those sequences looked rather creepy and ugly (most rotoscoped cartoons look terrible, and Funky Cops was no exception). Also, the show was very French, like how The Fifth Element is a very French sci-fi movie.
One of the reasons why I checked out Funky Cops was because I wanted to see what San Francisco looks like to French animators. The show's constant shots of cars leaping over hills indicated that the Frenchmen did their homework by watching the Bullitt car chase--and that's about it. Aside from the hills and the glimpses of Chinatown, the Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge, Sucka Free looked more like the nondescript city where Penny took care of her mentally challenged Uncle Gadget than the Sucka Free I know.
Another thing that made Funky Cops an interesting curio was its bawdiness, which showed how much Saturday morning network TV standards had loosened since the days when Rev. Donald Wildmon's theory about Mighty Mouse being a cokehead forced Ralph Bakshi to trim some footage from Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. The standards changed probably because animated Saturday morning TV was slowly dying and nobody gave a shit anymore.
Funky Cops' sexualized character designs were clearly inspired by Austin Powers. The show's creators, Christophe and Benoit Di Sabatino, even ripped off the white Funky Cop's thatch of chest hair from Austin. The bawdiness was one of several elements fpsmagazine.com contributor Terrence Briggs criticized on the rec.arts.animation newsgroup:
The character designs are grotesque, featuring overly sculpted arms, huge chins, and triangular female breasts (of which you'll see plenty on this show). The Elvis lookalike has a grin that takes up most of his face. The black dude, on the other hand, has no lips and rarely shows his teeth, while his chin and Afro duke it out for ownership of his head. Their black supervisor has HUGE lips...Funky Cops made me think I could create a funnier '70s cop show spoof than the Di Sabatino brothers' animated series, so in 2003, I tried to write a comedic screenplay called Timegroove, about a present-day Filipino American cop who gets sent back in time to 1977. I typed up a complete treatment, a full list of '70s tracks I wanted to use (like "Skin Tight" by Ohio Players and "In the City" by the Jam) and a screenplay that only went as far as 11 pages. Except for a cameo I wrote for legendary, now-retired KTVU anchorman Dennis Richmond and a gag involving an argument about who sang "Back Stabbers" that escalates into a fistfight, my unfinished Timegroove screenplay isn't very good. Three years later, BBC's Life on Mars premiered and was such a clever '70s cop show homage that I decided the world didn't need another one.
The musical score pays homage to far better R&B from the era. Unfortunately, the lyrics and vocal performances are embarassing, and they're always used over the silent scenes. The theme song, however, is catchy and well-produced...
And the writing doesn't save the day. Scripts often feature lame comedy (bad singing, ironic sentiments about how awesome and timeless disco is, slacking on the job) and tired plot devices (Could the episodic female dancer who has stolen Ace's heart be the episodic jewel thief?).