DVD Review: “CHiPs” (The Complete Third Series)

CHiPs was never beloved as a realistic portrayal of police life. Even at its height of fame, the series was not considered the same as Police Story or Adam-12. There was nothing gritty about the adventures of Larry Wilcox as Officer Jonathan A. Baker (Larry Wilcox) and Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Erik Estrada). Thee guys were in a world more unreal than the streets patrolled by Starsky & Hutch and S.W.A.T. The best episodes of CHiPs are when the plots get wonderfully outlandish. Miami Vice was created with the words “MTV Cops.” CHiPS must have been birthed with the simple line “Disco Cops on Motorcycles.” “CHiPs”: The Complete Third Season is the series at its kitsch cop peak.

The season pours on the cheese thick and fast with the two part “Roller Disco.” This was 1979 when roller disco tried its hardest to grab America’s fancy as the next big thing. For those too young to remember, roller disco was dancing to disco music while wearing roller skates. The focus of the episode is that Ponch must get stars for a charity roller disco event. What stars could he land that are bigger than Erik Estrada? How about Ed McMahon from The Tonight Show? Beyond the stars playing themselves are other major ’70s superstars doing real acting besides acting like they care about roller disco. First is the triple team of great supporting actors with The Bob Newhart Show‘s Bill Daily, F Troop‘s Larry Storch and M*A*S*H*‘s Larry Linville. Sure that would be enough for any other cop show. But this episode gives us the FDA’s maximum allowance of Leif Garret. This is prime Leif right when he was Tiger Beat proud. That is still not enough for this episode. There’s roller disco thieves on the loose and they’re played by Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. The Kings of Black Cinema with Three the Hard Way are united to make getaways on rollerskates. Who are the rest of the stars? Here’s a partial list: Melissa Sue Anderson, Todd Bridges, Michael Cole, Antonio Fargas, Victor French, Dan Haggerty, Richard Hatch, Earl Holliman, Nancy Kulp, Tina Louise, Peter Lupus, Peter Marshall, Lee Meriwether, George Peppard, Jo Ann Pflug, Dana Plato, Adam Rich, Brett Somers, Vic Tayback, Dick Van Patten, Cindy Williams and Jo Anne Worley. This was the historic event that brought together Grizzly Adams and Huggy Bear. Do we really need to discuss the rest of the season that laid in the shadow of this epic television event?

There are several episodes about guys on stunt cycles pulling off amazing robberies. “Thrill Show” features the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show. During the ’70s & ’80s Chitwood was a headliner at state fairs across the country. There’s also a punk rock band that’s up to no good. This might the famous punk rock episode that featured Courtney Love. I didn’t see her. But she did have her original nose at that time.

The season is good fun. Robert Pine is still in control of the unit as Sgt. Joseph Getraer. Paul Linke keeps up the goofy charm as Officer Arthur Grossman. Randi Oakes is blazing new paths as Officer Bonnie Clark. You might not recognize Officer Jebediah Turner. It’s Michael Dorn a few years before his Klingon transformation to Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ultimately the episodes are about the mix matched pair of the country guy Jon and the city slicker Ponch fighting crime on two wheels. CHiPs: The Complete Third Season has them riding from the ’70s into the ’80s without hitting any potholes.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer lets the cheesy moments shine on the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You will hear the tones of Leif on stage. The episodes are subtitled in English so your laughter won’t cover up the dialogue.

No bonus features.

“CHiPs”: The Complete Third Season is for those craving escapist police action. When is the last time cops had to chase down roller disco thieves in your neighborhood?

Warner Home Video presents “CHiPs”: The Complete Third Season. Starring: Larry Wilcox, Erik Estrada, Robert Pine and Paul Linke. Boxset Contents: 23 episodes on 5 DVDs. Rated: Unrated. Released: March 3, 2014.