CHiPs is an American crime drama television series created by Rick Rosner and originally aired on NBC from September 15, 1977, to May 1, 1983. It follows the lives of two motorcycle officers of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The series ran for 139 episodes over six seasons, plus one reunion television film in October 1998.

GenreCrime drama
Created byRick Rosner
Developed byPaul Playdon
Theme music composerJohn Parker
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes139 (and 1 TV movie) (list of episodes)
Running time48 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 15, 1977 (1977-09-15) –
May 1, 1983 (1983-05-01)

Overview edit

CHiPs is an action crime drama in a standard hour-long time slot, which at the time required 48 minutes of actual programming. A signature of the show, especially in the later seasons, were frequent over-the-top freeway pileups. For filming, traffic on Los Angeles freeways was non-existent and most chase scenes were done on back roads.

The show was created by Rick Rosner, and starred Erik Estrada as macho, rambunctious Officer Francis ("Frank") Llewellyn "Ponch" Poncherello and Larry Wilcox as his straitlaced partner, Officer Jonathan ("Jon") Andrew Baker. With Ponch the more trouble-prone of the pair, and Jon generally the more level-headed one trying to keep him out of trouble with the duo's gruff yet fatherly immediate supervisor Sergeant Joseph Getraer (Robert Pine), the two were Highway Patrolmen of the Central Los Angeles office of the California Highway Patrol (CHP, hence the name CHiPs).

As real-life CHP motor officers rarely ride in pairs, in early episodes this was explained away by placing the trouble-prone Ponch on probationary status, with Jon assigned as his field training officer. Eventually, by the end of the first season, this subplot faded away (Ponch completed his probation) as audiences were used to seeing the two working as a team.

Cast edit

The cast of CHiPs (from left: Erik Estrada as "Ponch", Robert Pine as Getraer, and Larry Wilcox as Jon)
  • Larry Wilcox as Officer Jonathan "Jon" Andrew Baker (1977–1982)
  • Erik Estrada as Officer Francis "Frank Ponch" Poncherello
  • Robert Pine as Sergeant Joseph "Joe" Getraer
  • Lew Saunders as Officer Gene Fritz (1977–1979)
  • Brodie Greer as Officer Barry "Bear" Baricza (1977–1982)
  • Paul Linke as Officer Arthur "Artie Grossie" Grossman
  • Lou Wagner as Harlan Arliss, Automobile/Motorcycle Mechanic, CHP (1978–1983)
  • Brianne Leary as Officer Sindy Cahill (1978–1979)
  • Randi Oakes as Officer Bonnie Clark (1979–1982)
  • Michael Dorn as Officer Jebediah Turner (1979–1982)
  • Caitlyn Jenner (credited as Bruce Jenner) as Officer Steve McLeish (1981–1982)
  • Tom Reilly as Officer Robert "Bobby Hot Dog" Nelson (1982–1983)
  • Tina Gayle as Officer Kathy Linahan (1982–1983)
  • Bruce Penhall as Cadet / Officer Bruce Nelson (1982–1983)
  • Clarence Gilyard Jr. as Officer Benjamin Webster (1982–1983)

Cast changes edit

In the fifth season (1981–82), Estrada went on strike over a dispute over syndication profits. As a result, he did not appear in three episodes; for that period he was replaced by Jenner (Officer Steve McLeish).[1][2]

Despite their successful pairing on-screen, Wilcox and Estrada did not always get along behind the camera.[3] Wilcox fell out with the producers over what he saw as continual favoritism toward Estrada, and did not return for the sixth and final season. Wilcox was replaced by Tom Reilly (Officer Bobby Nelson).

Bruce Penhall, a native of Balboa Island, Newport Beach, and a motorcycle speedway rider who had won the 1981 and 1982 Speedway World Championships, was also introduced as cadet–probationary officer Bruce Nelson, Bobby's younger brother in 1982–83. The season 6 episode "Speedway Fever" (aired November 7, 1982) centered on Penhall's character Nelson winning the 1982 Speedway World Final at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with scenes filmed in the pits during the meeting. The episode also used television coverage of the final, with dubbed commentary. Penhall later admitted that having a bodyguard and having to have makeup done in the pits in full view of his competitors at the World Final only added to the pressure he was under both as a rider and a rookie actor and that it felt weird having to "buddy up to Ponch" in front of the other riders while the World Final was taking place. In order to become a full-time member of the CHiPs cast, Penhall had officially announced his retirement from speedway racing on the podium of the 1982 World Final.

Production edit

According to a 1998 TV Guide article, show creator Rick Rosner was a reserve deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. During a coffee break on an evening patrol shift in the mid-1970s he saw two young CHP officers on motorcycles which gave him the idea for this series. He later created 240-Robert, which seemed like a hybrid of CHiPs and Emergency!.

California Highway Patrol, "CHiPs" era, motor officer helmet

Episodes occasionally mention Jon Baker's service in Vietnam. This makes his character one of the earliest regular (and one of the more positive) portrayals of a Vietnam veteran on television. Larry Wilcox himself served 13 months in Vietnam as a Marine artilleryman.

Production made use of freeways in the Los Angeles area that had been recently completed but were not yet opened to the public. For season 1, the intersection of Interstate 210 and California State Route 2 in La Canada Flintridge was used often (along with a short stretch of Highway 2). For season 2, a section of Interstate 210 five miles to the west in La Crescenta, California, was used, until it too was opened to the public. For seasons 3 – 5, the filming location was moved another 10 miles to the west, to the intersection of the Interstate 210 and California State Route 118 in Sylmar, California. When that section of freeway was finally opened, production shifted again to a short section of the 710 Long Beach Freeway in Long Beach, California, as well as a long stretch of Pershing Drive, near Los Angeles International Airport. The only time production moved out of Los Angeles was for the episode Drive, Lady, Drive and used the Riverside International Raceway in Moreno Valley for the racing scenes.

Motor officers in CHiPs rode Kawasaki Z1-P and Z900-C2 police motorcycles in seasons 1 and 2, and KZ1000-C1 motorcycles from season 3 onwards.

Despite the Ford Motor Company's credit as a vehicle provider for four of the series' six seasons, cars and trucks were supplied by several manufacturers. All police cars were made by Dodgespecifically 1974 and 1978 Dodge Monacoas they were actual CHP cruisers bought at police auction for the show. In the third-season episode, Hot Wheels (episode 8) the show featured AMC Matador police cars in a one-off appearance.

Although doubles were used for far-off shots and various stunt or action sequences, Wilcox and Estrada did a great deal of their own motorcycle riding and performed many smaller stunts themselves. Although Wilcox emerged relatively injury-free, Estrada suffered various injuries several times throughout the run of the series. In several early first-season episodes, a huge bruise or scab can be seen on his arm after he was flung from one of the motorcycles and skidded along the ground. His worst accident came when he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident while filming a season three episode in August 1979, fracturing several ribs and breaking both wrists. The accident and Estrada's subsequent hospitalization was incorporated into the series' storyline.

Prior to being cast in CHiPs, Estrada had no experience with motorcycles, so he underwent an intensive eight-week course, learning how to ride. In 2007, it was revealed that he did not hold a motorcycle license at the time CHiPs was in production, and only qualified for a license after three attempts, while preparing for an appearance on the reality television show Back to the Grind.

NBC aired reruns of this series on its 1982 daytime schedule from April to September.

During the original run of the series, syndicated reruns of older episodes was retitled CHiPs Patrol to avoid confusion.[4] Later syndicated reruns after the show went out of production reverted to the original title.

Episodes edit

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
122September 15, 1977April 1, 1978
223September 16, 1978May 12, 1979
324September 22, 1979March 30, 1980
421September 21, 1980May 17, 1981
527October 4, 1981May 23, 1982
622October 10, 1982May 1, 1983
Television filmOctober 27, 1998

CHiPs episodes were usually a combination of light comedy and drama. A typical episode would start with Ponch and Jon on routine patrol or being assigned to an interesting beat, such as Malibu or the Sunset Strip. In roll call briefing, Sgt. Getraer would alert his officers to be on the lookout for a particular criminal operation, such as people staging accidents as part of an insurance scam, or punks breaking into cars. A few interesting, unrelated vignettes often transpired during "routine" traffic enforcement.

A light-hearted subplot would also be included, such as Harlan trying to hide a stray dog from Getraer at the office. A more serious theme, such as Ponch trying to keep a kid from his old neighborhood out of a potential life of crime, might also be included. After a few failed attempts to apprehend the gang that had been menacing L.A.'s freeways, the episode would invariably culminate in Ponch and Jon leading a chase of the suspects (often assisted by other members of their division), climaxing with a spectacular series of stunt vehicle crashes.

The show then typically featured a dénouement of Ponch and Jon participating in a new activity (such as jet skiing or skydiving), designed to showcase the pair's glamorous Southern California lifestyle. Often, Ponch would attempt to impress a woman he had met during the episode with his athletic prowess or disco dancing, only to fail and provide Jon, Getraer, and others with many laughs. As the preliminary end credits would start, the image would freeze multiple times, showing various characters laughing or otherwise enjoying the social scene.

Broadcast history edit

(all times Eastern/Pacific Time; subtract one hour for Central/Mountain Time)

  • September 1977 – March 1978: NBC Thursday, 8–9PM
  • April 1978: NBC Saturday, 8–9PM
  • May – August 1978: NBC Thursday, 8–9PM
  • September 1978 – March 1980: NBC Saturday, 8–9PM
  • March 1980 – March 1983: NBC Sunday, 8–9PM
  • April – May 1983: NBC Sunday, 7–8PM
  • May – July 1983: NBC Sunday, 8–9PM

NBC aired reruns of the series weekdays at 3PM EST between April 26, 1982, and September 10, 1982. The show aired on MeTV from December 19, 2013, to May 26, 2017. The show currently airs on Charge!.

In the United Kingdom, the series was broadcast by ITV but was not screened nationally. The series started in January 1979 in the London region, but began with season two (the first episode shown was episode 2x02 "The Volunteers") by February most other ITV regions originally screened in the Saturday teatime slot around 17:35 but moved to the Sunday teatime slot in 1980. By 1981, as with many imported programmes of the era, the series was being broadcast at different times during the weekend throughout the year by the different ITV regions. The series shared its Saturday teatime slot with other series such as The A-Team, Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I. and Whiz Kids.

During 1984, most ITV stations continued with the Saturday teatime slot except for Anglia Television, Scottish Television (STV) and Television South West (TSW), who broadcast episodes during the weekend mornings or Sunday afternoons. By early 1985, the series was being broadcast during Saturday mornings by Anglia, Central, Grampian, Granada, STV and Tyne Tees. In other regions it had a Saturday lunchtime slot of 13:20 where, from September 1985, it rotated the slot with episodes of Airwolf.

Most ITV areas completed the series by 1986, while LWT, TVS and TSW finished series six in 1987 after starting in 1985. A few companies repeated the series in 1987. It was previously shown on Bravo between 2002 and 2004. Repeated on Forces TV until the 30th of June 2022 which is when Forces TV closed down.

The entire series was shown in New Zealand on TVNZ from 1978. In Australia, from the same year, the Seven Network broadcast the series in its entirety, one episode per week usually in the prime 7.30PM timeslot.

Home media edit

Warner Home Video released the first two seasons of CHiPs on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4 between 2007 and 2008. On March 3, 2015 (over six years later), the third season was released on DVD in Region 1.[5] The fourth season was released in Region 1 on March 15, 2016.[6] The fifth season was released in Region 1 on March 14, 2017.[7][8][9] The sixth season and the complete series were released in Region 1 on June 6, 2017.[10]

All 139 episodes are at the iTunes Store.[11][12]

DVD title No. of
Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 (UK) Region 4
The Complete First Season 22 June 5, 2007 August 20, 2007 September 6, 2007
The Complete Second Season 23 June 3, 2008 September 22, 2008 September 3, 2008
The Complete Third Season 23 March 3, 2015 TBA TBA
The Complete Fourth Season 21 March 15, 2016 TBA TBA
The Complete Fifth Season 27 March 14, 2017 TBA TBA
The Complete Sixth Season 22 June 6, 2017 TBA TBA
The Complete Series 139 June 6, 2017 TBA TBA

Spin-offs edit

CHiPs '99 edit

Movie Poster
Also known asCHiPs '99
Written byMorgan Gendel
Directed byJon Cassar
StarringLarry Wilcox
Erik Estrada
Robert Pine
Paul Korver
David Ramsey
Brodie Greer
Bruce Penhall
Paul Linke
Judge Judy Sheindlin
Music byStacy Widelitz
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerRick Rosner
ProducersErik Estrada
Christopher Morgan
Larry Wilcox
Production locationCalifornia
CinematographyDavid Geddes
EditorRon Spang
Running time94 minutes
Production companyTurner Pictures
Original release
ReleaseOctober 27, 1998 (1998-10-27)

CHiPs '99 is a 1998 American made-for-television crime drama film and a sequel to the series. It was directed by Jon Cassar. Several cast members from the original series make a return. Original cast with promotions were Jon Baker as a captain and Joe Getraer as the CHP Commissioner. Other original cast members were Officer Frank Poncherello returning from a 15-year hiatus from the CHP, Officer Barry Baricza and Arthur (Artie) "Grossie" Grossman as a Detective. Bruce Penhall also returns as newly promoted Sergeant Bruce Nelson.

Feature film edit

A film remake was released on March 24, 2017, with Dax Shepard co-producing with Andrew Panay, writing, directing and starring as Officer Jon Baker, Michael Peña as Frank "Ponch" Poncherello and Vincent D’Onofrio as the film's villain.[13][14][15]

Merchandise edit

A series of 8 inch and 334 inch action figures was released by Mego in the late 1970s. Due to the materials used to construct the figures, many of them have discolored (typically turning green) or started to decompose over the years, making good conditioned examples quite hard to find on the collectors market.[citation needed] There was also a series of six die-cast model vehicles produced by Imperial Toys.

In the UK, as was common with many popular US series of the era, a series of tie-in annuals were produced by World International Publishing Ltd, containing stories, photos, puzzles and features on the stars. There are four annuals in total, one each for 1980–83.[citation needed]. A comic strip adaptation was drawn by Jim Baikie for Look-In magazine.[16]

In 2006, a limited edition soundtrack was released on CD by Turner Classic Movies' music division via Film Score Monthly, featuring the original recordings of the main theme by John Parker (Parker's theme replaced an unused composition by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, who scored the pilot) and in-episode musical scores from many episodes of the second season, as composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri, the series' primary (and from seasons three to five sole) composer until the final season. Silvestri also arranged the theme as heard from season two onwards, and it is this version that is heard here‍—‌the soundtrack album also includes the "Trick or Treat" score composed and conducted by Bruce Broughton, his only work for the series.[17] In 2008, music from the third season was released; an album of music from the fourth season followed in 2010.

References edit

  1. ^ McNeil, Alex. Total Television. 1980. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
  2. ^ Rubin, Sylvia (October 27, 1998). "Estrada, Wilcox Cash In With New 'CHiPs '99' / Popular '70s show gets updated in TNT movie". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. ^ Lardine, Bob. "Larry Wilcox Busses His New Bride, but 'CHiPs' Co-Star Erik Estrada Gets a Kiss-Off". People. Time Inc. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
  4. ^ "Reruns retitled". Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. Audio Engineering Society: 190. March 1986.
  5. ^ "CHiPs DVD news: Press Release for CHiPs - The Complete 3rd Season -". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  6. ^ "CHiPs DVD news: Press Release for CHiPs - The Complete 4th Season -". Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  7. ^ David Lambert (December 5, 2016). "CHiPs - 'The Complete 5th Season' DVDs are Scheduled: Date, Price, More!". Archived from the original on December 9, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Ponch and Jon Together on the Cover of 'The Complete 5th Season' Archived December 11, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ David Lambert (December 14, 2016). "CHiPs - DVD Street Date Gets Closer for 'The Complete 5th Season'". Archived from the original on December 15, 2016. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  10. ^ David Lambert (March 16, 2017). "CHiPs - The Complete 6th and Final Season, The Complete Series DVDs! Date, pricing, plus front and rear cover art for both titles!". Archived from the original on March 17, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  11. ^ CHiPs season 1. iTunes Store (June 4, 2007). Retrieved on August 11, 2011.
  12. ^ CHiPs season 2. iTunes Store (July 7, 2008). Retrieved on August 11, 2011, while Vudu has only the first two seasons available for online download through them.
  13. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 2, 2014). "Dax Shepard Driving Warner Bros 'CHiPS' Film; Michael Pena To Play Ponch". Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  14. ^ Couch, Aaron (September 2, 2014). "Dax Shepard Making 'CHiPS' Movie for Warner Bros". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  15. ^ Kit, Borys (May 26, 2015). "'CHiPs' Movie Casting Vincent D'Onofrio as Villain (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  16. ^ "Jim Baikie".
  17. ^ Liner notes, CHiPs: Season Two 1978-79, Film Score Monthly, FSM0910

External links edit