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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #331: Commandant Eric Lassard

The good old days, when you couldn't breathe because the cops made you laugh.

The Police Academy phenomenon is fascinating to me. The first movie had a novel premise, interesting characters, and was worth some laughs. Not great, not awful. and yet it spawned six sequels, each less funny and more inexpertly crafted than the previous entry. Film studio leadership is like that drunk guy whose girlfriend breaks up with him, who then proceeds to call his old girlfriends in a vain search for some past shred of affection. It's cowardly and idiotic and cheapens any value that might once have existed as the poor characters become caricatures and the plots increasingly trite. What was once decent had become very, very, very bad.

As I said, the original was not without merit: Guttenberg's slouching player Mahoney, Bubba Smith's menacing Hightower, Tackleberry, Hooks, sound-machine Larvell Jones. Even Captain Harris provides comedic value as the bumbling antagonist. But my favorite was George Gaynes' Commandant Eric Lassard, the fossilized model of police heroism. He wears the uniform with pride, and believes strongly in the mission and potential for good of law enforcement. He is characterized by his love of goldfish, golf, and genial orations. He tends to believe the best in people, to be optimistic for the future, and leads through benign neglect. He was a great cop, though in his dotage he's become a bit bumbling, not unlike Lloyd Bridges' Tug Benson or Chevy Chase's interpretation of Gerald Ford.

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