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21 Jump Street - series one

cast: Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, Holly Robinson Peete, Frederic Forrest, and Steven Williams

creator: Stephen J. Cannell
653 minutes (15) 1987
Anchor Bay UK DVD Region 2 rental / retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
A group of underage looking cops go undercover in high schools to catch young criminals in the making...

As one of the main series for the new Fox Network back in 1987, 21 Jump Street was also the launching fame pad for Johnny Depp. (As well as being essential Saturday night viewing for me as a young teenager back in Australia!)

If I was ever lucky enough to interview Johnny Depp, I would not ask him about Finding Neverland or Edward Scissorhands or even Pirates Of The Caribbean - my first question would be about 21 Jump Street. That's how influential it was to me in terms of formative television experiences.

Depp stars as baby-faced cop Tom Hanson, who joins the '21 Jump Street' programme, which is on the site of an abandoned chapel. Here, guided by Captain Jenko (Frederic Forrest) and later Captain Fuller (Steven Williams), Hanson joins other youthful looking officers Hoffs (Robinson Peete), Penhall (Peter DeLuise) and Ioki (Dustin Nguyen) in busting 'perps' in high schools (the series was based on a real-life undercover unit in L.A.).

The series looks totally dated now that I've watched it again as an adult (it was cutting edge in the late 1980s when I was 13 years old), but it is immensely enjoyable and fun looking at the cameo appearances made by actors like Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks), Jason Priestly (Beverley Hills 90210) and Blair Underwood (L.A. Law) who all went on to successes in other television series, not to mention laughing at the cheesy 1980s' fashions!

Interestingly, Depp signed on to do the series for the chance to work with Frederic Forrest and the two apparently remain friends to this day, with Depp casting Forrest as his father in his directorial debut The Brave. In the series, Forrest's character Jenko departs abruptly after six episodes, with his funeral in the episode Gotta Finish The Riff; this paved the way for Captain Fuller to take over the team. Apparently, Forrest did not realise how hard going filming the series would be (it was filmed in British Columbia) and was written out of the series on a 'mutual understanding'.

The show deals with some heavy issues, including teenage prostitution, incest and sexism. However the surface is just skimmed and the storylines are a bit unsatisfying (maybe that's because I am watching them as an adult and there are so many television shows that deal with issues in a grittier fashion). So, viewers may be quite disappointed on watching (or re-watching) the series.

Extras include interviews with Stephen J. Cannell, Holly Robinson Peete, Dustin Nguyen and Steven Williams and audio commentary with Peter DeLuise.

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