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DVD Review: CHiPs – The Complete First Season

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Written by Hombre Divertido

For any fan of the original series, this is a pleasant ride down memory highway. For anyone not familiar with the show, it may appear to be in conflict with itself, and it was. Based on its success, most people did not care. At least not 30 years ago. Disco was in and so was CHiPs. Supposedly based upon actual stories from real California Highway Patrolmen, the series took said stories and turned them into milk toast with a nice layer of slapstick.

For six seasons, Jon (Larry Wilcox) and Ponch (Erik Estrada) chased, raced, and gave great face, without ever pulling their guns. They made time for every child they encountered, and flirted with every beautiful woman. Realistic? No. Fun? At times, but you will find yourself laughing at it more than laughing with it. The plots are simple, the acting cheesy, and the staged crashes that send cars flying through the air will have you pausing the DVD to look for the well-placed ramps.

There are great similarities in the scripts as each episode has one major case at the foundation, several small happenings, and some involvement in a sporting event. Watching the episodes in succession will make the redundancy more apparent and cause a craving for Screaming Yellow Zonkers and Tang.

The first season may not have been the best of the run as our characters are still being fleshed out, and the chemistry is just not there, primarily due to a lack of supporting characters. Eventually CHiPs becomes far more of an ensemble, but in these 22 episodes it’s all about Jon and Ponch. The above referenced awkwardness is obvious as Larry Wilcox does not seem to know how to play the straight man to Estrada’s clown. As the writers became better at writing for this team, the chemistry developed.

Though the extras are few in this set, the presentation and packaging are reminiscent of the show; bright and fun. A somewhat-aged Estrada does some extremely brief and pointless intros into more than half the episodes. The only other extra is sort of a bio on him, combined with some info on the show, but it appears thrown together. Wilcox is noticeably absent from the endeavors.

One fun aspect of watching these shows is spotting the guest stars. Be it actors who had established themselves years before CHiPs came along like Jim Backus, Richard Deacon, Carl Ballantine, Phyllis Diller, Hunt Hall, and Broderick Crawford, to famous athletes like Rosie Greer, and Ben Davidson, or actors who would go on to their own shows or movies like Gary Sandy, Mills Watson, Ellen Travolta, Gerald McRaney, and Edward James Olmos.

Recommendation: If you liked CHiPs then, you probably will now, though, possibly not for the same reasons. It will make a good gift, but may be considered a gag by some.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS