Special command: the success that Johnny Depp took care of boycotting and that even took him to the hospital

When in April 1987, Fox aired the first episode of Special command, the expectations were very high. The chain relied heavily on this story about a group of young police officers specialized in undercover work, and in the face of an unbeatable response from the public, joy spread to the producers and the protagonists of the fiction. Well, not all of them, because although he was their main star Johnny depp He fought tirelessly to escape a success that became his prison.

For years, Fox had produced all kinds of series for the big networks in the United States. The company had many hits that it had commissioned for other major channels such as ABC, CBS or NBC. But that signal map was about to change. In 1986, Fox launched its own channel, with the intention of capitalizing on its television products. It was a risky strategy because it was a new signal that had to compete against the three aforementioned giants. For this reason, in Fox knew they had to release a tantalizing grid, featuring novel series that would especially appeal to the youngest segment of viewers.

One of the content that the channel sought to generate had to do with action series and with that objective they summoned two prestigious authors in the field, Patrick Hasburgh Y Stephen J. Cannell. They had both worked on Baretta, Brigade A, Hardcastle and McCormick Y The great american hero, all highly popular fictions. The duo thought of a plot inspired by a series from the late seventies, which lasted just one season and was called David Cassidy: Man Undercover. In that story, a police officer infiltrated the student world to disrupt various drug-selling gangs. Hasburgh and Cannell were interested in this approach and began to work on modernizing it.

Jeff Yagher, one of the actors in V: Alien Invasion, was the first chosen to star in Special Command

“I’m not interested in recruiting names, I’m interested in recruiting talent,” he said in a note from the Hasburgh era, when it was time to make the casting from his series. Mindful of a story focused on the youth world, the interpreters hired were young talents, many of them little known as Dustin Nguyen, Peter DeLuise Y Holly Robinson. They also summoned the actor Frederic Forrest, known for some small roles and for his participation in Apocalypse Now. But the central star was still missing, the name that should give body to Tom Hanson, the main agent of the team and for that, the chosen one was … Jeff Yagher.

The producers agreed that the team had a unique mystique, the actors and actresses quickly understood each other and that allowed filming to be a very pleasant experience. Everyone involved was on the same page, all but one, the aforementioned Jeff Yagher. With the pilot finished, the directors felt that this actor was not the one to carry the weight of the story, His interpretation was not convincing and in Fox they were decisive, he had to be replaced yes or yes. At that moment, someone appeared who promised to change the course of things.

Johnny depp he has a real talent ”, Hasburgh commented in an interview, in which he added: “He comes from Florida and is a rock guitarist.” And although from Fox they wanted to give the leading role to Josh Brolin, the creators of Special command they imposed their decision. Already at that time, Depp was an outlandish creature for the medium. Born of a musical band, his interest was to pursue a career in film and he dreamed of working for directors he admired. For this reason, when they offered him Special command his initial reaction was rejection. But the producers had so much faith in him that they offered him a $ 45,000-per-episode contract, a very hefty sum for a little-known actor. Tempted by money, the actor signed a contract for six seasons And while the lengthy commitment made him uneasy, he was convinced of the series’ failure and took it for granted that in a little less than a year, he would be free again to dedicate himself to film and music. Needless to say, that never happened.

Johnny Depp in Cry Baby by John Waters. The actor wanted to leave television and dedicate himself to the cinema to work with his favorite directors
Johnny Depp in Cry Baby by John Waters. The actor wanted to leave television and dedicate himself to the cinema to work with his favorite directors Archive

With Depp on board, the pilot was filmed again and Special command hit screens in the United States on April 12, 1987. In its brand new grid, Fox also premiered Married with kids Y El show de Tracey Ullman, and that combo gave the new channel a series of instant hits.

The pilot quickly captured the attention and the action and the dynamics of the characters, it was very attractive to the viewers. The idea of ​​a group of young policemen, who infiltrate a student environment to investigate different cases, achieved an oily combination that drank from other very popular products. The stars of the program defended the quality of the show and considered that beyond the action, there was a speech about the dangers that inhabited the world of adolescents. In that sense, Peter DeLuise expressed: “Ours is an action program, not violence”, while Depp on the same subject commented: “This is a police fiction with a conscience and if someone can learn something about it, it is great ”. In many cases, each episode ended with an institution that sought to raise awareness about different problems such as drug use, sexually transmitted diseases, or abuse.

For sure, Special command it was a perfect formula. The closing of its first season left extraordinary rating numbers and on more than one occasion it beat very popular cycles such as the journalistic 60 minutes. Ironically, much of his success had to do with Johnny Depp, the rising star who, deep down, wanted to see that show ruined in order to break free from him. And that wish soon became his goal.

Overnight, Johnny was the ultimate teen star. His posters flooded the rooms of thousands of young people who couldn’t help but fall in love with his charismatic character, but Depp hated that deeply. His desire to become a prestigious actor was liquefied in the form of love letters he received from his fans. He did not want to occupy that place and if to reverse that he had to boycott his own success, then he would …

After the second season, the actor did everything possible to get out of his contract, but it was impossible. For this reason, he made the third year an ordeal for producers. During the recording of the new episodes, Depp improvised his lines, did not respect what was in the script and began to make all kinds of absurd suggestions regarding the evolution of his character. For months he insisted that Tom Hanson must have a fetish with peanut butter and that for that reason, his colleagues should surprise him by smearing his naked body with that sweet.

When Depp considered that he had worked enough and wanted to leave yes or yes, he began to ingest large doses of chocolate, something that would not be a problem if it were not for his great allergy to cocoa. In this way, he induced decompositions and severe allergic reactions of all kinds, which forced him to travel urgently to a hospital. But the producers would not budge and Depp had no choice but to star in the fourth season of Special command. until The unexpected happened: the rating began to drop.

The series was an event that everyone wanted to participate in. Names like Brad Pitt, Jason Priestley, Josh Brolin The Bridget Fonda they went through a few episodes, long before they were big stars. The popularity was so great that a spin off called City Court, focused on the judicial process of many cases that appeared in Special command. On the other hand, the tension with Depp was already unbearable and the screenwriters attentive to an untimely resignation (still violating a signed contract), decided to present a natural successor to the protagonist, a new policeman named Dennis Booker (played by Richard Grieco). And while the series planned its future, the decline in viewership led Fox to cancel it after its fourth year.

Surprisingly, the cycle was bought by private investors and a fifth season Special Command he started. At that point, Depp advised his lawyers that he did not intend to honor the signed contract, and that he was leaving the show. After an extensive negotiation, the parties reached an agreement and the interpreter was released (at that point, his film career already included great films such as Cry Baby, The The young scissorhands). Along with Depp, other original cast and crew members also retired. For this reason, the fifth season did not maintain the usual quality floor, the episodes were uninteresting and the new characters did not connect with the public. Thus, far from the initial success, fiction came to an end in a very subdued way, in episode number 103 aired in April 1991.

The footprint he left Special command it is inescapable. The series renewed the logic of the police on the small screen and its permanence in the viewers’ imagination allowed the premiere of a film version that had two installments, one in 2012 and the other in 2014. And almost fifteen years after its first episode , the fans who came across this proposal, still retain the pleasant memory of this story, of its catchy musical curtain, and of Johnny Depp in the role that, badly enough, allowed him to conquer the world public.

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Special command: the success that Johnny Depp took care of boycotting and that even took him to the hospital

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