The Story of the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ TV Show That Never Aired

The Story of the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ TV Show That Never Aired

The release of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F capped off 30 years of development, as the series’ producers struggled to find a way forward after 1994’s disastrous Beverly Hills Cop III. In the 2000s, we almost got a fourth Cop about Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley investigating the murder of his buddy Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold); at some points the project could have been directed by Brett Ratner and Adil & Bilall. We also almost got a project that would have ensured that Axel F would never have happened at all, at least not in anything resembling the form streaming on Netflix: The never-aired Beverly Hills Cop TV show.

Some backstory: In the late 2000s, after the first attempts to relaunch Beverly Hills Cop came to nothing, Paramount decided to pivot the franchise to television. Murphy was not interested in making a Beverly Hills Cop TV show — Murphy’s only meaningful role on TV outside of his work on Saturday Night Live remains his short-lived animated sitcom The PJs — so producers decided to center the show about Axel’s son, Aaron Foley, played by Brandon T. Jackson.

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TV’s Beverly Hills Cop, which wound up at CBS, had quite a creative pedigree. The series would have been produced by Shawn Ryan, the creator of The Shield and The Night Agent. The pilot was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, the man who shot Big and When Harry Met Sally and directed The Addams FamilyGet Shorty, and Men in Black. Ryan and Sonnenfeld even convinced Murphy to help establish the series as a legitimate continuation of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise by playing Axel Foley in the pilot episode.

That turned out to be a problem.

The story Murphy has told in multiple interviews (including this one in Indiewire) is that his presence in the pilot became a double-edged sword. Test audiences who screened the show were delighted to see him back as Axel Foley, but that was essentially the only part of the show that delighted them.

“The reason [Beverly Hills Cop] didn’t get picked up was because [the studio] thought that I was going to be in this show, because [the lead] was my son: ‘And you’re going to pop in every now and then.’ I was like, “I ain’t popping in s—.’” Murphy told Indiewire. Murphy insisted the pilot was “good” and that when it was shown to focus groups who’d turn a knob on a machine to indicate when they liked a part of the show “[whenever] Axel Foley would come on the screen, they turned it so they literally broke the knobs on the thing.”

But again, Murphy wasn’t interested in appearing on Beverly Hills Cop again after the pilot, leaving the TV series without its one universally loved component.

The Beverly Hills Cop TV pilot is currently available on YouTube, so you can judge its merits for yourself. After watching it, I think CBS — and those test audiences — made the right call. Murphy is the best part of the pilot, and really the only part that’s memorable.

Jackson does make a plausible chip off the old block; a Detroit cop who winds up in Beverly Hills on an undercover assignment, then must avenge the death of an innocent victim of some underworld types. The stuffy Beverly Hills Police Department assigns some cops to keep an eye on Aaron (including The Office’s David Denman) and they all repeatedly run afoul of a by-the-book department lawyer (Kevin Pollak) who wants to handcuff their investigation.

Axel shows up about a third of the way through the 45-minute episode, Detroit Lions jacket and all, to check on Aaron. Murphy’s role is larger than you might expect given his unwillingness to return for future episodes; if I was a test audience member who watched this, I would have assumed Murphy was the co-lead of the show. Jackson and Murphy had a pretty good rapport, and with his swagger and quick wit, Aaron is a plausible son of the great Axel Foley.

He’s not an especially charismatic or dynamic TV lead, though, and he does play like a substitute for the real Axel Foley. Which he was; they couldn’t convince Eddie Murphy to make this show so they hired a handsome young actor to play his son, wear his jacket, and behave like his character. It’s a bit of a bait-and-switch. The pilot suggests a two-hander with father and son solving crimes together. (Which kinda sounds like a good show!) Had the pilot gotten picked up, the actual series would have been a lot less exciting. Plus, the other supporting characters, including Christine Lahti’s uptight Beverly Hills PD boss, come off as fuzzy carbon copies of the old Beverly Hills Cop cast like Ronny Cox, John Ashton, and Reinhold (who does have a brief but amusing cameo in one scene).

There are some interesting echoes of the pilot in Axel F, most obviously in the fact that Axel returns to Beverly Hills to help his daughter (Taylour Paige) solve a case of her own — although she’s a defense attorney, rather than a police officer. There’s no mention of Aaron or Axel’s son; he’s presumably been erased from existence. Maybe Axel could solve that case in Axel F 2.

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