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Erik Swann

Why Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop TV Pilot Didn’t Move Forward At CBS, According To The EP

Eddie Murphy holding gun in Beverly Hills Cop III

Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley is one of the most beloved and recognizable characters in all of cinema. He’s charming, he’s funny, he’s noble – and he nearly made the jump to the small screen a decade ago. Some may not remember (or even know at all) that CBS was developing a pilot for a Beverly Hills Cop TV show back in 2013. Said series was set to be procedural, and The Shield’s Shawn Ryan was attached as writer and executive producer. Sadly, the network passed on the show, and Ryan has now provided some insight into why things panned out as they did.

The Beverly Hills Cop TV series, which aimed to capture the spirit of its big-screen predecessors, would’ve focused on Axel’s police officer son, Aaron Foley, who’d seek to step out of his famous father’s shadow by relocating from Detroit to California. Comedian Brandon T. Jackson was cast in the lead role and was joined by Kevin Pollack and David Denman as Rodney and Brad, respectively. Law & Order alum Christine Lahti was also cast in an undisclosed role. And in addition to appearing in the pilot, Eddie Murphy was said to be remaining with the production as an occasional guest star. 

There was certainly a fun premise and a capable cast and crew in the mix here, so why didn’t this all work out? Well, as a fan of the franchise, I couldn’t help but ask Shawn Ryan that very question when speaking to him about his latest show, The Night Agent (which can be streamed with a Netflix subscription). Ryan, who says he enjoyed working on the project, chalks up its failure to a variety of reasons, which collectively make up a “tricky” situation: 

Well, briefly, I'll just say that I really loved that process. Barry Sonnenfeld, the wonderful director of Men in Black and Get Shorty and many other things, directed that pilot for us. I got to work with Eddie Murphy and write lines for him as Axel Foley. And ultimately, it's a tricky situation, because I don't know that I even know the full truth. I know that the pilot was one of the highest testing pilots that Nielsen had ever tested. But there were some politics involved at the time between CBS and Paramount [, which] had the rights and Sony, who was producing it. And there were agendas that I think caused the show not to get picked up for reasons that didn't have to do with quality or interest. And sometimes those things happen in the business, and there was a time where I was miffed about it, and all you can do is go on and try to make the next show.

Those “politics” must’ve been pretty serious if they were able to put the kibosh on a pilot that tested so highly Nielsen-wise. In light of what happened, I do appreciate the super producer’s outlook on the situation, though, as getting to do any kind of work on a storied IP is a major accomplishment for a creative. During our conversation, he went to talk reflect on watching the episode and working with his collaborators: 

I've seen that pilot. Eddie Murphy was amazing. Our cast was really fantastic. I would have loved to have made that show for CBS. It didn't happen, and we've all had disappointments in our professional lives, and you just gotta get off the mat and do the next one.

Shawn Ryan isn’t the only person who’s spoken out on the series since CBS pulled the plug on it. In 2013, Brandon T. Jackson – while comparing it to Fresh Princeopined that the program was “too edgy” for the Eye Network. Eddie Murphy has addressed the project a few times, with his most recent comments coming by way of a 2019 interview with IndieWire. The veteran actor suggested that his presence in the pilot contributed to its downfall. He alleged that after his appearance in the well-tested episode, studio execs wanted Axel to pop in more frequently. And as Murphy recalled himself telling them, “I ain’t popping in shit.”

It’s honestly a shame that the Shawn Ryan-penned production didn’t get off the ground. Yet if there’s any consolation, fans will get to see him reprise his famous role in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley, which features a cast filled with franchise veterans and newcomers. The prospect of finally seeing the long-awaited fourth movie is exciting, though I’d be lying if I said I’m not the least bit curious about what that TV show could’ve been.

But instead of wallowing in “what ifs,” you can focus your attention on continued updates regarding the latest Beverly Hills Cop flick. You can also stream the first three installments for free on Pluto TV

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