Anchor Bay // 1990 // 1202 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 21st, 2005
"Ummm...you look a little old to be a tenth-grader."
Here it is, the fourth season of 21 Jump Street, then baby-Fox's lone bright spot in its struggling schedule and the catapult that launched Johnny Depp to Hollywood stardom and Tiger Beat infamy. This season bids farewell to Depp and Dustin Nguyen. It also sports some major moments in the show's mythology: Hoffs' rape, Hanson and Penhall's trip to El Salvador, and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar's turn as a college dean.
Season four opens with the conclusion of a cliffhanger that I can only presume was from season three, having never seen that particular finale. When the episode starts, we discover that Officer Tom Hanson (Depp) is in jail, arrested for a murder that he didn't commit. Meanwhile, on the outside, Penhall (Peter Deluise) and Booker (Richard Grieco) work feverishly to prove his innocence, despite the imposing shadow of corrupt billionaire Raymond Crane. And Ioki is in the hospital, comatose.
But once the mess is sorted out, Booker finds himself relegated to desk duty: a position he can never accept. So he turns in his gun and his badge and heads off to star in an ill-fated detective series.
Back at the Jump Street chapel, the crew we all know and love -- Hanson, Penhall, Judy Hoffs (Holly Robinson), H.T. Ioki (Nguyen), Captain Fuller (Steven Williams) -- are back on the job, infiltrating the near-limitless supply of high schools and colleges that exist in their unnamed city.
A whopping 26 episodes comprise Season Four and are spread across six discs:
* "Draw the Line"
* "Say it Ain't So, Pete"
* "Eternal Flame"
* "Come from the Shadows"
* "God is a Bullet"
* "Old Haunts in the New Age"
* "Out of Control"
* "Stand By Your Man"
* "Mike's P.O.V."
* "Wheels and Deals Parts 1 and 2"
* "Parental Guidance Suggested"
* "Things We Said Today"
* "Research and Destroy"
* "Change of Heart"
* "Back from the Future"
* "Hi Mom"
* "Awomp-Bomp-Aloobomp, Aloop-Bamboom"
* "La Bizca"
* "Last Chance High"
* "Unfinished Business"
* "Shirts and Skins"
* "How I Saved the Senator"
* "Rounding Third"
* "Everyday is Christmas"
My last tango with the Jump Street cops was disappointing. Previously I had reviewed season one and season two, and left both of those jobs feeling hugely underwhelmed. Was this the bad-ass cop show I fondly remembered from my adolescence? The first season was big-time underdeveloped and didn't start making any compelling narrative traction until Steven Williams jumped on board. And season two was flat out irritating with its commitment to mini-after school specials, having the cops tackle cases that reflected some kind of issue (e.g. AIDS, racism, guns in schools, teen pregnancy, etc.)
I missed season three however, and Richard Grieco's appearance as bad-boy Booker, and judging by the first show of this season, I apparently missed a lot. Hanson in jail? Booker the object of everyone's ire? Some rich Trump knock-off scumbag toying with the Jump Street cops? What's going on here?
Even more surprising were the successive episodes, and the surprising pretty-goodness of them. And to throw you one more curve-ball, the shows where our heroes were actually undercover in a high school were few and far between. The producers obviously got wise to the fact that a) their cops were looking less like high school students and more like high school faculty and b) the "infinite school" matrix populated by students who don't talk to each other was getting corny.
Of the seasons I've experienced, this is easily the best, most entertaining, and most varied. Drastically reduced are the ham-fisted morality plays that wholly comprised season two. Tow big exceptions are "Unfinished Business," an episode centered around a criminal who beats up disabled women and the disabled female cop who busts him, and "Stand by Your Man," the show where Hoffs is raped. The former is fairly cheesy (Hoffs is sent undercover in a wheelchair and learns first-hand how annoying it is when people treat you differently), but the latter is very well done.
This season also features the most "experimental" episodes of 21 Jump Street I've seen to date. My guess is that the showrunners got bored, so they added a few zingers in the bunch to spice things up. You got Penhall and Hanson heading to El Savlador to rescue Penhall's wife, a Spring Break episode, and a two-parter crossover show with Booker. Two major out-there installments is the glorified clip show "Back from the Future" with Hanson and crew decked out in old-age makeup telling some futuristic cop with a New Wave hairdo about their adventures in the '90s and "How I Saved the Senator," a goofy romp where the Jump Street cops relate to a reporter their individually embellished version of a story, starring each of them in a different move genre (e.g. Hanson in a silent film, Hoffs in a musical, Ioki as a kung fu fighter, and Penhall as James Bond). Both of these are far removed from shows like "The Big Disease with a Little Name," the AIDS-centric show from season two, and in a way that's very okay; however, this type of over-creative output is a telltale sign of when a show is entering its twilight years.
And, truthfully, 21 Jump Street was winding down its tenure this season. Sure, there was a season five, made for syndication, but by then the chapel had pretty much been gutted, with Penhall exiting halfway through, Ioki gone after Season Four, and Johnny Depp, the show's bread-and-butter, taking off. This was always Depp's show, even during the flash-in-the-pan love affair the high school girls had with Richard Grieco ("Some affair," he would probably say. "Where were all those girls for the opening of If Looks Could Kill?!?) While I've read conflicting trivia items about the means of Depp's departure, that he was going to respect his six-season contract despite his yearning to heave-ho and the producers let him go versus him pissing and moaning and being a nuisance, it's nevertheless apparent that Depp is lollygagging through a lot of these shows.
Which sets up the one line I've been saving throughout this entire
When Johnny Depp jumped ship, Jump Street jumped the shark.
For this recent release, Anchor Bay has given you the typical release: a decent full frame transfer with an effective 2.0 stereo mix. I found the picture quality a little better than the other releases, but it's negligible. A big old goose egg in the extras department, though, makes Booker cry.
This is my favorite season I've reviewed, but in some ways the goofiest. Depp is chronically bored and a few shows fly off the deep end, but the preachy tone is largely -- and thankfully -- missing and that nostalgic feel is as tangible as ever. I did wish they went into a few more high schools though. Bring on Michael Bendetti!
Here, take a hall pass.
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: 1202 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Season One Review
* Season Two Review
* Season Three Review