CHiPs: The Complete First Season

CHiPs: The Complete First Season
Maybe scratching that nostalgic itch isn’t always such a good idea because in hindsight, CHiPs isn’t that good. Yes, it did have the Puerto Rican Prince Erik Estrada cruising on a motorbike but it turns out he wasn’t that cool after all — it’s like when you analysed Fonzie and saw how un-cool he actually was — and neither was his massive police-issued hog. Based on the first season, how they made six seasons of CHiPs is a real brainteaser. By today’s standards, the show could only exist as a homoerotic parody, which at times, it inadvertently was. There is plenty of comedy mixed in with the drama, which certainly takes the edge off and no doubt helped in making it such a phenomenon. However, the cases officers Francis "Ponch” Poncherello (Estrada) and John Baker (Larry Wilcox) come across along the California highway are a little "ultra-light” and trivial in their consequences. "Dog Gone,” which Estrada in a cornball-ish preview setting admits was popular with the kids, focuses on a stray dog the two "chippies” find along the roadside. He’s cute and furry, and CHiPs really wasn’t gunning for the intensity of a show like Without A Trace, but these fluffy scenarios compromised the show’s integrity, if it was ever aiming to be at all honest in its depiction of the police department. Sure, it’s only the highway patrol we’re talking about but it might as well have been a Saturday morning cartoon. Same goes for "Baby Food,” where Ponch and Jon race against the clock to track down a family that fed their baby food tainted with botulism, or "Surf’s Up,” which is essentially the pair enjoying reassignment on the beach. Luckily they have the merciless Sgt. Getraer (Robert Pine) to boss them around — for some reason it never gets tiring watching him constantly threaten Ponch with probation, or remind him that he’s on probation, or roll his eyes like clockwork when Ponch screws up, which he always does. Such trifling subject matter, however, should work well for the destined-to-be-lame remake starring Wilmer Valderrama as the updated Ponch. The only bonus feature is Estrada giving "police tips” and recalling fond memories, like winning the role over another actor who turns up as a guest star — and yes, he gloats. (Warner)