The film centers on two LAPD cops, Det. Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) and Officer Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy), who are paired for a reality police show and run into real trouble with a crime lord. Mitch breaks a news camera after a failed confrontation with a drug lord, who escapes by using a custom-built gun. Maxxis Television, the network that employed the cameraman, decides to sue the police department for $10 million, but will drop the lawsuit if Mitch agrees to star in a reality cop television show, which Trey later calls Showtime!.
Trey enters the picture shortly after, as an LAPD officer who actually wants to be an actor while also trying to become a detective. He pays a friend to snatch the purse of the show's producer, Chase Renzi (Rene Russo), and then retrieves it after a staged fight scene. Even though the deception is embarrassingly revealed, Chase is impressed and signs Trey on anyway. It is quickly revealed that the show's producers have little interest in filming an actual police officer's existence; they build a mini-movie set in the middle of the station, and replace Mitch's nondescript personal car with a Humvee. They also hire William Shatner (who once played T. J. Hooker) to give both men tips on how to act. Trey is eager to learn, Mitch is merely annoyed.
Despite all this, Mitch tries to investigate the mysterious supergun, which is subsequently used by arms dealer Caesar Vargas to kill the drug dealer and his girlfriend. Through a clever ruse by Trey, they are able to get the arms dealer's name from the dead dealer's henchman. However, Vargas is less than cooperative, which causes a brawl at his nightclub. Trey and Mitch are able to defeat him and his henchmen, and subsequently have a relatively friendly conversation on their way home. Mitch's good humor evaporates when he finds that, in his absence, the Showtime producers have drastically remodeled his house and given him a retired K-9 dog as a pet.
Vargas and his crew assault an armored car and kill the crew, then devastate the police who respond. Trey and Mitch arrive and are pulled into the shootout. When the attackers flee in a garbage truck, Mitch gives chase in a police car. In the ensuing mayhem, the car is rammed by the garbage truck, which winds up crashing into a construction site. Mitch, ironically, survives by jumping from the police car to Trey's sports car (he had previously denounced "hood-jumping" as a useless skill). In the wake of the disaster, the police chief pulls the plug on the show, suspends Mitch from duty and demotes Trey back to patrol.
With the show ended, Mitch's car is returned and his apartment restored (but he refuses to return the dog, of which he has grown fond). While watching the final episode, Mitch sees one of his police colleagues at Vargas's nightclub. He and Trey investigate, finding that Vargas is selling the weapons at a gun show at the Bonaventure Hotel. Vargas flees with one of the weapons, taking Chase hostage in the process. The duo is able to rescue her, via a pocket pistol concealed in a Maxxis camera, but the ceiling of the room is shot. It is located just below the pool, so it floods, and Vargas is washed out the window to his death, Trey manages to save himself and Mitch by handcuffing them together. They wind up suspended from a broken beam outside the hotel.
The movie ends with Trey promoted to detective, he and Mitch still working together with a new case, and there are hints of a romance between Chase and Mitch. Showtime is revived and in its second season, this time with two young and attractive female officers, who are just as antagonistic as Mitch and Trey were.Robert De Niro as Detective Mitch Preston
Eddie Murphy as Officer Trey Sellars
Rene Russo as Chase Renzi
Frankie Faison as Captain Winship
Pedro Damián as Cesar Vargas
Drena De Niro as Annie
William Shatner as Himself
Mos Def as Lazy Boy
Peter Jacobson as Brad Slocum
Kadeem Hardison as Kyle
- "Caramel" – performed by Alias Project [3:27]
- "Why" – performed by Rude [3:33]
- "Mr. Lover" – performed by Shaggy [3:55]
- "My Bad" – performed by Rayvon [3:29]
- "Lie Till I Die" – performed by Marsha Morrison [4:52]
- "Man Ah Bad Man" – performed by T.O.K. [2:54]
- "Money Jane" – performed by Baby Blue Soundcrew [4:19]
- "Your Eyes" – performed by Rik Rok [4:00]
- "Fly Away" – performed by Gordon Dukes [4:00]
- "Swingin'" – performed by Shaggy [3:10]
- "Get the Cash" – performed by Howzing [3:45]
- "Still the One" – performed by Prince Mydas [3:25]
- "Showtime" – performed by Shaggy [4:31]
Showtime received negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 25%. The site's consensus reads, "Showtime starts out as a promising satire of the buddy cop genre. Unfortunately, it ends up becoming the type of movies it is satirizing." On Metacritic the film has a score of 32 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
The film was nominated for two Razzie Awards, for Worst Actor (Eddie Murphy) and Worst Screen Couple (Murphy and Robert De Niro). Showtime was a box office disappointment as well, making little over $78 million worldwide against an $85 million budget.