Jon and Ponch ride back onto DVD by David Lambert (All reviews)
After getting the first two season sets from Warner in 2007 and 2008, fans have had a long wait for the third season of CHiPs. In 2012 the Warner Archive gave us an MOD release of CHiPs 99, the post-series telefilm reuniting Jon Baker, Frank Poncherello, Joe Getraer, and even Barry Baricza (Brodie Greer's regular character on the 1977-83 show) fifteen years later. Fans (including myself!) enjoyed that well enough, but we were wanting more of the main series itself!
Especially this season, where the real world inserted itself early on when Erik Estrada injured both arms and broke some ribs during a motorcycle accident while filming the show in summer '79; his injuries were portrayed in the show when Frank was laid up in the hospital, and then after his release he was briefly assigned to front desk duty before getting back on a bike. Baker would sometimes ride with Sgt. Getraer or Officer Grossman ("Grossie") as a result. We also saw more during this season from other characters, including maintenance man Harlan Arliss and new officer Bonnie Clark (played by Randi Oakes). Another new officer also joined the patrol: Jebediah Turner, played by a pre-"Worf" Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation), who was sporting a thick mustache!
Today participating stores can put CHiPs - The Complete 3rd Season on their shelves at last. Almost 7 years since the second season set, Warner Home Video has released a 5-disc package with our favorite highway patrolmen (and patrolwomen, as the case may be). And these episodes are chock-full of great guest stars: Ed McMahon briefly appears and calls out Baker with, "Heeeere's Jonny!"; Larry Linville and Larry Storch team up to terrorize freeway drivers; Bill Daily manages to make a fatigued Leif Garrett mad and mixed-up; football great Jim Brown skates away with larceny; Dee Wallace steals (and it's not exactly our hearts this time); Billy Barty has an interesting turn; Anne Lockhart comes to visit; a pre-Karate Kid Martin Kove teams up with an almost-pre-Dallas Jared Martin; Kelly Harmon takes care of an endearingly tiny Tracey Gold; William Schallert reverently chases some crooks; William "Big Bill" Smith shows up in an episode that also includes Emergency!'s "Squad 51" vehicle (also briefly seen in another episode this season); Jayne Kennedy and Judy Strangis are on hand when a couple of boys get kidnapped; Morgan Woodward horses around; and Dana Plato tattles.
What's interesting about Dana Plato's appearance late in the season is that she also shows up AS HERSELF briefly during the end of the season debut "Roller Disco" 2-parter, with a long list of other celebs: Todd Bridges, Cindy Williams, Dan Haggerty, Ruth Buzzi, Victor French, Melissa Sue Anderson, Richard Hatch, Lee Meriwether, Peter Marshall, Nancy Kulp, Dick Van Patten, Connie Needham, Adam Rich, Susan Richardson, Vic Tayback, Lee Meriwether, Philip McKeon, Brett Somers, George Peppard and more...all helping out at the charity event Poncherello had organized. Quite a few cameos!
Here's what's included on the 5-DVD set:
Roller Disco - Part 1
Roller Disco - Part 2
Valley Go Home!
The Return of the Supercycle
Drive, Lady, Drive - Parts 1 and 2
The Watch Commander
Tow Truck Lady
The video is very clean and good-looking all throughout. A few minor artifacts show up here and there, but for episodes that first aired in the 1979-80 season, we doubt there will be any complaints. California looks just as sunny and gorgeous as it ought to. Maybe TOO good a couple of times; with the crispness of DVD there are at least two scenes where I easily spotted that the driver of a car in the process of wrecking was a stunt driver (wearing a helmet and so forth), and not the character portrayed. It takes you out of the story for a moment...but that's forgivable, of course.
It's been more than 35 years since this season was first aired, and I personally haven't seen the "Roller Disco" two-parter (or any of the other episodes) since those original broadcasts. So I frankly don't know whether there's any music missing or not. I doubt it, though, as things mostly feel very smooth and flawless...except once or twice at the end of the "Roller Disco" two-parter, where I noted a brief blip or two. These may have been there during the 1979 airings, for all I know; these are the sort of things that can be part of the normal editing results of scenes such as these! I'm honestly not worried about it at all, and the sound quality for the rest of the episodes was pretty much spot-on for a DVD release of a show from this era. No worries here.
For fans of CHiPs, for fans of classic cop shows, for fans of 70s/80s television, for TV-DVD connoisseurs...this is a no-brainer. I couldn't put this set down, watching 5 DVDs in less than 4 days, and enjoying it thoroughly every step of the way. This marked the halfway point in the program's six-season run, and we see the show at its finest. It's a can't-miss DVD entry!