21 Jump Street: The Complete Series
August 11, 2010
If you grew up during the 1980s there’s probably a good chance you watched 21 Jump Street at some point. The popular television show ran for five seasons, from 1987 to 1991, and featured a group of streetwise twentysomething police officers that would go undercover at high schools and college campuses and bust kids and/or teachers that broke the law. The show is best remembered for providing the launching pad for the career of Johnny Depp who eventually outgrew it and went on to bigger and better things in the film world.
21 Jump Street was the brainchild of Patrick Hasburgh and prolific T.V. producer Stephen J. Cannell. Their conceit was to make a cop show for teenagers complete with a ready for prime time cast of Teen Beat magazine heartthrobs. Officer Tom Hanson (Depp) is the rookie that cares too much and plays the saxophone during his off-hours so you know he’s the deep, sensitive type. Doug Penhall (DeLuise) is the gregarious jokester. H.T. Ioki (Nguyen) is the slick, cool guy. Judy Hoffs (Robinson) is the smart, fashionable one. Their boss is Captain Jenko (Forrest), an ex-hippie that talks like he’s still reliving Woodstock. He would be replaced midway through the first season by Captain Adam Fuller (Williams), a gruff, no-nonsense type.
Sprinkled throughout the show’s run were guest spots by then-newcomers like Sherilyn Fenn, Vince Vaughn, Bridget Fonda, and Brad Pitt. In season three, Richard Grieco joined the cast as Officer Dennis Booker, a loose cannon cop that proved to be so popular with fans that he got his own, short-lived spin-off series. Johnny Depp and Dustin Nguyen left after season four and 21 Jump Street never recovered despite the addition of two new youthful cast members to keep the show’s premise alive. It lasted one more season before getting cancelled.
The show dealt with some pretty heavy issues like drug abuse, alcoholism, hate crimes, and child abuse and served them up as simple morality tales. It also plugged in the usual cop show conventions, like car chases and shoot-outs. As hokey as some of the plots are and as cheesy as most of the dialogue is, it’s pretty obvious that Johnny Depp had the makings of a big star. He is able to say some pretty clichéd dialogue with a straight face and with conviction which is no easy task.
Ultimately, 21 Jump Street was a young, hip cop show like The Mod Squad before it but it was obvious that the show was written and directed by squares. 21 Jump Street took the ABC After School Special into prime time and was a product of the “Just Say No” Nancy Reagan era that has not aged well at all.
Anchor Bay initially released all five seasons on DVD with a few extras. Sadly, this new release has none of them but now you can get the entire run for an affordable price. The quality of the episodes is similar to previous releases and most, if not all of the original music has been replaced.