Within the first 90 seconds of the one episode of Poochinski ever made, a gang of 12 year old boys threatens a cop with a switchblade. It’s a great preview of the absurdity to come: an string of jokey, inverted crime drama tropes played relatively straight. Maybe you’ve heard about Poochinski before, it’s a one-off pilot produced by ABC in 1990 starring Peter Boyle as Detective Stanley Poochinski, a rough-and-tumble cop, the kind that plays by his own rules, who gets turned into a bulldog.
After rescuing a bulldog from the aforementioned gang of children, Boyle is killed in the line of duty protecting his new dog friend while chasing a bad guy. They form some sort of psychic bond while the life drains from Boyle’s eyes and we go to commercial. Fade into the cemetery after his funeral, his mourning partner (like coworker, not romantic partner) is greeted by a horrifying, uncanny valley rubberized puppet dog with Peter Boyle’s voice and we’re off to the races. Time to catch a cop killer by any means necessary!
The show’s got the classic buddy cop dynamic, and a mind boggling high-concept conceit that nearly everyone takes at face value immediately, but unfortunately for anyone who dares watch the whole pilot, the whole thing manages to be incredibly arduous. Overly expository dialogue and painfully lazy dog/cop puns keep dragging this away from the “so bad it’s good” zone anyone tuning in 30 years later desperately wants it to live in. The whole thing is mostly just numbingly, disappointingly boring and rote, marked by sporadic moments of absurd inspiration/horror.
Now that we’re living in a post-Cats world, I feel like Poochinski, in all of its ill-advised, brain-melting glory, is a sort of spiritual sibling to the hallucinatory movie musical disaster that everyone was tweeting about over the holiday break. Maybe they’d make a good double feature? Check out the full thing below, in all its VHS-dubbed glory, if you dare.