Saturday, May 26, 2007
Mini-DVD Review: CHiPs - The Complete First Season (June 5); Seinfeld - Season 9 Coming to DVD in November
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
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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 (February)
02/16 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series
02/16 - The Brady Kids - The Complete Animated Series
02/16 - Girls - The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
02/16 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - The Complete Series
02/16 - Togetherness - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
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