The Black Box: “Poochinski”

Television pilots are tough to make. It’s hard to introduce the concept and entire cast of characters of a show in one episode and still have that episode hold up on it’s own. But just because something’s hard doesn’t make it any more excusable when you fail spectacularly at doing it. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Black Box, where we check out pilots that crashed and burned to see exactly what went wrong.

This week we take a look at… something really terrible.

“Poochinski” is bad. Like, really, really, bad. In a way I didn’t quite anticipate. It’s so bad, this is the first show I’ve reviewed that WASN’T picked up by the network. According to the network executives, “Heil Honey”, “Emily’s Reasons”, and “Manimal” were all better shows than this one on every level. And they were kinda right.

“Poochinski” aired on NBC on July 9th, 1990. It only had one episode produced and said episode was aired as a “special”, which means someone at the network realized that they had a gap in the schedule and decided to fill it with one of the mistakes they’d commissioned. The show followed a Chicago PD Detective named Stanley Poochinski (I know, we’ll get to it) played by Peter Boyle who dies and comes back as a bulldog because fuck you, rational storytelling! Now, he and his former partner Detective Robert McKay (George Newbern) fight crime together. Hilarity ensues… except it doesn’t.

What they did right: I dunno, George Newbern is a pretty cool guy. I’ve loved him since he was Superman in the 2000’s Justice League cartoons. It’s pretty much down hill from there, though.

What they did wrong: This might be a long one. Because this show is legitimately god-fuckin-awful. It’s double-plus-terrible. Let’s start with… the characters, I guess? This show has the least likable main character of anything I’ve reviewed, including “Heil Honey”. And yes, that does mean that, as a main character, Stanley Poochinski is LITERALLY WORSE THAN HITLER. His first piece of dialogue (and the first piece of dialogue in the show, mind you) is him sexually harassing the police dispatcher. He’s sexist, rude, inconsiderate, and proud of it. The show makes literally no attempt to give him any redeeming qualities, besides how good of a cop he supposedly is. And what’s worse, is that the show actually has an opportunity to do this, to give him a “save the cat” moment, as it were. Early on, He spots a group of kids beating on a bulldog and tells them to knock it off. This scene could have worked if A: the children he shooed away weren’t nine year olds with switchblades for some fuckin’ reason, or B: HE HADN’T SHOOED THEM AWAY BY THREATENING THEM WITH HIS PISTOL!!! Your hero, ladies and gentlemen, threatening children with a service revolver. His partner is somewhat likable, but only because he seems to hate Poochinski just as much as I do.

The plot… oh Jesus Christ, the plot. Poochinski is killed when he gives his life for a bulldog in the most easily avoidable death I’ve ever seen. Poochinski, in his dying moments, makes eye contact with the dog and basically possesses him. We never get any indication that the dog’s original mind or spirit is still in there, so Poochinski basically just killed that dog. He’s just lucky his last name wasn’t Snailberg or Trashcanovitch, because then we’d have a completely different kind of show on our hands. As a dog, Poochinski is somehow still capable of human speech. I had a long argument with the friend I watched this with about whether the dog was actually talking out loud, or if only the partner could understand him, and I honestly don’t care which one of those it is, because they are both equally fucking stupid. Also, I have to note, the dog puppet they use whenever Poochinski is speaking is goddamn terrifying. It is one of the most frightening things I have ever laid eyes on and it makes me wanna cry just thinking about it. Even as a dog, Poochinski continues to sexually assault the human women of the police department in some truly reprehensible behavior. He uses the fact that he’s now a dog to excuse his continued rude shittiness. He forces his new partner to take care of him, is of little help as a police officer, and completely ignores his loved ones. Yeah, remember how I said he “died” before he possessed the dog? The only person who knows he’s still alive is his partner! Poochinski didn’t tell his friends, or his family or even the girlfriend we know he has from earlier dialogue! Later in the episode, the show tries to make us feel bad for Poochinski because he can’t see his girlfriend anymore. Yeah, well maybe you should LET HER KNOW YOU’RE STILL ALIVE, YOU SELFISH FUCKBAG!!!! I do have to give the show this, however: my dog stared intently at the tv for most of the episode’s running time, but I suspect that was because she was just as horrified by the dog puppet as I was.

Poochinski also has the world’s worst singing voice. The show takes great pains to show him singing the same Sinatra song three separate times, and it’s somehow worse each time. At the end of the show, Poochinski and his partner catch Poochinski’s “killer”. Does Poochinski confront him? Does  he make it apparent how much he lost due to this man’s actions? Do we get information on why this guy killed Poochinski? A final confrontation? Nope! The partner does all the real work and the killer LITERALLY NEVER GETS A SINGLE LINE OF DIALOGUE!!!!! Not a one! Because fuck building complex characters when you can have a dog pee on some guy’s leg. Creating an interesting antagonist would have taken time away from the 15 minutes of human Poochinski being a complete and utter bellend, and we couldn’t have that now, could we? It’s like the writer was in a “who can come up with the least satisfying climax” competition, and took home the gold medal. The real ending of the show tells us that Poochinski and his partner are both now members of the K-9 Unit (despite the fact that bulldogs are not and never have been, as far as I know, on any police force’s K-9 squad). This raises several questions. Are we supposed to believe that the police force decided to induct this random street dog into the police force with no training whatsoever? Or are we supposed to think that Poochnski told the police who he was, and they decided to stick him on the K-9 squad? Because that would be a massive dick move. And that’s not including the fact that a talking cop dog would change the way we viewed the world from a scientific level, if it were ever brought to public knowledge.

There’s some light romantic stuff between the partner and a widowed mother that I’m ignoring because, seriously, who cares? I should also probably mention that everything about this show screams late 80’s/early 90’s like it’s calling for emergency services. Speaking of emergency services, what is this, the second show in a row I’ve reviewed about animal people fighting crime? And I’m sorry, “Poochinski” but I know “Manimal”. I’ve reviewed “Manimal” And you sir… are really fucking terrible. Which, you know, “Manimal” wasn’t. There was probably a more concise way to put that…

So that’s it for this week, next Sunday, we start the week off with a BAM! …That’s a hint as to my next review, by the way, not just me being weird. I mean, I guess it’s a little of both.

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