It’s 4:26 pm
Looking outside at our first snow of the season. It is maybe a inch or so and its very cold as well. The furnace is on today as the cheetah is downstairs looking outside his window. There is a lot of traffic on the street as well as people are doing their Christmas shopping. What a perfect day to break open what my “streetwise contact” at Warner Brothers Archives has sent us.
Back in the late 1970s,a new cop show debuted on NBC called “CHiPs” It stands for California Highway Patrol,a police force that patrols the many freeways in California.
This show focused on two cops,Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Erik Estrada) based in Los Angeles County. Both Ponch and Jon were motorcycle cops who got themselves involved in many wild and crazy cases during the six years the show was on.
It made a star out of Erik Estrada and because of trouble behind the scenes,Wilcox left the show after year five. Truth be told,Wilcox had a legitimate point at many episodes became very “Ponch” heavy and a lot less fun. Still the show was very popular with all of its car chases and crashes. It was also a very non-violent show as during its 139 episodes,only ONE time did it show a officer draw his gun. Try doing that today and your show would never see the light of day.
After the show was cancelled in 1983,the cast scattered to the four corners of Hollywood. Estrada’s star soon faded and while he is still well known,he never found the same level of fame that he had in “CHiPs”.
Larry Wilcox went behind the scenes and did very well for himself as a producer as well still doing acting roles as well. “CHiPs” lived on in syndication and those 139 episodes were playing somewhere during the day….
Back in 1998,Warner Brothers decided to do a reunion movie with the original cast and broadcast on TNT. With co-creator Rick Rosner on-board and much of the original cast agreeing to come back,”CHiPs ’99” was filmed and broadcast. Both Estrada and Wilcox not only came back as Ponch and Jon,but they also served as executive producers.
A few cast members,Bruce Jenner,Randi Oakes,Tina Gayle and Michael Dorn don’t appear this film but Robert Pine,Bruce Penhall ,Paul Linke and Brodie Greer all reprise their roles on the show as Joseph Getraer,Bruce Nelson,Artie Grossman and Barry Baricza,it does feel like a family reunion of sorts.
The plot is a simple one,after 15 years away from the force,Ponch decides to rejoin his old command in Los Angeles. He has been living in San Francisco and working for the state in maintaining the Golden Gate Bridge.
As he is getting closer to his station,a reckless speeding driver comes rolling down the freeway and cuts Ponch off,his instincts kick in and he begins a pursuit not realizing there are already two CHiPs officers chasing the same car,Ponch is interfering with the officers and gets pulled over by Officer Peter Roulette (Paul Korver) while his partner,Sargent McFall (David Ramsey) pursues the other driver.
Ponch tries to name drop his way out of the tickets that Roulette isn’t impressed with who Ponch is.
At the station,we see Jon Baker is now a Captain and Getraer is the Commander of the station,they two are awarding promotions to various officers,including several original cast members.
Ponch comes out and greets all of his old friends except for Jon,but then the two old friends shake hands and talk. Roulette and McFall are truly surprised to see Ponch but Roulette doesn’t wipe away the ticket.
As Ponch and Jon are talking,they witness a bicyclist cause a accident and ride away. The two cops jump into action….taking Roulette and McFall’s motors. A flashback reveals that Ponch and Jon had busted the same guy when he was just a kid on the old TV show.
The meat of the story is a carjacking ring is stealing hot rides and smuggling them across into Mexico. No one cane figure out how the ring is doing the thefts.
Jon gets orders to form a task force to hunt the ring down but when Nelson is badly injured trying to catch the thieves,Jon is forced back to the streets to ride along Ponch again. He enjoys it at first but as different mishaps,reckless rescues and not finding the carjackers despite a solid idea from Ponch,the two friends have a bit of a falling out with Jon now riding with McFall.
Despite everything Jon knows that Ponch is a good cop and he pursues the lead that Ponch had developed which while leading Jon and McFall to the carjackers,also gets them captured. As the ring heads south with a million dollar car on one last run,Jon manages to alert his fellow cops and they roll out in force to rescue two of their own…..
This was pretty fun for the most part,it had action,some fun chase scenes and a even a bit of drama. I do think could have been a much more exciting movie without a terrible interlude where Jon is suing his neighbor on “Judge Judy”. It came across as complete filler and a waste. Hell,they should have spent more time with the old crew and catching up with them.
I enjoyed the characters of Roulette and McFall,both seemed very likable. Ramsey,who played McFall,is now Spartan on the CW’s “Arrow” show. Paul Korver,who played Roulette,just seems to have went “poof” after only handful of parts.
The chemistry between Estrada and Wilcox was strong and they looked happy to be revisiting parts that brought them fame and fortune. The was written as a one off and not as a way to re-boot the series.
Of course CHiPs was remade this year and very poorly at that as Dax Shepherd mistakenly tried to “Starsky & Hutch” his version and it crashed at the box office.
As for this reunion movie,its nice little bit of a memory of a fun series. If you are a CHiPs fan,its worth picking up. You can buy “CHiPs ’99” at Warner Brothers Archive website.