Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mini-DVD Review: CHiPs - The Complete First Season (June 5); Seinfeld - Season 9 Coming to DVD in November

Attention All Units: CHiPs roars onto DVD on June 5! Welcome to another edition of mini-DVD reviews. This week we take a look at Warner Home Video's CHiPs - The Complete First Season. CHiPs is the exciting action series which aired for six seasons from 1977-1983 on NBC and starred Erik Estrada ("Frank 'Ponch' Poncharello"), Larry Wilcox ("Jon Baker") and Robert Pine ("Sgt. Joseph Getraer") and had its fair share of multiple car pile-ups, high speed chases, hijacker plots and of course 1970s nostalgia. This six-disc collection includes all 22 episodes and all-new bonus features. See my mini-DVD review of CHiPs - The Complete First Season:

CHiPs - The Complete First Season

CHiPs - The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video, $39.98)

License and Registration, Please: The Kick-Start of the Six-Season Series!

Where the rubber meets the road and the bad guys meet the badge -- that's where you'll find California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers Jon (Larry Wilcox) and Ponch (Erik Estrada).

Set in the sun-drenched sprawl of Los Angeles, CHiPs combines action, heroics and fun in 22 Season One episodes whose event-packed storylines range from freeway gridlock (let's use a circus elephant to tow that broken-axled truck!) to wild roadway pursuits (who's that beautiful woman lead-footing a Rolls Royce?), from spilled onions (crying time, fellas) to pure venom (an overturned van loaded with....sssnakes!).

CHiPs, an acronym for California Highway Patrol, premiered on September 15, 1977 on NBC. A total of 139 episodes were produced over the show's six seasons. Other season one cast members included Paul Linke as Officer Arthur Grossman, Lew Saunders as Officer Gene Fritz and Brodie Greer as Officer Barry Baricza. Notable first season guest stars included Jim Backus, Richard Deacon, Broderick Crawford, Vito Scotti, Florence Halop, Gerald McRaney, Alice Ghostley, Ellen Travolta, Robbie Rist, Herb Edelman, Phyllis Diller, Gary Sandy, Edward James Olmos and Joe Penny.

The cover art features a photo of Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada. The "CHiPs" logo is in orange down the side. I'm not a big fan of the arrows all over the packaging. On the back of the box, there are 3 more photos of Estrada and Wilcox, a synopsis of the set, a listing of the special features and the DVD specs. There are 3 slim cases inside the outer cardboard box. Each slim case holds two discs and has two photos each on the front and back cover. Episode titles, writing and directing credits, original airdates and short summaries are provided on the front and back of the slim cases. There's a "P" next to the episodes that have the short introductions by Erik Estrada. Inside the slim cases, there are large photos of Estrada and Wilcox. Embedded plastic holders hold the discs. Discs 1, 3 and 5 feature Estrada and 2, 4, 6 have Wilcox on them.

The main menus feature the same photo and the CHiPs logo as the cover art. The unforgettable CHiPs theme plays in the background and then loops. This is the first season theme and not the updated disco theme they started to use in the second season. There are options for for Play (Play All), Episodes and Language. When you select Episodes, it takes you to another menu where there is another shot of Ponch and Jon. Episode titles are listed vertically in blue text. Next to select episodes, there is a microphone which you push to see the introductions by Erik Estrada. The Languages menu features Ponch and Jon and the Special Features menu on Disc 4 features Ponch, Jon and Gertraer. Chapter stops are available within the episodes, but there are no separate menus for scene selections.

It is hard to believe that CHiPs premiered nearly 30 years ago. The video and audio quality is about what you would expect given the show's age. I would say the episodes look about the same or a bit better than what I saw on TNT and TBS during the 1990's. Since the show was shot on film, there is a lot of dirt and debris and other video artifacts. While all the episodes are certainly watchable and enjoyable, I think they probably could have been cleaned up a bit more. All of the episodes appear to be unedited, running around 47-48 minutes in length. The total running time for the set is 1056 minutes. They are presented in their original broadcast order. For the closing logo enthusiasts, there is the Rosner Television logo embedded on the credits followed by the M-G-M lion. The audio is your basic 1970's mono track. I didn't notice any major problems. The episodes are closed-captioned and subtitles are available in Portuguese and Spanish. No closed-captioning or subtitles are available for the special features.

With this being the 30th Anniversary of CHiPs, I was hoping for many more special features. Unfortunately, the only cast member involved with these extras is Erik Estrada. "Ponch's Police Tips" are all-new introductions with special trivia and his reminiscences on 13 episodes. These run between 1-2 minutes in length. He is standing up in front of the California Highway Patrol center, on a motorcycle or inside the center. One of the most interesting bits of trivia he mentions is that the actor he beat out for the role was in one of the episodes. I think it would be great if they included these intros on all of the episodes and if they were a bit more detailed with trivia bits. The other special feature, "CHiPs: The Ride Out of Spanish Harlem," is found on the sixth disc. This feature runs 11 minutes, 44 seconds. This "ride" down memory lane includes all-new interviews with Author and Media Historian Herbie J Pilato and Erik Estrada. Erik talks about growing up in New York City and his decision of becoming an actor. He talks about how he auditioned for the part after losing out on some other pilots. Other topics include the on-screen chemistry between Erik and Larry, Erik's groundbreaking role for Latinos, the show's realism, and the legacy of CHiPs. While this is a nicely produced and edited feature, there probably won't be anything new for the die-hard fan.

It is a treat to have CHiPs finally available on DVD. I was never a big fan of Starsky & Hutch or The Dukes of Hazzard, but there was something about that CHiPs that drew it to me. It had just the right mix of action, drama and comedy. Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox had great on-screen chemistry and the supporting cast was excellent. If you were like me, you probably watched it religously on TNT and TBS during the 1990's. CHiPs Online was one of the first sites I ever visited on the internet and the inspiration for my own sites. Watching the episodes on DVD, it is like an all-new show to me. It has been been awhile since it's been on, so the episodes aren't really that fresh in my mind. There are a good 4-5 minutes of scenes per episode that were cut in syndication that are on the DVD. I don't think the first season was one of the best of the series, which is typical for many shows. There were better stories and the music of Alan Silvestri starting in the second season. Warner Home Video has done a decent job with the first season, but I'm hoping for bigger and better things for the future seasons. I'm sure Larry Wilcox and the rest of the cast and crew would love to reminiscence about the show. With a new film version starring Wilmer Valderrama set to begin production this year, CHiPs is sure to become a fan favorite of new generations. Be sure to support the first season release so we can get the remaining five seasons soon!

Happy 30th Anniversary to CHiPs!

-- Reviewed by Todd
(4/5 stars)

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Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
CHiPs Online
CHiPs TV.com Page
CHiPs Internet Movie Database Page
CHiPs Wikipedia Page


As we first reported in our Seinfeld - Season 8 Review, the ninth and final season will be coming in November! If Sony's previous release pattern holds, the date will be Tuesday, November 20.

Click here to see the insert included with Season 8 that shows the cover art for Season 9.

Don't forget Seinfeld - Season 8 is coming on June 5th. It is jam-packed as usual with approximately 13 hours of extras and classic episodes including "The English Patient," "The Yada Yada" and "The Muffin Tops."


New on DVD/Blu-ray (January)

The Cosby Show - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek) Married with Children - Seasons 7 and 8 (Mill Creek) The Facts of Life - The Complete Series Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete Second Season

01/06 - The Cosby Show - Season 5 (Mill Creek)
01/06 - The Cosby Show - Season 6 (Mill Creek)
01/06 - The Cosby Show - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek)
01/06 - Girls - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
01/06 - Married with Children - Season Seven (Mill Creek)
01/06 - Married with Children - Season Eight (Mill Creek)
01/06 - Married with Children - Seasons Seven and Eight (Mill Creek)
01/13 - The Big House - The Complete Series
01/13 - Episodes - The Third Season
01/13 - The Facts of Life - The Complete Series (Shout! Factory
01/20 - Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete Second Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, January 27

New Girl - "Landline" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Coach's liaison with the school nurse (guest star Erinn Hayes) gets messy, vice principal Jess must enforce a new, “no fraternization” policy among the teachers. But the tables soon get turned when she finds herself attracted to the hot new science teacher (guest star Julian Morris). Meanwhile, Nick is enjoying being Schmidt and Winston’s secretary, after the loft gets a new home phone.

The Mindy Project - "The Devil Wears Lands' End" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Mindy gets herself and Danny into trouble when she tries to fix the practice’s image in the eyes of the hospital’s new head of obstetrics. Meanwhile, Peter puts his grudge against Jeremy aside when he discovers that his colleague’s beer pong skills could help him beat TV creator Shonda Rhimes (guest-starring as herself), the reigning Dartmouth Alumni Match champion.

Parks and Recreation - "Gryzzlbox" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Leslie and Ben suspect that Gryzzl is invading the privacy of Pawnee residents. April addresses the new Parks and Rec interns, while Tom helps Andy renegotiate a contract.

Parks and Recreation - "Save J.J's" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Leslie holds a rally in an attempt to keep JJ’s Diner from closing. Tom surprises Donna with the ultimate pre-wedding gift.

Marry Me - "Friend Me" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
While preparing for the wedding, Annie (Casey Wilson) realizes that Jake (Ken Marino) needs more groomsmen to match her nine bridesmaids and makes a concerted effort to reunite Jake with his long lost friends. Once “The Boyz” are back in their lives however, Annie finds herself competing with them over who knows Jake the best. She also learns that Daniel (guest star Jerry O’Connell, “The League”) may be the real reason behind Jake’s falling out with his friends. Meanwhile, Gil (John Gemberling) persuades Dennah (Sarah Wright Olsen) to join him in his newest business venture - diet shakes.

About a Boy - "About a Hook" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
With the help of Andy (Al Madrigal), Will (David Walton) gets music mogul Johnny Idalis (guest star Greg Germann) to listen to a new song he wrote, however Johnny isn’t impressed with the hook. Meanwhile, Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) grows upset and frustrated with Chris (guest star Chris Diamantopoulos) and Fiona’s (Minnie Driver) growing relationship and flees to crash with Will, who is left struggling to juggle writing a catchy hook and the complications of his new roommate.

Ground Floor - "The Mansfield Who Came to Dinner" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Brody panics when Jenny invites the cultured and sophisticated Mansfield over to their zero bedroom, half bathroom 'palace' for dinner to thank him for paying for college. Harvard and Lindsay are the perfect couple who never, ever fight. That is until all their pent up tension explodes in the middle of Jenny's dinner party. When Threepeat gets his 15 minutes of fame as a financial correspondent, he freezes up until he gets a little on camera help from former childstar Derrick.

Cougar Town - "Waiting for Tonight" TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Grayson makes a reservation at the hottest restaurant in town, and he and Jules are determined to make it despite constant obstacles. Andy rents a special costume for Stan's birthday, but he has trouble getting it off. And Ellie starts ghost tweeting for Laurie, eventually getting lost in her new character.

Sirens - "Superdick" (USA Network, 10:00PM ET/PT)
After saving a landlord with a nut allergy, Johnny finds the perfect apartment to share with Theresa; Brian tries to understand his relationship with Voodoo.

Sirens - "Johnny Nightingale" (USA Network, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Johnny has an encounter with an overly grateful patient; Brian agrees to escort an injured girl to her prom.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 26) (All times ET unless noted)

Tuesday, January 27

  • Patton Oswalt (The Goldbergs/The King of Queens) - Catch Patton on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Tony Danza (Who's the Boss?/Taxi) - Tony stops by The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jim Norton (Louie) - Jim appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Rainn Wilson (The Office) - Rainn visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Whitney Cummings (Whitney) - Whitney drops by Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Wanda Sykes (The New Adventures of Old Christine/Wanda at Large) - Wanda is a guest on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.
  • Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Jeff appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Martin Short (Mulaney/The Martin Short Show) - Martin talks about It's Only a Play on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Joel McHale (Community) - Joel will be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Michaela Watkins (Trophy Wife) - Michaela guest co-hosts The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Roseanne Barr (Roseanne) - Roseanne is a guest on Tavis Smiley on PBS, so check your local listings.
  • Steve Carell (The Office) - Steve visits LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.