In “Cop Con,” every officer Moonbeam City PD heads to a single convention center for a weekend. But as Dazzle points out, the only attendance that matters is everyone in what he calls “the old gang.” Even Dazzle’s frenemy Rad is covered under the “old gang” moniker, having qualified as one of the “four most interesting cops on the force” whose adventures seem to matter the most on a week-to-week basis. This kind of explicitly meta joke is, on the surface, almost unnecessary. On a story level, television viewers understand that shows follow particular characters, rather than every possible character. On a joke level, it’s relatively commonplace; any number of Simpsons episodes have taken similar jabs at TV formulas.
Yet this joke worked fine for this episode of Moonbeam City, one of the best of the series so far, because it was just one of many swift, funny jokes spread around that “old gang.” It may have been the least Dazzle-centric episode so far; though he does give a Cop Con seminar on amassing wealth through police confiscation, that, too, is more of a throwaway gag. His main story in the episode concerns his apparently annual affair with his boss, Pizzaz, attributed to a release of Cop Con Day 1 tension, followed by Day 2 tension, and so on. Their unconquerable mutual attraction, which has seemed entirely conquerable in every previous episode of the series, almost registers as sweet, even if the key word they keep evoking in its wake is “shame,” most amusingly as the (fake, animated) focus racks back and forth rapidly between their post-coital faces as they take turns saying “shame” in agreement.
But not everyone finds such fun and athletic outlets for their shame at Cop Con or its accompanying Cop Con Prom. Rad, being the one cop not giving his own seminar (required for Dazzle’s reminder that “not every cop” can do so), swears off the convention. After spending some time tantrum-throwing and softcore porn-watching, he takes his dissatisfaction to the streets, starting his own RadCon in the fashion of a ranting vagrant with vaguely anarchist leanings.
“Cop Con” isn’t especially “about” Dazzle and Pizzaz’s affair, or RadCon, any more than it’s particularly about how Chrysalis finds herself with a stalkerish fan at her otherwise sparsely attended presentation on the root causes of crime, or the accompanying runner showing that, without the Moonbeam City PD on their backs, the city’s gangs become progressive, self-policing, and harmonious forces for positivity. It’s not even especially about the murder of fellow cop Stereo Campari, who holds a seminar where he intends to name the 700 dirty cops of Moonbeam City (despite Dazzle’s redistribution of crime-scene riches, it seems that our four main characters, however incompetent or ill-suited they may be, are not among the force’s many, many corrupt officers). Though some of the stories yoke together at different points, they mostly function as part of an anthology of misadventures, further emphasizing that regardless of what else is going on at Cop Con, the “old gang” are who we’re following here (them, and also Interrobot, a new piece of police technology vaguely reminiscent of the big drones from the original Robocop).
With funny bits for all four major players, “Cop Con” plays a bit like a Moonbeam City’s greatest hits for its seven episodes so far, especially when it comes to two of the more inspired songs in the show’s bizarre repertoire: Dazzle’s performance with his band Buster Brown’s Midnight Moonshine and the Texas Hold ‘Em Boys, plus the former-gang-performed hit single “Leaving The H,” which details the city clean-up efforts that Moonbeam PD has absolutely no part in whatsoever. Though the show’s visual look recalls certain Duran Duran album covers and its score has a particular synth-pop sound, it’s especially fun when it plays around with other musical subgenres of its nebulous future-‘80s period.
So while Cop Con is a more generic comic conceit than, say, a celebrity artist famous for his strike-visualization screens at bowling alleys, it provides room for a lot of jokes that this show does well, including jokes about how many jokes the writers can gin up on a particular theme. I’m a sucker for this kind of gleeful riff-generation, thinking fondly, for example, of the endless jokes about the Neutral Planet on Futurama. Here, the location for these riffs is the Arrestaurant, the convention’s cop-themed diner, where the characters gather to discuss the Campari murder. But they’re really there so they can transparently prompt the waitress to rattle off cop-related menu-item puns; she offers far more than the characters could conceivably need and then later acknowledges that lack of necessity: it is a pretty funny menu, right? That’s “Cop Con”: a big menu of silly jokes for their own sake.
- This week in Moonbeam City names: Stereo Campari gets the most attention, but sleazy cop-product peddler Flux Nicholson is probably best-of-show this week. The real villain here goes in the opposite direction: he’s just Rick. You know, from forensics? Chrysalis talks to him way more often than she talks to Dazzle, Pizzaz, or Rad.
- If anyone can sell a gag about getting super hot and bothered over the sexual but not too explicit world of softcore pornography, it’s Will Forte.
- If I knew more about music history, I might try to draw some line between the decadent glamour of Moonbeam City and its weird music, and David Johansen’s break from fronting New York Dolls in the alter ego ofBuster Poindexter, whose name seemed to be a potential inspiration for Buster Brown’s Midnight Moonshine mix… but I don’t think I have those chops. I’ll accept thinkpiece proposals in the comments, though. (What I’ll do with said proposals, though, is anyone’s guess.)