Space Cops premiered on September 16th, 1979 and immediately changed the American television landscape by challenging stereotypes, tackling difficult subject matter, and mixing genres.
The series follows a pair of detectives in the Interplanetary Police Squadron: Jonny Ritz (Gene Paul Bundy), the dark-haired bad boy who will do whatever it takes to get his man... and his ladies; and Don Geronimo (Jackie Franklin) who spent his entire childhood in a Martian orphanage and uses his job to fill the vacuous hole inside him. After interfering with galactic diplomacy, Don and Jonny were busted down to Earth duty (the worst beat in the solar system) and struggled to restart their careers on a world they were completely unfamiliar with. While Ritz didn't have time for procedure and Geronimo seemed to be a stickler for paperwork, it was actually Don that was always on the verge of exploding due to his unresolved emotional issues.
Of course, the driving force of the show was the Chief (Reginald Cockswayne); a hardline boss who went to any means to make sure Geronimo and Ritz learned old-school police work... Earth style. Space Cops' producers used the Chief to turn the traditional cop show formula on its ear. While he often accused his detectives of being "loose cannons," it became clear that Chief was actually the most unpredictable and dangerous component of the trio.
The detectives' main informant was the ethically ambiguous priest Father José (Dino Rivera), whose dedication to needy children was in constant conflict with his insatiable appetite for the nose candy. Space Cops was ground breaking in its portrayal of a Hispanic American in a mildly positive light. Jose's immense popularity with viewers caused producers to consider giving Rivera his own TV series. The second-season episode "Crying On the Inside" was actually a backdoor pilot for a proposed spin off for Father José and his friend, "Tiny" Tommy Tucco (Chas Barrine) becoming private investigators / performers in a traveling circus; however, this premise proved unpopular with viewers, and a spinoff never materialized.
Reginald Cockswayne was a character actor who had done significant film work during the early years of his career. He had a passion for motorsports and famously became great friends with Paul Newman after Reggie ran him into a ditch and nearly killed him in 1977 at Le Mans.
Producer Stanley Shallets spotted Gene Paul Bundy on the construction crew of his new Malibu home. Shallets was looking for a "man's man" to fill the role of Ritz and ordered Gene Paul to stop by his office and audition for a "little police show" he was putting together. Gene Paul was never completely comfortable with the immense fame and sex symbol status he received from the show and retired to a life of shoe cobbling after Space Cops' final season.
Jackie Franklin was a classically trained Shakespearean actor and took the role of Don Geronimo after his stage career had stalled out. Franklin told his closest friends, of which there were few, he would leave "that dog crap show" the instant Broadway called. The call never came. As the years passed Franklin became harder and harder to deal with and may have harbored more inner demons than the character he played.
Space Cops' final episode, "Play That 'Ol Squeezebox," aired May 6, 1984. Politics and business dealings ensured it was the last time the show would ever be seen on broadcast television. Despite over a hundred episodes having been produced, the series was locked away and never re-ran in syndication. Executive Producer Stan Shallets tried to broker a deal for the Space Cops Christmas Special to be aired annually, but to no avail. The tales of Don, Jonny, and the Chief would only continue through a handful of Space Cops: The Animated Series episodes in 1985.
Space Cops proper sat dormant on 110 reels of Type C one-inch video tape in a San Diego County salt mine for 30 years. Walk Softly Films acquired the rights to all episodes and materials of the series in 2011. They immediately released three episodes, but began to realize the amount of work it would take to get the entire series restored to a condition worthy of exhibition. In 2017, restoration on Season 1 was completed in total and is currently being re-released, free of charge, to the public on the Space Cops YouTube Channel.