Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
The 1978-79 television season saw the brave men and women of the California Highway Patrol, also known as CHiPs, return for a second season. Focusing on the hot-headed Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Erik Estrada) and his straight-laced partner Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox), this four-disc set features 22 episodes full of sunny days, cool cars, pretty girls, and a bunch of cops who smile a lot and never draw their guns.
CHiPs featured a charming blend of comedy and drama and is a great example of a bygone era of police television. This isn’t CSI: Special Rape Unit, Law & Order: Crooked Cops, or one of the many current shows featuring flawed characters and violent police officers. Everyone working for the California Highway Patrol is a good, honest cop: clean cut, well groomed and mannered, and always showing off their enormous, sparkling teeth. I don’t know much about law enforcement, but if CHiPs is any indication of how things are run out West, they’ve got one hell of a good dental plan.
These cops are not out to fill quotas or abuse their power; they’re on the road to serve the cause of justice. Oh, and sometimes to pick up chicks. Actually, that’s pretty much every episode. I don’t know if it’s the teeth, the motorcycles, or the tight pants, but the ladies really dig Ponch and Jon. Nary an episode goes by that doesn’t feature them hitting on or being hit on by attractive women. I guess it’s all in a day’s work for the California Highway Patrol.
As far as the show goes, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I remember watching a lot of CHiPs reruns as a kid, and I remember my older sister’s larger-than-life poster of Erik Estrada that hung in her bedroom like a shrine to a golden god, but I couldn’t remember whether or not the show was actually any good. To be honest, I didn’t expect much. I figured it would be another old TV show that brought back fond memories and lots of laughs, but didn’t really hold up. Have you ever watched The A-Team or Knight Rider lately? Those were two of my favorite series as a kid, but I can’t even stomach more than 15 minutes of an episode now. No wonder they call television “the boob tube.”
But CHiPs was pretty good. Okay, it was pretty cheesy, with some corny dialogue and bad jokes, but the stories weren’t too bad. I’ll admit, the sweet clothing and funky music of the 1970s was often more appealing than the actual plot, but in the defense of CHiPs, the plot did hold my interest. Maybe it was my low expectations or maybe I was just mystified by the wit and charm of Ponch and Jon, but I actually did enjoy watching these DVDs. I figured I’d have a hard time getting through this series, but I ended up relishing my time spent on patrol with the good men and women of CHiPs.
I don’t really think anyone is reading this review in order to determine whether or not they’ll purchase the second season of CHiPs though. I have to believe that anyone buying it is a longtime fan who wants to relive the halcyon days of their youth, when cops didn’t pistol-whip suspects into submission and television was a bit simpler. If you do fall into the first camp, I don’t really know what to tell you. You’ll most likely be disappointed with this rather dated cop show. If you’re in the second group, I’d recommend that you go ahead and pick up CHiPs Season Two. It’s a great trip down memory lane that just might surprise you.
The four-disc set features 22 episodes and two special features, though I’d use that term very loosely. The first is a featurette in which Erik Estrada interviews some actual California Highway Patrol officers. It’s pretty dull, but worth watching just to hear Estrada say “us” and “we,” as though he is actually a cop. The second “special feature” is just a two-hour flashback episode in which Ponch and Jon’s teammates relive the duo’s greatest adventures of the first two seasons. It’s not a bad episode, but it hardly qualifies as a special feature.