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Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Once again, I find myself giddy with retro-delight over another season's worth of shows from a TV series that I couldn't care less about when it originally aired.  Yes, it's time again for officers Ponch and Jon, those beefcake buddies on wheels, to ride the highways righting wrongs in CHiPS: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON.

This five-disc, 21-episode DVD set from Warner Home Entertainment offers the further adventures of our favorite motorcycle cops (circa 1980) in some of the most unabashedly hokey, tacky, sometimes juvenile stories this side of those old live-action Saturday morning shows such as "Shazam!" and "The Secrets of Isis." 

Indeed, most episodes involve troubled kids in need of some sympathetic adult guidance, which our stalwart heroes are happy to dispense even if it means never having an actual day off.  (Does Ponch ever have time to date any of the gorgeous babes he's always ogling?  Does Jon ever get to ride his horse? )

The other half of each show usually features some grown-up do-badders in need of apprehension, CHiPs-style. Sometimes the two subplots overlap, and sometimes they're totally unrelated.  Both are resolved in time for one of those gag endings where everyone is freeze-framed in mid laugh.

The first episode in the set, "Go-Cart Terror", blasts out of the starting gate with none other than the great Larry Storch and Sonny Bono as bumbling burglars trying to pay off a troublesome debt by robbing furniture and appliance stores. (Storch appeared in season three with Larry Linville in an equally amusing episode.) This is a pair-up for the ages, and we're just getting started.

With a title like "Go-Cart Terror" you'd expect there to be go-carts, and you wouldn't be disappointed.  The cast gets even better when legendary kid actor Moosie Drier ("Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In") shows up as a go-cart terrorist (hence the title) who knocks over a little girl on a bike and speeds away.  Not to worry, though, since Moosie's not really bad--he's just misunderstood.

Other episodes feature more misunderstood kids on more modes of conveyance such as racing bikes, midget race cars, and even sail-powered skateboards. More often than not, the last ten minutes or so are set aside to showcase Ponch, Jon, and the rest of the CHiPs team having some "big kid" fun with these recreational vehicles themselves after the kids' problems have been resolved. 

Meanwhile, the grown-up bad guys range from crossbow-wielding poachers (the aptly-titled "The Poachers") to shady businessmen sabotaging their competitors' freight trucks ("To Your Health") to your garden variety drunk drivers, drug smugglers, arsonists, and road-ragers.

Whatever the details, just about every episode includes a highway or freeway chase scene set to the usual generic disco music (TV shows of the 70s had a real hard time letting go of disco) and packed with lots of skidding around and fender-bending.

These are invariably topped off by one or more of your basic vehicle crashes right out of the stunt drivers' playbook, usually in slow-motion.  You can see the set-ups for these stunts coming a mile away, which is part of their appeal. 

One of the centerpieces of this set is the big two-parter "The Great 5K Star Race and Boulder Wrap Party", which is a companion to last season's double-length tale of the annual CHiPs celebrity charity bash (and ratings grab).  Ponch is once again in charge of stocking the event with celebrities, somehow managing to accumulate every familiar TV face within a twenty-mile radius of Hollywood. 

Just like last year, we get some hit-and-run robbers on wheels (roller skates then, a motorcycle with a sidecar now) played by none other than Ken Berry ("F Troop", "Mayberry RFD") and Alex Rocco (THE GODFATHER's Moe Green).  This comically-inept duo hole up in an unoccupied beachfront mansion to escape the cops, with Ken living the life of a Hollywood producer and Alex pulling burglaries in surrounding houses until Ponch and Jon close in on them.

Milton Berle guest stars as himself and gamely recites the grim one-liners that have been written for him.  The big finale, consisting of party games with the stars while a giant boulder teeters precipitously at the top of a hill nearby, is packed with literally dozens of recognizable faces, some from long-forgotten TV shows you'll have trouble recalling.

In addition to the glut of guest stars in this episode, the rest of the season boasts such luminaries as Heather Locklear, William Smith, Kathleen Freeman, Robert Ginty, Michael Ansara, Don Galloway, Tina Louise, Ellen Geer, Mickey Jones, Leigh French, Don Stroud, Robert Englund, Chris Mulkey, Mary Louise Weller, Adam Roarke, Joe Estevez, Richard Roundtree, Barbi Benton, Cindy Morgan, Stuart Pankin, Barbara Stock, "Mousie" Garner, Danny Bonaduce, Kari Michaelsen, Cathy Rigby, Dwight Schultz, Dar Robinson, Joanna Kerns, Candy Azzara, and A Martinez.

The 5-disc DVD set from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is in standard full-screen format as originally aired, with Dolby Digital soundtracks in English and Japanese and subtitles in English, Japanese, and French.  No extras.

As usual, there's very little actual violence or grievous injury on "CHiPs" and hardly anyone ever dies--making CHiPS: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON ideal "family" entertainment that's especially suitable for kids.  I guess it's this light, friendly, "good wins out" tone of the show, and the fact that it's so unselfconscious about it, that appeals to me after the usual gloom and doom--sometimes I'm just in the mood for a good freeze-frame laugh. 

Episode titles:

1.       Go-Cart Terror   
2.       Sick Leave       
3.       To Your Health   
4.       The Poachers     
5.       The Great 5K Star Race and Boulder Wrap Party: Part 1    
6.       The Great 5K Star Race and Boulder Wrap Party: Part 2    
7.       Satan’s Angels   
8.       Wheels of Justice
9.       Crash Course     
10.   Forty Tons of Trouble    
11.   11-99: Officer Needs Help   
12.   Home Fires Burning  
13.   Sharks              
14.   Ponch’s Angels: Part 1  
15.   Ponch’s Angels: Part 2  
16.   Karate           
17.   New Guy in Town
18.   The Hawk and the Hunter 
19.   Vigilante                
20.   Dead Man’s Riddle       
21.   A Simple Operation     

Buy it at the
Street date: March 15, 2016



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