Back in the olden days before television, there were movie series that racked up impressive numbers of titles across several years (or decades). The BLONDIE movies, for example, made it to 28 flicks (!) across twelve years before packing it in. THE BOWERY BOYS had started out as the DEAD END KIDS at Warner Brothers, where they made seven movies. Then that group broke up, and some of the kids were snapped up by Universal for the LITTLE TOUGH GUYS series, and others were grabbed by Monogram for more DEAD END KIDS movies. By the mid-1940s, the two groups had made more than 35 movies and three cliffhanger serials! In 1946, Leo Gorcey and his agent revamped the Dead End Kids into THE BOWERY BOYS, which lasted through 48 (!) more movies through 1958.


However, as television became more popular, it stepped in to take over this kind of comedy, borrowing the half-hour format of radio comedies and putting regular characters in comedic situations, week after week. Yep, it was the sitcom. Once that happened — there were no more movie series like that. Oh, once in a while you’d get a partnership like Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder — who made several movies together — but they always played different characters (at least in name), and the movies were otherwise unconnected.

Okay, so that longwinded nattering brings us at last to the subject of this overview — one of my favorite movie series ever. This isn’t going to be an exhaustive look at every last detail of these movies — more of a quick run-and-gun that will hopefully bring back fond memories, make you angry that I chose to write about this subject, or (best of all) make you want to see some or all of these flicks. So here we go!


It was March 23rd, 1984, when movie screens across America lit up, and little did anyone know it, but a movie series was born.


That evening I was in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, with my then-girlfriend Tammy, as we saw POLICE ACADEMY. The story was that the new liberal female mayor in an unidentified metropolis in America lifted all restrictions like age, height, weight, and gender for applying to the police academy. Soon the academy is bursting at the seams with every unemployed misfit in the city. Here’s the breakdown:




Steve Guttenberg … Cadet Carey Mahoney, Screen Wiseass — assigned to the academy to avoid jail on a charge of Movie Obnoxiousness – but just might discover the Police Academy is his Where He Belongs.

Kim Cattrall … Cadet Karen Thompson, Attractive Romantic Lead — looks fetching in a cadet uniform, but like all the series’ leading ladies, she’s not in the sequels.

G.W. Bailey … Lt. Thaddeus Harris, Officious Prig Academy Instructor — hates the new recruits.

Bubba Smith … Cadet Moses Hightower, Big Guy — 6’7” former florist with a heart of gold, and fists of steel.

Donovan Scott … Cadet Leslie Barbara, The Underdog — Overweight picked-on guy with TWO girl names. Not in the sequels.

George Gaynes … Commandant Eric Lassard, Befuddled Academy Commandant.

David Graf … Cadet Eugene Tackleberry, Likable Gun Nut — possibly my favorite character.

Leslie Easterbrook … Sgt. Debbie Callahan, Academy Instructor — packs the two biggest guns on campus.

Michael Winslow … Cadet Larvelle Jones – Vocal Sound Effects Master — go-to guy for all script slow-spots.

Marion Ramsey … Cadet Laverne Hooks, Little Lady with a Tiny Voice — sure to surprise us at some point.

Bruce Mahler … Cadet Douglas Fackler, Clumsy Clouseau-like Cadet — slapstick galore.

Debralee Scott … Mrs. Fackler, Doesn’t want husband to go, in a brief but funny appearance.

Andrew Rubin … Cadet George Martín, Latin Lover with a secret — and not in the sequels.

Scott Thomson … Cadet Chad Copeland, Suckup Weasel — Harris’s spy among the cadets.

Brant von Hoffman … Cadet Kyle Blankes, Other Suckup Weasel.

George R. Robertson … Chief Henry J. Hurst — remembers when it was Johnsons, as far as the eye could see…

Doug Lennox … Crazy Riot Guy

Georgina Spelvin … Hooker


Now hang on to your scorecard — because you’re going to need it! The cadets — with Mahoney serving as the unofficial ringleader — battle against tough Harris and Callahan while lovable old Lassard dodders around. Silly humor and slapstick abound, and the movie culminates in a downtown riot that lets the cadets show off their comedy shticks and prove their worth.


As the only R-rated POLICE ACADEMY  movie, this is of course the raunchiest, but it’s all in good fun, and it is an entertaining movie. In any case, POLICE ACADEMY did remarkably well at the box office, so it wasn’t too long before the Sequel Fairy showed up, all a’glitter and waving that magic wand…


March 29th, 1985, just a little over a year after the first film premiered — along came POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT.


And our cast this time:


Steve Guttenberg … Mahoney
Bubba Smith … Hightower
David Graf … Tackleberry
Michael Winslow … Jones
Marion Ramsey … Hooks
Bruce Mahler … Fackler
George Gaynes …Lassard


Leslie Easterbrook … Callahan


New Faces:

Colleen Camp … Sgt. Kathleen Kirkland

Howard Hesseman … Captain Peter ‘Pete’ Lassard

Art Metrano … Lt. Mauser

Lance Kinsey … Sgt. Proctor

Bobcat Goldthwait … Zed

Julie Brown … Chloe

Peter Van Norden … Officer Vinnie Schtulman

Arthur Batanides … Max Kirkland

Jackie Joseph … Mrs. Kirkland

Andrew Paris … Bud Kirkland


Tim Kazurinsky … Sweetchuck


Like the title says, our heroes are on their first assignment on the streets of that still-unnamed American city (which looks a lot like Canada — just sayin’). While the former cadets get used to new partners and dealing with the public, Lassard’s brother Pete asks for help in maintaining order in the worst precinct in the city, a crime-ridden borough terrorized by Zed and his gang — whose biggest crimes seem to be fashion and graffiti, in that order, but a gang’s a gang. Their favorite target is shop owner Sweetchuck (not named here — and that might be a spoiler…), and Sweetchuck is a meek little guy, ill-prepared for Zed’s loud, over-the-top craziness.


And back at the new precinct, the new officers find they may have escaped Harris, but now they have to contend with nasty Lt. Mauser and his toady, Proctor. Business as usual, reaching a finale with an undercover Guttenberg infiltrating Zed’s gang. Lowbrow humor, served up fresh and hot! I saw this one with a friend or two in Harrisburg Illinois — you had to go about 30 or so miles out of my town in any of three directions to get to a larger small town that showed movies that had been in release for days, not weeks or months. North got you to Mt. Vernon, South got you to Harrisburg, and West got you to Benton.


But I digress.


The movie made money — so it was March 21st, 1986 — again almost exactly a year – the producers were almost OCD about this — that movie screens were awash in blue for POLICE ACADEMY 3: BACK IN TRAINING.



Returning this time — the biggest catch of the series:

Steve Guttenberg … Mahoney

Bubba Smith … Hightower

David Graf … Tackleberry
Michael Winslow … Jones
Marion Ramsey … Hooks
Leslie Easterbrook … Callahan
George Gaynes … Comdt. Eric Lassard
Art Metrano … Comdt. Mauser
Lance Kinsey … Sgt. Proctor
Tim Kazurinsky … Cadet Sweetchuck – He and Zed were so funny, they brought them back as cadets!
Bobcat Goldthwait … Cadet Zed – He and Sweetchuck were so funny, they brought them back as cadets!
Scott Thomson … Copeland
Brant von Hoffman … Blanks
Bruce Mahler … Fackler
Debralee Scott … Cadet Fackler – Returning from Part 1 and now an Academy applicant herself!
Andrew Paris … Cadet Bud Kirkland
George R. Robertson … Chief Henry J. Hurst
Arthur Batanides … Mr. Kirkland
Doug Lennox … Crazy Guy — the climactic baddie from Part 1 shows up again!
Georgina Spelvin … The Hooker — after a brief appearance in part 1, she returns for a moment here too!
New Faces:

Shawn Weatherly … Cadet Karen Adams

Brian Tochi … Cadet Elvis Nogata, Space Academy vet and voice of TMNT‘s Leonardo.

Ed Nelson … Governor Neilson

After all the others came back, there wasn’t room on set or screen time for too many new faces!


After THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT, Lt. Mauser somehow gets promoted to Commandant of the other thus-far unrevealed police academy, in this still mysterious American city that reeks of back bacon and toques. But now, budget cuts are forcing the city to close one of the Academys, so a review board is assigned, led by Chief Hurst, to decide which academy will close its doors forever. Lassard calls his favorite graduates back in to help, and with no explanation, Callahan returns, but is now firmly on the side of the angels for the rest of the series, and off we go! It is amazing how many former cast members came back for this one — but like Ragu — they’re in there! This time out, the big finale comes at an honest-to-goodness yacht regatta, with jet skis for all!


I took this one in during my first year in college in Carbondale, Illinois, with a friend who LOVED the first two movies — especially the first one — and he was the one pointing out all of the returning cast members.



Speaking of full, the theaters were again, so it was April 3rd, 1987, a little over a year this time… when the familiar whistling was heard for POLICE ACADEMY 4: CITIZENS ON PATROL.



Coming back for an encore:
Steve Guttenberg … Sgt. Carey Mahoney
Bubba Smith … Sgt. Moses Hightower
Michael Winslow … Sgt. Larvelle Jones
David Graf … Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry
Marion Ramsey … Sgt. Lavern Hooks
George Gaynes … Commandant Eric Lassard
Leslie Easterbrook … Sgt. Debbie Callahan
Tim Kazurinsky … Officer Sweetchuck
G.W. Bailey … Captain Thaddeus Harris — back to take over from Mauser from here on.
Lance Kinsey … Sgt. Proctor
Bobcat Goldthwait … Officer Zed
Scott Thomson … Sgt. Chad Copeland
George R. Robertson … Police Commissioner Henry J. Hurst
Brian Tochi … Officer Elvis Nogata
Colleen Camp … Sgt. Kathleen Kirkland-Tackleberry – Spoiler Alert!
Andrew Paris … Officer Bud Kirkland
Arthur Batanides … Mr. Kirkland
Jackie Joseph … Mrs. Kirkland

Sharon Stone … Claire Mattson — they ran through blondes like they were going out of season in these flicks!

Tab Thacker … Cadet Tommy ‘House’ Conklin, a very large young man with a rather unironic nickname.

Billie Bird … Mrs. Feldman, saucy old lady.

Brian Backer … Arnie – FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH‘s “The Rat” is now a skateboard punk.

David Spade … Kyle — so is young David Spade!

Corinne Bohrer … Laura — Zed gets a girlfriend!


Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb … Zack – RAISING ARIZONA‘s Lone Biker of the Apocalypse is a bad guy!


Dispensing with any story attempts to explain why the now seasoned police officers are still hanging around their academy commandant, PART 4 has Lassard coming up with his own version of a Neighborhood Watch that he calls “Citizens on Patrol,” which is ostensibly about cutting down on crime by giving every citizen of the completely-unnamed and furthest-North-American city ever a chance to help out, but really giving us new untrained officers on the beat without putting them through the academy. This gets us funny old lady Billie Bird and the skateboard punks listed above — with none other than Tony Hawk handling some of the board work in the movie! And of course, that means there’s some fun skate stunt stuff involved, and you just know the climax is going to be all about the biplanes and hot-air balloons. Er…what (?) Yeah, not sure either — but you must have known, right? Did you even look at that poster up there?


Bobcat Goldthwait had a solid career going as an edgy stand up comic at this time — and he was asked why he would come back for his third POLICE ACADEMY flick… he said “Yeah, you’d come back too if they showed up at your house and started dumping truckloads of money on your lawn!” .. .so guess these movies really did make some long green! I gave them some of it, too, seeing this one during my second year of college in Carbondale… I’m sure someone went with me, but darned if I can remember who…


One very sad story is that Art Metrano, who’d played Mauser in the previous two sequels was injured badly in a fall from a ladder at his home after BACK IN TRAINING — seriously, not joking here — and he was paralyzed as a result. Having Steve Guttenberg put glue on a disabled guy wouldn’t have worked well, so they went and coaxed G.W. Bailey to come back as Harris. Of course, they didn’t want to get rid of toady Proctor, so he now works with Harris, with no explanation.


Digression time!


So, the fact that Proctor works with Mauser in THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT  and BACK IN TRAINING, then starts working for Harris in CITIZENS ON PATROLled me to a wild idea for a POLICE ACADEMY sequel I always wanted to write — in it (not knowing at the time of Metrano’s injury), I wanted Harris and Mauser to team up to go after Guttenberg and co., and the big joke would be that they each had a Proctor, because the Proctor boys are twins! Lance Kinsey would have had a field day playing both parts. And it made sense that the audience didn’t realize they were watching two different guys — since they never refer to Proctor by a first name in any of the movies.


Digression over!


And so is CITIZENS ON PATROL, which still stuffed the coffers of Warner Brothers well enough that you know what happened…


March 18, 1988 and there it was: POLICE ACADEMY 5: ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH.



Wait a minute!




Yes, it turns out that his success in the POLICE ACADEMY movies had led Mr. Guttenberg to other film work, thrillers like THE BEDROOM WINDOW (shot here in Wilmington!) and later successes like THREE MEN AND A BABY, and he didn’t need to play Mahoney again.


So here’s roll call — returning:


Bubba Smith … Sgt. Moses Hightower
David Graf … Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry
Michael Winslow … Sgt. Larvelle Jones
Leslie Easterbrook … Lt. Debbie Callahan
Marion Ramsey … Sgt. Laverne Hooks
G.W. Bailey … Captain Thaddeus Harris
Lance Kinsey … Lt. Proctor
Tab Thacker … Officer Thomas ‘House’ Conklin
George R. Robertson … Commissioner Henry J. Hurst
George Gaynes … Commandant Eric Lassard


MIA: Steve Guttenberg … Mahoney


New Faces of 1988:

Matt McCoy … Sgt. Nick Lassard

Janet Jones … Officer Kate

Rene Auberjonois … Tony

Archie Hahn … Mouse


James Hampton … Mayor of Miami — the Incredible Edible Egg guy ran for office…


Yep, Guttenberg hightailed it, so the producers bring in Matt McCoy as Lassard’s nephew Eric, a slightly milder Movie Wiseass. (And I can’t remember for sure, but I think they make him out to be Howard Hesseman’s kid.) At long last — five movies in — the creators of this film realize it’s time to get out of town and take this act on the road — and we finally get a named city, when they head to Miami — name-checked in the title, even! Lassard is voted Commandant of the Year, and he invites his favorite graduates along (of course!), and they meet up with nephew Eric in Florida. Of course, Harris and Proctor come along, with Harris trying to get Lassard ousted from the Academy Commandant position, due to being past mandatory retirement age.


Once in Miami, a classic luggage mixup at the airport gets Lassard a bag full of diamonds, while the thieves of said gems get Lassard’s clothes and goldfish. They figure it out long before he does, and the bulk of the movie is the robbers trying to retrieve their diamonds — and it climaxes with a big airboat chase on the Everglades. It was my third year in college in Carbondale Illinois, and my third year of watching POLICE ACADEMY sequels in the theaters there. Think I was alone for this one…


Once again, despite the producers being brave and/or crazy enough to actually put numbers in the titles — something that even then usually dropped off by the time numbers #4 or #5 were coming out — these guys kept the count for nearly the entire series — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves! 

Let’s do the math:

Movie #5 + adequate numbers of tushies in seats =


March 10, 1989 — they weren’t even waiting a year at this point — and once more, the theater lights darkened, and the logo appeared again for POLICE ACADEMY 6: CITY UNDER SIEGE.



Bubba Smith … Lt. Moses Hightower
David Graf … Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry
Marion Ramsey … Sgt. Laverne Hooks
Michael Winslow … Sgt. Larvelle Jones
Leslie Easterbrook … Capt. Debbie Callahan
G.W. Bailey … Captain Thaddeus Harris
Lance Kinsey … Lt. Proctor
Matt McCoy … Sgt. Nick Lassard
Bruce Mahler … Sgt. Douglas Fackler
George R. Robertson … Commissioner Henry J. Hurst
Billie Bird … Mrs. Stanwyck -0 still a vet from Part 4, even though she’s brought back as a different character here!
Arthur Batanides … Mr. Kirkland
George Gaynes … Commandant Eric Lassard


And the Police Academy Club Initiates:
Kenneth Mars … The Mayor

Gerrit Graham … Ace, a gun-wielding baddie.

Brian Seeman … Flash, a martial-arts villain.

Darwyn Swalve … Ox, a strong-guy criminal.


With this entry, the series makes the final turn into a kid’s movie, with even more cartoony slapstick and action. It’s a long way from the podium scene in the first movie to Jones faking being a robot in this one, but in for a penny, in for a pound, right? A crime wave has enveloped our city (I think the first theft might have been the city’s name) and the Mayor wants the gang of thieves stopped, NOW. (Or if Tackleberry was saying it — stopped NOW, MISTER!) The thieves are a trio headed by a mysterious Mr. Big, and each of the criminals has a shtick — just like our heroes! (See above.)


Previously, the shticks our leads brought to the table were used for comic fodder and giving snobs their comeuppance — here they are super powers (which is why this is a kids’ movie). I wonder if this is a result of the other iteration of POLICE ACADEMY that was around at this point — although again, we’ll discuss that in a bit, as I refuse to get ahead of myself. I’m confused enough already. After pitting Tack against Ace; Jones in dubbed-martial-arts-guy mode vs. Flash, and Hightower duking it out with Ox, the movie ends with a chase between a city bus, a cherry picker, and famed monster truck Bigfoot (!). I saw this one while off from college at Toler Cinema in Benton, Illinois, and I know I was alone for this show! 

This movie made money — but not really enough money, so the series went dormant… in movie theaters, anyway. But that didn’t keep the franchise down — so let’s take a peek at the other avenues POLICE ACADEMY explored in the late 1980s: TV animation! On September 10th, 1988, the world was introduced to POLICE ACADEMY: THE ANIMATED SERIES.



They did 65 episodes of the cartoon across two seasons. The setup was basically the same — Mahoney and crew versus villains and for fun playing pranks on Harris, Mauser, and Proctor. (So Harris and Mauser did meet, at least in animated form.)
Here’s the cast breakdown:


Ron Rubin as Carey Mahoney

Dan Hennessey as Zed McGlunk and Eugene ‘Tack’ Tackleberry

Howard Morris as Carl Sweetchuck and the Professor

Greg Morton as Larvelle Jones and Moses Hightower

Len Carlson as Captain Thaddeus Harris

Don Francks as Thomas ‘House’ Conklin and Proctor

Denise Pidgeon as Debbie Callahan and Laverne Hooks

Tedd Dillon as Commandant Eric Lassard

Rex Hagon as Mauser


Sadly, no original cast members were here doing their own voices. The storylines were pretty similar to the later sequels:


The first episode: Captain Harris bungles an operation to catch the Clown Gang, and his punishment is to return to the police academy and train new recruits. His “favorite grads” also return, along with the Clown Gang, who become his new recruits.


Harris wants to replace Mahoney and his gang with the Professor’s new robot officers.


Unbeatable lady wrestler Phoenix Amazona is on a crime spree in her free time. Sweetchuck offers to go undercover at her gym, because he’s fallen head-over-heels in love with her.


The cartoon was also popular enough to spin off to a Marvel comic book, which only managed six issues and it also led briefly to a line of toys.


So there you go. I haven’t seen any of these cartoon episodes — but I’d check a couple out to see how they are, if the opportunity presented itself.


Time passed, the 1990s started, and the POLICE ACADEMY movies became a staple of cable-TV airings and little else. And then, five years after CITY UNDER SIEGE, on August 26, 1994, in an entirely new time of year for the series — it happened: POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW.
Sadly, as glad as we fans were to see them again, MISSION TO MOSCOW racks up the poorest scorecard of returns:



George Gaynes … Cmndt. Eric Lassard, scoring top billing for the first and only time in the series!

Michael Winslow … Sgt. Larvelle Jones

David Graf … Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry

Leslie Easterbrook … Capt. Debbie Callahan

G.W. Bailey … Captain Thaddeus Harris
And making their first appearance in the series:
Charlie Schlatter … Cadet Kyle Connors

Claire Forlani … Katrina

Ron Perlman … Konstantine Konali
Christopher Lee … Cmndt. Alexandrei Nikolaivich Rakov


After a five year break, some of the gang’s all here for one more — this time going on location to Russia of all places. Ol’ Matt McCoy is absent here — perhaps on patrol with Steve Guttenberg somewhere, so Charlie Schlatter comes in as the good-looking but even milder Movie Wiseass here, and he clocks in for a tie with Tim Kazurinsky and Marion Ramsey as the smallest member of the gang. At least he got to use his passport. The fetching Claire Forlani plays an early role here as well, making the boys watching happy.


The story has Lassard and four of his old favorite graduates — and Captain Harris, no longer the bad guy, just a crabby team player now — somehow getting into an Officer Exchange Program where they end up going assignment to Russia. There they find themselves running afoul of villainous Russian mobsters led by Perlman, who is plotting a criminal enterprise surrounding a handheld video game called, in a huge burst of creativity, “The Game.” 

Sadly, the standard shtick follows — but despite some bright moments, the movie just comes off mostly stilted and forced. The location shooting in Russia is kind of neat, but in the end, doesn’t add a lot to the proceedings.


It was the end of an era — a decade of some of the most profitable, yet worst reviewed, cheeseball comedy movies ever released — but it wasn’t the end of the story.


Yes, really.


Because it was September 12, 1997, when TV screens tuned to a local channel got to see: POLICE ACADEMY: THE SERIES. They made a syndicated TV show version too!




Michael Winslow … Sgt. Larvelle Jones
Yep, he was the only one!


Notable New Faces:


Tony Longo … Luke Kackley – Augie with the slimy cherries from SPLASH.

Joe Flaherty … Cmdt. Stuart Hefilfinger, Former SCTV cast member, also in FREAKS AND GEEKS.



Michael Winslow was the only original cast member to appear as a regular, but they did have the Tackleberry twins — played by very different looking actors, of course — though how Tack and Kathleen’s kids could be more than about thirteen is a question left unanswered. And thankfully, some of the other cast members did drop in for guest spots: Leslie Easterbrook turned up as Callahan, Kenneth Mars popped by as a doctor, Art Metrano turned up as Mauser (but called Miser for some reason), Bubba Smith appeared as Hightower, and best of all, David Graf as Poppa Tackleberry, in the episode “Team Tack.” Joe Flaherty was an inspired choice for the Commandant — he could have been a lot of fun in the movies as well. Surprisingly, the show was an hour long — not the half-hour you’d expect. They got 26 episodes out of it — one season — before packing it in.


And when the last episode aired — it really was over.


Or was it?


Well, no, actually — there was also a POLICE ACADEMY STUNT SHOW that was performed in Warner Bros. theme parks in Australia, Germany, and Madrid — running in the various locations at different times from 1991-2008 (!), with Australia’s show racking up over 18,000 performances (!) alone. The show ran about 20 minutes, and featured theme-park actors playing Harris and Proctor (usually male actors, but sometimes played by actresses as well), and Commandant Lassard. The plot has several cadets and some audience members (including one stunt perfomer audience plant), trying to stop a gang of criminals with lots of crazy stunt work.


And that’s going to do it.




There was a lot of talk about a new POLICE ACADEMY movie over the last 10-plus years. The story changes a lot – one day Guttenberg is back and directing, the next producer Paul Maslansky is helming and talking about a younger cast reboot – and hedging his bets about getting some of the original cast members to return. It seems the offshoot reunion that was a part of the Sy-Fy movie LAVALANTULA (which got Guttenberg, Winslow, Ramsey, and Easterbrook back together) may have to satisfy us.


We have sadly lost David Graf (Tackleberry) — much too young at 50; Bubba Smith; George Gaynes; Tab Thacker (House) — even younger at 45; Arthur Batanides, Kenneth Mars, and Billie Bird — but the others are still kicking — so rest assured if they make it — I will come.


Who else is with me?



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