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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » CHiPs - The Complete First Season
CHiPs - The Complete First Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // June 5, 2007
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 18, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The seventies was a great decade for gritty cop dramas on television. You had Starsky & Hutch, The Streets Of San Francisco and plenty of other quality shows out there to choose from. By the end of the decade the formula was becoming a little tired so it's kind of surprising that ChiPS, which debuted in 1977, was as popular was it was. The secret to the shows' success? Motorcycles! Ladies loved to two hunky male leads but what set this series apart from so many other like-minded series were the bikes and the sunny locations. It was a recipe that worked well, allowing the series to bounce back and forth between serious and humorous, dramatic and action packed.

For those not in the know, ChiPS revolved around two California Highway Patrol motorcycle cops - Officer Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) and Officer Francis Llewellyn 'Ponch' Poncherello (Erik Estrada) who answered to Sergeant Getraer (Robert Pine). Every week these two lovable cops on wheels would fight crime and save the day, more often than not using motorcycle related skills to make that happen. The show was rarely deep, but it was at least always fun with the motorcycle scenes usually standing out as the highlight of each episode.

The complete first season of CHiPS ran from September 15, 1977 through April 1st, 1978 and it is presented in this set in its original broadcast order as follows:

Pilot: The premiere episode introduces us to Jon, Ponch and Getraer who are busy trying to bust up a ring of car thieves while keeping Ponch out of hot water with Getraer.

Undertow: Chaos ensues when a tow truck driver starts robbing his customers and a Ponch winds up getting messed up by a nasty chemical spill leaving Jon holding the bag.

Dog Gone: A stray dog causes an accident, Ponch and Jon have to go catch the little guy. While this is going on, bad guys start trying to mess with the boys' bikes!

Moving Violation: Ponch gets into trouble when he pulls over a big crazy guy who goes nuts and freaks out on him. Once this is done, Ponch gets busted for speeding and has to take a safety course while Jon has to deal with the grieving family of a dead man.

Career Day: Ponch and Jon wind up speaking at Ponch's former high school for career day and also have to deal with scantily clad women and desk jobs and helicopters.

Baby Food: Ponch and Jon have to deal with a truckload of toxic baby food that's been dumped on the highway before a family of hippies finds it and feeds it to their smelly hippy kid!

Taking Its Toll: Two bad guys make a getaway after a daring toll booth robbery - while Ponch and Jon chase after them they decide to go on a crime spree. To make matters worse, the guys show up at an accident where a man is trapped inside a car with a bomb!

Green Thumb Burglar: Getraer is really big into plants so when someone starts stealing plants from various public buildings he takes it upon himself to catch the crook.

Hustle: Ponch decides he can use Jon, a former pro-bowler, to hustle fellow officers at a bowling alley one night. Once back on duty the officers pull over a celebrity (Broderick Crawford of Highway Patrol!) for running a stop sign.

Highway Robbery: A thief on a motorbike is robbing drivers stuck in traffic. Ponch and Jon bust him and it turns out that he's got a connection to Jon's past. Meanwhile, Ponch is all hung up on a model that Getraer knows and hopes he'll set him up with.

Name Your Price: The boys are working night and day to catch some thieves swiping Rolls Royce's around the area. If that weren't enough, a car accident makes trouble for the cops and Ponch winds up as a game show contestant!

Aweigh We Go: A truck hauling a boat crashes into a salon and Ponch figures that he and Jon should buy the boat. Later, Ponch and Jon have to work at a weigh station to fill in while some staffing problems are resolved.

One Two Many: When Ponch has to run off and take care of a situation, Jon finds out that there's someone out there impersonating him and using the authority that his badge gives him to mess with motorists!

Rustling: Ponch plans a surprise birthday party for his partner Jon but soon the guys are called in to investigate a series of castle rustlings that are all linked back rather suspiciously to the same farmer.

Surf's Up: When Ponch and Jon ask the brass for a relocation, the two are sent to patrol the highways of Malibu. The bonus? They can spend a whole lot of time on the beach being cool. Of course, crime isn't exactly dormant in Malibu and they soon find their hands are just as full here as they were back home.

Vintage '54: It's just another day on the roads for Ponch and Jon when they wind up having to save a parachutist who gets trapped on the way down, find a baby left in a parking lot and track down poor Mrs. Downey's stolen car.

Hitch-Hiking Hitch: Ponch and Jon bust a pair of teenage girls for hitchhiking up the highway. They talk their way out of it but before you know it, Ponch and Jon wind up having to save them when they get themselves into very hot water.

Cry Wolf: A mentally unstable man snaps a bit and decides to cause chaos by bringing in all of the emergency service vehicles in the area and tying them all up. Ponch and Jon have to stop this guy and get the roadways clear and moving again before it's too late.

Crash Diet: A strange Viet Nam vet is really into throwing clods of dirt at moving cars. Ponch and Jon try to convince him that this really isn't a good use of his time. Meanwhile, Getraer decides that everyone under his control is going to go on a diet and get in better shape!

Rainy Day: Ponch and Jon are out of their element when a torrential downpour takes them off of their bikes and lands them in a patrol car. A few misadventures occur and before you know it Ponch is coaxed into giving a group of students a tour of the headquarters building.

Crack-Up: When Jon and Gossie get hurt on the job, Ponch is forced to team up with Getraer until the other two are out of the hospital and things can get back to normal. Of course, they drive each other nuts but find out that they make a better team than they may have initially thought they would.

Flashback!: A rookie cop new to the motorcycle department doesn't earn himself any friends or favors when his attitude turns out to be poor. Making matters worse for Ponch and Jon is the fact that someone is stealing motorcycles from within the department!

How does the material hold up? Well, ChiPS is very definitely a product of its time and as such it's pretty dated by most standards. That said, the dated aspects of the show don't hurt its entertainment value in the least, and if anything, they add to it considerably. The old adage 'they don't make'em like they used to' definitely applies to this show and that's half the fun of the series right there - while large portions of the show are played with tongue firmly in cheek, even the more serious aspects of the series are hard to take, well, seriously in this day and age. The two leads in the form of Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox are likeable enough heroes and they do a great job of carrying the series. Their collaborative chemistry, along with the stunt riding and the chase scenes, are really what pulls the series together and makes it so much fun. In the end, it's hard to say that ChiPS is really good television but there's no denying that it was, is, and always shall be a whole lot of goofy entertainment.

Video:

Each of the episodes is presented in its original fullframe broadcast aspect ratio, which is as it should be. In terms of image quality, the material here does show its age and there's a fair bit of grain and a little more print damage than there probably should have been. Mpeg compression is never a problem but some scenes look a little overly filtered and at times sharpness is lacking as is fine detail. That being said, color reproduction isn't bad and the black levels are fine. Everything is perfectly watchable, but the fact of that matters is that these transfers definitely could have been better.

Sound:

There are no serious issues with the English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack afforded each episode in this set. The show sounds about as good as it always has - it's not going to wow you but you shouldn't have any difficulty following the dialogue or grooving along to the sounds of the instantly recognizable theme song. Sometimes things are a little bit on the flat side but other than that ChiPS sounds good enough. Optional subtitles are provided in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Extras:

Aside from some nifty menus and episode selection on each of the disc, some of the episodes feature Ponch's Police Tips which are a group of fun little introductions and anecdotes about specific episodes courtesy of Erik Estrada. Aside from that, there's also a very brief featurette that talks about Estrada's involvement in the series entitled ChiPS: The Ride Out Of Spanish Harlem. These are fun but one can't help but wish that the featurette had been a bit more in-depth or that a few commentary tracks had been recorded.

Final Thoughts:

Obviously more extras and better video quality would have been very welcome here but as it stands, the episodes contained in ChiPS - The Complete First Season do hold up really well and make for good, fun entertainment. They're not all that deep and at times they stick to a formula but that doesn't really hurt anything. Fans will enjoy

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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