Anchor Bay // 1987 // 1015 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 6th, 2005
The television show that catapulted the likes of Johnny Depp and Peter Deluise to fame, fortune, and endless Trapper Keeper covers has been released in all of its second-season glory. I'm talking 21 Jump Street, folks, and the fabulous foursome of Detectives Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp, Sleepy Hollow), Judy Hoffs (Holly Robinson), Doug Penhall (Peter Deluise), and H.T. Ioki (Dustin Nguyen) are back in school and ready to teach you some vital life lessons!
Fox lapped up the unforeseen success that 21 Jump Street bestowed upon the fledgling network. Boasting a unique -- if nonsensical -- premise and a verifiable pop culture sensation in Johnny Depp, the show managed to turn the once-upon-a-time UHF mainstay Fox network into a blip on the mainstream radar.
Season Two sported 22 hour-long episodes, the first full slate of production for the show. But with that impressive order, the writers were forced to develop 22 separate school/youth-related stories for the Jump Street gang to immerse themselves in. Which stretched the show's gimmick even more. The Jump Street program places young-looking undercover cops in the hallways of local schools, to sniff out the villains of the week. How come the cops are never recognized in other schools? Are students that ignorant or stoned or both? And does the Jump Street jurisdiction reach to Iceland to provide enough different schools? Ah, the questions that will forever hound the show.
But let us tie a rope to our disbelief, hook the other end onto a hot air balloon, and suspend it as high as we can. This is 21 Jump Street, kids, not Dateline NBC!
Anchor Bay's Season Two set is broken up into six discs. The episodes:
* In the Custody of a Clown
* Besieged, Part 1
* Besieged, Part 2
* Two for the Road
* After School Special
* Higher Education
* Don't Stretch the Rainbow
* Honor Bound
* You Oughta Be in Prison
* How Much is That Body in the Window
* Christmas in Saigon
* Fear and Loathing with Russell Buckins
* Big Disease with a Little Name
* Chapel of Love
* I'm OK, You Need Work
* Orpheus 3.3
* Champagne High
* Brothers Hanson and the Miracle of Renner's Pond
* Raising Marijuana
* Best Years of Your Life
* Corey and Dean Got Married
* School's Out
Yikes. This series, in its second-season iteration, has proven to be profoundly dated. And I'm not talking about the hairstyles (this show boasts more mullets than a monster truck rally) or the accessorizing (Officer Hoffs was a walking mall kiosk). No, it's the issues that place 21 Jump Street: The Complete Second Season deep inside an '80s time capsule.
You see, every show had to deal with a hard-hitting something. Someone had to learn a valuable life lesson -- most likely whichever cop was undercover at the time -- and pass that message on to you, the viewer. Seriously, this was just goofy sometimes. Take, for example, the pretentiously titled "Brothers Hanson and the Miracle of Renner's Pond," which finds Hanson investigating a series of book burnings at a school located in a "fundamentalist" community. Wow, book burnings. Aren't there some unsolved burglaries or dog-napping cases still out there? As the episode progresses we find out that students have been resisting the theory of evolution, calling it "monkey science" and the like, and even threatening the poor science teacher; witness the shocking scene where a baboon is let loose in the teacher's house. Where did these people get a baboon, anyway?
So what did we learn, kids, after this hard-hitting episode? Burning books is bad. Oh, and Christians are stupid. And have access to zoo animals.
What else did the hip young cops at Jump Street teach me?
Episode:In the Custody of a Clown
What I Learned: Getting kidnapped by your grandfather is fun, especially if he's Morty Seinfeld.
Episode:Two for the Road
What I Learned: Drinking and driving is bad, even if you're a kick-ass black police captain.
Episode:Don't Stretch the Rainbow
What I Learned: Black people and white people hate each other, and will happily run each other over with luxury sedans.
What I Learned: If there's some gay bashing happening, look to the nearest military academy.
Episode:How Much Is That Body in the Window
What I Learned: Yes, steroids might win you short-term fame and glory, but don't expect a rewarding long-term experience. To drive this point home, the writers included two follow-up narratives to the fictional characters in this show, relaying how they utterly failed in their college athletic careers, just in case the young viewers still thought that steroid use is cool.
Episode: Christmas in Saigon
What I Learned: Vietnam veterans hate anyone from Vietnam, even if it was a young kid trying to escape with his life.
Episode:Big Disease With a Little Name (If this doesn't sound like an
after-school special, I don't what does.)
What I Learned: You can't catch AIDS from a glass of water.
You know what else bugged me about this season? The lack of actual undercover high school work. However implausible, that stuff is entertaining. For every cool episode that found the kids actually undercover in a high school -- for instance, "After School Special," which placed Captain Fuller and Officer Hoffs in a gun-crazed school -- there were two or three of these lame-o, moral-driven episodes.
I think Anchor Bay may have recognized the shortcoming of these episodes. Their marketing strategy for this set was to emphasize the multitude of recognizable faces involved in the season. On the back of this disc case are pictures of Johnny Depp, Christina Applegate, and Brad Pitt. The synopsis makes special effort to mention these not-yet celebs, as well as Pauly Shore and Jason Priestley. (Look for Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg as a school bully and the kid from Mr. Belvedere as a strung-out ex-drunk.)
Alas, this may be the primary value for this set: the nostalgia and the "look-who-it-is!" gimmick. There are a few standout episodes; "Christmas in Saigon" is a uniquely filmed story, which deftly zips in and out of flashbacks, "Champagne High" marks the amusing return of the McQuaid Brothers to the high school halls, and "You Oughta Be in Prison," which has Hanson guarding a spoiled Hollywood star, features a fun return of a villain from the previous season.
The season is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Though the shows certainly betray their 1987 heritage, the transfer is clean. The 2.0 stereo mix is adequate.
Anchor Bay has provided some minimal special features. The high point is definitely Peter Deluise's commentary track on "You Oughta Be in Prison," where we learn, among other things, that Johnny Depp used to stuff socks in his pants for the benefit of the camera. The rest of the stuff is disposable: a photo gallery, the original script from "Don't Stretch the Rainbow" on DVD-ROM, and, one of the most worthless special features ever released on DVD, selected scenes dubbed in French (?!).
I'm all for kickin' it old school with the Jump Street gang, but this season ranged from cheesy to surreal. A few episodes are cool and worthwhile, but the bulk of Season Two opted more toward proselytizing than entertaining. And a batch of worthless special features does not help.
Off to detention with you.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1015 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by Actor Peter Deluise
* Photo Gallery
* DVD-ROM Content
* Select Scenes Dubbed in French