Cop Rock attempted to combine police procedural with musical theatre, the former a genre in which Bochco had already been very successful with Hill Street Blues. The series featured an ensemble cast that mixed musical numbers and choreography throughout storylines. For example, one courtroom scene in the pilot episode had the jury break into song, proclaiming their verdict on the defendant ("He's Guilty") Gospel-style. Another episode had a lineup of Hispanic suspects proclaim in song "We're the local color with the coppertone skin / And you treat us like we're guilty of some terrible sin." The show also featuredcrossover appearances from other Bochco series; one episode featured James B. Sikking reprising his Hill Street Blues role of Lt. Howard Hunter, while another episode featured cameos by L.A. Law stars Jimmy Smits and Michele Greene.
The series' theme song, "Under the Gun," was written by Randy Newman, who also performed it in the series' title sequencemusic video-style in a recording studio, complete with a full backing band and the show's cast (appearing out of character) serving as an audience. Mike Post, who served as Cop Rock's music supervisor, was also part of Newman's band in that opening sequence; Post is the keyboardist in dark glasses sitting next to Newman.
The show was a critical and commercial failure and was canceled by ABC after 11 episodes. Owing to the combination of its bizarre nature (a fusion of musical performances with serious police drama) and its high-powered production talent, it became infamous as one of the biggest television failures of the 1990s. The series' final episode, which aired on December 26, 1990, concluded with the cast breaking character and joining crew members in performing a closing song. (That final episode featured Sheryl Crow appearing as a back-up singer.)Despite its overwhelmingly negative reception and short run, the series still has been rebroadcast in later years, with VH1 andA&E Network airing it on separate occasions later in the 1990s, and Trio airing it in the 2000s.