’70s Flashback: Goofy Sci-Fi With Ernest Borgnine in “Future Cop”

The 1970s were a golden age for science fiction. Logan’s Run, Star Wars, Space 1999, Future Cop. Wait, what’s that? You never heard of the last one? Well friends, you are in for a treat. Future Cop was an ABC TV movie which was followed by a short-lived follow-up series in which the police force turns to technology to help them fight crime by creating an android law enforcement officer. If this premise sounds familiar to you, it’s because it is similar to the plot of Robocop — which came a full decade later. (It also sounded like an idea sci-fi legends Harlan Ellison and Ben Bova had pitched for a TV series that never came to fruition, so much so that they sued…and eventually won). This controversy aside, Future Cop is a charming blend of fish-out-of-water story, police procedural in the tradition of Starsky and Hutch, and sci-fi actioner. The cast includes Ernest Borgnine as a seasoned officer, Michael Shannon as his cybernetic new partner, and a post-Good Times John Amos as their tough co-worker who doesn’t know the truth about the force’s new recruit.

The show never really caught on with viewers, and was cancelled after seven episodes. A hasty attempt to revive the show by making a few changes resulted in a pilot movie that never really went anywhere. Today, Future Cop is more remembered for the lawsuit it inspired and how it came before Robocop more than anything else. That’s a shame. The complete series — including both TV pilot films — is available in a value-priced DVD set. This isn’t groundbreaking television that uses its sci-fi trappings to discuss the nature of man a la The Prisoner and Star Trek but rather a show that is heavy on the camp and a goofy late-’70s aesthetic that is buoyed by its leads charming and underappreciated performances.

As lovers of 1970s cinema and television, we recommend checking out Future Cop. We think you’ll find it to be the most, ahem, arresting show that you’ve never heard of.

This post originally ran last year, we reprinting it today as this week’s Sunday Funday post!