The POLICE ACADEMY movies employed a revolving door of goofball actors. While other comedy franchises were beholden to one lead (Robert Hayes turned down AIRPLANE III and ended the series), the POLICE ACADEMY films utilized an ongoing ensemble to keep the machine productive, spanning 10 years and 7 movies.
Some characters became synonymous with the franchise by appearing in every entry: Hightower, Tackleberry, Commandant Eric Lassard. Others were one-and-done: Vinnie Schtulman, Leslie Barbara, Claire Mattson (a.k.a. Sharon Stone!)
But one of the more colorful figures is Bobcat Goldthwait’s Zed.
Over the course of three sequels, Zed experiences a 3-act character arc.
We watch him evolve from a violent gang-leader, to a reformed-yet-troubled cadet, to a police officer in love. Plus, he has some good bits with Sweetchuck.
ACT I: THE SCREAMING GANG LEADER
POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT introduces Zed as the caffeinated boss of a surly street gang. (Unclear whether this gang is a parody of the DEATH WISH 3 gang, or if it’s the other way around.) We see Zed ravaging a grocery store, and menacing a street fair. We also learn that he’s a vegetarian, he gets sick on Ferris wheels, and his mother’s name was Jughead. In the end, Zed’s criminal chaos is no match for Mahoney, and Jughead’s son is defeated in his hideout at the old zoo.
ACT II: THE SINNER-SAINT
POLICE ACADEMY 3: BACK IN TRAINING re-introduces Zed as a reformed criminal. He still talks funny, but now (for reasons never explained), he’s dedicated to upholding law and order. The Rolling Stones sang, “Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints…” and that same concept describes our Zed: He’s got a checkered past, but fits in as another goofball whose irreverent behavior makes for crude vignettes at the Academy. Another big character development is that Zed becomes frienemies with his old nemesis, Mr. Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky.)
ACT III: ZED IN LOVE
POLICE ACADEMY 4: CITIZENS ON PATROL depicts a slightly older, more mellow Zed. His mannerisms are less frantic, his hair is lighter (and disappearing.) As the former head of a street gang, Zed uses his leadership skills to train citizens in law enforcement. That’s how Zed falls for offbeat, bookish Laura (played by Corrine Bohrer, who would go on to play Booger’s love-interest in REVENGE OF THE NERDS IV: NERDS IN LOVE. Miss Bohrer had a niche and she was great at it.)
THE ZED MOVIE
At the time of this writing, no one has edited a stand-alone Zed-centric cut of the these POLICE ACADEMY films, which would condense the three sequels as a single film about Zed (and Sweetchuck.) Come on internet, what are you waiting for?
NON-CANON: THE ANIMATED ADVENTURES OF ZED McGLUNK
In 1988, POLICE ACADEMY was turned into an animated series. (Yes, an R-rated movie franchise, whose signature gag is podium blow-jobs, became a kids’ cartoon show.) Bobcat moved on to talking-horse comedies, so the part went to Dan Hennessey, who voiced Robocop that same year. (Yes, an R-rated movie franchise, whose signature gag is shooting an assailant in the dick, became a kids’ cartoon show.)
Bob Goldthwait made the best of this semi-steady gig. He took the paycheck, and mocked the movies in his stand-up shows. (“I did POLICE ACADEMY 4 because there were so many unanswered questions from POLICE ACADEMY 2 and 3.”)
Today he’d prefer to be recognized as the director of films like WORLD’S GREATEST DAD and WILLOW CREEK (a found footage movie about the search for Bigfoot, where Bob provides the voice of the Sasquatch. Still screaming after all these years!) If you haven’t seen those movies, get on it. But if history remembers him for POLICE ACADEMY, he can take solace in playing a role with the most complete character journey in the series. (No offense, Tackleberry.)