In 1998, Robocop was given a new cartoon called Robocop: Alpha Commando. It only lasted a single season of 40 episodes. The show was set in 2030, and supposedly Robocop had been deactivated for 5 years before being brought back. I had to look all that up. I only watched the Christmas episode and found myself wondering where any characters or ideas from the original films were. The only thing to be found was that Robocop’s boss is still Sgt. Reed from the films. But he’s lost his mustache and gained about 100 pounds and a terrible Mohawk. The episode in question is called “Oh Tannenbaum, Whoa Tannenbaum” and it turns out that it’s a pun but you don’t learn that until halfway through the episode. Otherwise it just seems like a silly play on words. Oh, by the way, this is really terrible. It’s all about Robocop protecting a mall during Christmas and a nerd supporting a psychopath. Let’s dig in!
The episode starts off with tons of ads on blimps floating through the city. It’s as close as the episode gets to anything approaching satire, which was a pretty huge element of the first two films. But they’re for pretty mundane products so the only point they’re making is how obtrusive all the ads are. The scene goes lower into the city where people are in a bad mood due to holiday stress and Robocop and his partner are stuck in traffic. His partner is not Lewis from the films. She’s not even mentioned. He has a new partner, an Asian single mom named Miner. They should have given her one more quirky character trait, like a personality of some sort.
Meanwhile, at a nearby mall, everyone is fighting over the most popular new toy, an elf. Kudos to the show for predicting the popularity of Elf on the Shelf, which wouldn’t debut until 2005. Until that came out, I would never have believed people would be desperate to buy a shitty elf toy.
Robocop’s boss, Sgt. Parks is with two of his men, trying to keep the peace. Not only are people fighting over the toys, they’re also realizing they’re being pickpocketed. I guess ’98 was too early to deal with identity theft as an issue, but is pickpocketing really the big issue this show wants to tackle? The episode also gives us a harried store manager who could not be much more mincing. He’s rocking his little pencil stache and is only concerned with his store being wrecked. I think we’re actually supposed to sympathize with him, though. There’s no innocent customer for Robocop and team to watch out for in this episode. They’re kind of protecting a corporate interest. Which seems like the complete opposite of the stories Robocop was created to talk about.
A big fat lady (Robocop: Alpha Commando is not an especially sensitive show) knocks down all the cops and the store manager. They cower in fear but eventually Robocop shows up and everyone just sort of gives up and goes home. Nobody wants trouble with the po-po.
Cut to the police offices. Actually, I’m not sure they are police. They have some sort of authority but they don’t seem to be police. More like military or government agents. But Robocop is called RoboCOP so I’m gonna pretend they’re at the station. Robocop has some sort of x-ray vision and looks at Sgt. Reed, determining he has no broken bones, just bruising. Then he literally prints out a bill out of his chest and bills his superior officer for his diagnosis. This is pretty much the biggest joke of the episode and it lets you know that this show isn’t even trying to be witty. It exchanges that for a very, very silly atmosphere.
Sgt. Reed explains that lots of people are getting pickpocketed but he has too many of his men keeping the peace to actually investigate. He determines the best course of action is to send in Miner and Robocop UNDERCOVER. Robocop, the human tank, can best be used undercover. Okay, well, at least I know the show isn’t even trying so we don’t have to pretend to respect it.
Miner walks around the mall, shouting that she’s bought tons of gifts because she’s rich and she wonders what she should do with all her money. Very broad. And someone snags one of her credit cards. It’s always nice when a plan works instantly!
Robocop’s disguise was as a snowman just standing still. A snowman built like an athlete. He sheds his brilliant disguise and approaches the person who took the card. He grabs her only to be completely shocked to realize she is a “grandma.” Because an old lady couldn’t possibly be a thief. It violates his 7th directive or some shit.
Oh ho, but it wasn’t the old lady that stole the card. It was one of those toy elves! It pops out of her bag and taunts Robocop. The elf is alive and it’s the thief. Everything ties together perfectly! This is in fact a script that wastes no time with superfluous details. It is the Chinatown of shitty late 90s cartoons. I am filled with shame for criticizing it.
Robocop chases after the elf and corners him in an alley. There’s a handful of the elves there with construction tools and they attack Robocop’s feet so he smashes them to pieces. Don’t worry, turns out they’re robots. However, some kids saw Robocop smashing up the popular toys and they cry. I have to admit, that was kind of funny. Robocop and Miner head back to their base and some doctor called Neumeier hangs out with them while they review mall security footage. They realize there’s missing timecode and whoever’s behind the pickpocketing is using high tech toys to complete the crimes. Before they can do anything with the information, Reed calls them right back to the mall. As they leave, they pass a massive gift by the entrance. Neumeier gets excited and says no one ever gives him anything and that maybe it’s a massive fruitcake. This guy is annoying. I hope it’s a bomb.
When he opens the present, a woman in a Santa suit pops up. Neumeier is terrified of her and passes out and the show cuts to a commercial. It took me quite a while to figure out why this was a big deal. At first I figured I hadn’t paid close enough attention and was missing something. That’s not it, though. This character is named Charlotta Tannenbaum and apparently she was in a previous episode as a criminal. This is explained after the commercial break, but first let me mention the commercial bumper. Going out to commercial, Robocop pulls up in a car and says the show will be back in a minute. Okay. When it returns, you see a missile, a scared punk in a car, and then the missile blows up the car. But if you were expecting to see him emerge okay… nope. The car just blows up and the show is back on. So weird for such a bloodless take on Robocop. Anyway, when it returns, Charlotta says puts down a pie that she says is a gift for Robocop and tells Neumeier that she got out early for good behavior. And he just accepts that. Because the characters are realllllly dumb on this show.
When Robocop and Miner get back to the mall, the store manager is crying that the cash registers won’t accept credit cards so the store is going mad. Miner asks what he can tell them about the elf dolls. Not much, he explains. Just that he bought them cheap from the same company that installed his security systems. At this point, I figure the guy deserves whatever happens to his store, but Robocop is still ready to defend him. They notice that a Rudolph reindeer statue is staring at them. By the way, if Miner looks bleached out in these images, it’s because that’s pretty much how they draw her. The video I had to screencap was low quality but I looked up some higher quality clips of other episodes. They may not color her yellow but she is a bleached out white that does not seem right.
Robocop goes full-on Inspector Gadget and shoots a grappling hook to capture the robot reindeer. Then he tells it that he is not allowed to touch his self destruct collar. Say what? Who even knew that was a thing? Anyway, then Robocop puts his fist knife/data reader thing into the reindeer to find out who is controlling it. Can you guess who?
Charlotta aggressively hits on Neumeier and tells him to get them coffee. While he’s distracted, she checks on some sort of video voicemail that Robocop sent him explaining how they’ll be able to track the signal. She gets mad and I’m sure you’re shocked to learn that the escaped criminal is the secret mastermind behind the pickpocketing toys. Go ahead and take a moment to catch your breath. I understand.
Charlotta then drugs Neumeier’s coffee and knocks him out. She’s roofied this guy. She is a bad person. Remember that for later.
Robocop and Miner walk into an empty warehouse and Charlotta is just standing around on a catwalk waiting for them, with Neumeier tied up. Her clever line? “Look. A couple of turkeys just waiting to get stuffed.” I mean, you had time and that’s the best you could come up with? Oof. She sends her elves to surround them and even though Robocop easily took out a small legion of them before, this time he and Miner just stand around. This pickpocketing villain is not much of a threat. She’s not exactly in the same leagues as Dick Jones or even ED-209.
Miner tells Charlotta this is where she’s allowed to explain her evil plan since she has them captured. It’s a stalling technique and an obvious one but Charlotta is crazy so she talks about how she’s excited to ruin Christmas for everyone by pushing people over the edge. Robocop says he understands why she’d want revenge on them, but why ruin Christmas for everyone? She explains that people teased her for having the name Tannenbaum so she hates Christmas. Everyone gets teased for their names. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone wanted revenge on what their names were instead of the people who made fun of them? Reply below with what you would have to get revenge on.
Charlotta then has her robots attack Miner and Robocop. None of them are effective at all. Robocop even busts out a flamethrower gadget to melt a snowman that looks very upset to be killed. Miner just shoots lots of little elves.
Charlotta takes Neumeier as a hostage and makes a run for it. I’m so bored. I can’t figure out what message or story we’re supposed to pull out of all these events going down. No one is learning anything. They’re just breaking toy robots.
Charlotta threatens to let Neumeier fall off the roof when Robocop and Miner approach her. But then Neumeier explains that she shouldn’t because he really likes her. And he’s being completely serious. This woman has stolen from the city, threatened his life and other police officers and drugged him but she also fake hit on him and he likes her for that. Touched by this, she reveals she really likes him too. This is terrible. Everything is awful. Kids watch this show. Are they seriously supposed to think this is how relationships can work?
Charlotta takes Neumeier and jumps into a flying robot she summons. She takes off but Robocop and Miner jump in one of those advertising blimps from the beginning. Thus begins a chase between a gigantic Santa and a trash can robot.
Charlotta has a bomb, by the way. Who cares? Robocop crashes into her robot and they all crash through the mall, destroying it but everyone is fine. So much for protecting the mall I guess. The manager weeps openly. None of the other characters care.
Charlotta and Neumeier make out while Robocop carries them away. He says Charlotta is going back to jail and Neumeier says he’ll wait for her. I’m out of things to say. This episode broke me. It was the worst Christmas episode of anything I’ve ever seen. It had a hero protecting a store, rude customers that never changed or learned the error of their ways, and a criminal that got rewarded with love for her crimes. Merry Christmas.