Good old CHiPs, it was one of those dependable early Saturday evening shows that the whole family could watch. Â The up beat theme tune set the tone perfectly for a series that never really took itself completely seriously, although it wasn’t really a comedy either.
The show gets its name from the abbreviation CHP (short for California Highway Patrol) and is about the adventures of two motorcycle cops who keep law and order on the Californian streets. Â This was a great show for depicting the laid back California life style, with constant beautiful sunshine and beautiful people.
Our heroes were Francis “Ponch” Poncherello (Erik Estrada) and Jonathan “Jon” Baker (Larry Wilcox) who drove around on their gleaming motorcycles keeping the peace. Â That is Jon generally kept the piece, whilst show off Ponch was often more interested in chatting up the bikini clad girls who the duo were talking to for information about some crime that had been commited.
The series ran from 1977 to 1983 and chalked up 139 episodes, and for the first four seasons our friendly duo kept law and order on the streets of California in their own inimitable style. Â The fifth season saw Ponch replaced by Steve McLeish (Bruce Jenner) for a number of episodes due to contract negotiations, and in the sixth season Jon was replaced entirely first by Bobby Nelson (Tom Reilly) and then by Bobby’s younger brother Bruce Nelson (Bruce Penhall) again due to contract problems. Â Apparently Wilcox wasn’t best pleased by the favouritism shown to Estrada by the show’s producers, with Estrada alledgedly given a Rolls Royce to stay with the series!
The show worked well for all ages but for me it was always most fun seeing the bikes pursuing criminals in the cool chase sequences. Â There were often light hearted moments during the show which raised a smile, and most episodes normally ended in the classic US style, with one of the characters (usually Ponch) showing off in some manner, for example trying to stand on a surf board, and failing miserably, much to the amusement of the rest of the cast.