Judge David Johnson has invented a new pop culture term: "Bendetti"—n. A person with over-styled hair asked to do a difficult job and gets zero respect for his effort.
Our reviews of 21 Jump Street: The Complete First Season (published November 17th, 2004), 21 Jump Street: The Complete Second Season (published April 6th, 2005), 21 Jump Street: The Complete Third Season (published September 28th, 2005), 21 Jump Street: The Complete Fourth Season (published December 21st, 2005), 21 Jump Street (2012) (published June 29th, 2012), and 21 Jump Street: The Complete Series (published August 18th, 2010) are also available.
In this, the final season of what was the embryonic Fox network's flagship show, big changes have hit the squad of undercover Tiger Beat cops. Long-time officer Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) has left, and along with him Harry Ioki (Dustin Nguyen) jumped ship. That of course leaves a void in the Jump Street HQ for a good-looking 20-something male who styles his hair with Mobil-1.
Enter the Bendetti.
Facts of the Case
NOTE: Anchor Bay has done something sly and, in my opinion, disingenuous with this release. As with the prior sets, Johnny Depp is featured prominently on the cover through he appears in only one episode—which doesn't really belong in Season Five anyway. More on that later, but if you're thinking about picking up this set for another extended dose of Depp, be aware he is in just one show ("Blackout") and that is it.
After a couple episodes pass by with Depp and Nguyen inexplicably still gracing the opening titles, and some stranger named Dean Garrett (David Barry Gray) doing the undercover thing, the show more or less settles into its final casting. Joining Judy Hoffs (Holly Robinson), Captain Fuller (Steven Williams), and, for a handful of shows, Doug Penhall (Peter DeLuise) are new cops Anthony McCann (Michael Bendetti) and Joey Penhall (Peter's little brother Michael DeLuise, also for a handful of shows). This new-look crew is still tasked with the same mission: go undercover and tackle the criminal element manifesting itself among teenagers and college kids.
Season Five comes to you on three dual-sided discs:
Disc One Side A
Disc One Side B
Disc Two Side A
Disc Two Side B
Disc Three Side A
Disc Three Side B
When Johnny Depp gave notice, 21 Jump Street was dealt a mortal blow. Depp had come to be the face of the series, and hence the driving force behind the show's success for the young Fox network. His instant superstardom carried much clout, as evidenced by the fate of the series once Depp bailed: its swift and unceremonious cancellation.
Producer and creator Stephen Cannell, determined to bring the show past its 100 episode mark, thereby qualifying it for reruns, rejuvenated the show for first-run syndication. He was able to keep Robinson and Williams. DeLuise, who was raring to follow Depp's lead, agreed to stay on for seven episodes, in exchange for the chance to direct two. Tagged to replace the enormous shoes left behind by Depp, Michael Bendetti was brought in, a guy who looked a lot like his predecessor: baby faced and gelled up silly. A few episodes into the season, Michael DeLuise jumped on board as Doug Penhall's goofy brother. I should note the first two shows of the season starred a pair of new officers that promptly disappeared following their run. I don't know who they were, nor did I care to, though everyone else at the precinct seemed to be in the loop; it was like a Jump Street wormhole had opened and coughed up these two strangers.
Once the season proper got rolling, I didn't find it that bad. It wasn't as entertaining as Season Four, but overall, I enjoyed the stories more than the rough-underdeveloped Season One and the ham-fisted "after school special-izing" of Season Two. After you get past the big hurdle of having most of the regulars flown the coop (and, I admit, it is a big hurdle), it's the same old Jump Street, for better or worse.
Season Five suffers from the familiar breakdowns in logic as the other episodes (infinite supply of schools; no one ever suspect the older-looking new kid as a narc) and sports the typical moralizing. You can count on those teen-topic-oriented storylines: Joey Penhall deals with a brainwashing cult in "Brothers," Fuller and Hoffs take down some—wait for it—racist white cops, McCann comes face to face with the Big Disease With the Little Name (AIDS), and Hoffs again revisits the trauma of sexual assault. But the season explores newer issues, like teenage Satanism ("Under the Influence") and the always dependable "toxic waste dump" morality play ("Wasted"). The more experimental episodes from last year are largely shelved, save for "Number One with a Bullet" (directed by Peter DeLuise), which finds Penhall in a coma, wandering around limbo and talking to his dead parents.
The biggest drawback of the season is the tenuousness of the cast. Setting aside the duplicitous "Blackout," the new squad on Jump Street constantly changes faces. McCann doesn't show up until two episodes in, Doug Penhall takes off after seven, and Joey Penhall mysteriously disappears six shows away from the finale. For the home stretch, the cast regulars are only three strong. It just struck me as the show giving it one final gasp, then dragging itself over the 100-episode finish line.
Is this season a must-own? I'd say only if you're a hard-core Jump Street fan. The novelty of Depp's early days on the small screen will evaporate after one episode, and the overall feel of the show is greatly diminished by the staggering loss of the regular characters. I still think Bendetti was a decent replacement and the shows themselves have their moments. But my instinct tells me this is one for the completist only—and I think Anchor Bay realizes this, which explains Bendetti getting the shaft on the disc jacket, replaced by a glowering Depp.
It's full-on full frame and 2.0 stereo, the norm for these releases. Picture quality is less than great, showing some serious grain throughout. Peter DeLuise delivers two commentaries, both on the episodes he directed ("Number One with a Bullet" and "Film at Eleven"). These are great tracks, and DeLuise is surprisingly forthcoming. He talks at length about his directorial choices, his sympathy for Bendetti's thankless plight, the screw-job of the show getting yanked so abruptly, and, most interesting, his struggles after leaving the series, envisioning Hollywood greatness but only finding a "David Caruso-like film career."
The season itself isn't that bad and Holly Robinson, Steven Williams and Michael Bendetti are likable enough to carry the slack of a cast in flux and budget restrictions. But Anchor Bay, I think, hung the draw of these DVD releases on the star-power of Johnny Depp (and to a lesser extent, Richard Grieco), and deception aside, I don't see a clamoring for this final season. Anyway, thanks for the memories Jump Street gang! And if you're a high school student reading this, I offer you the following advice: be wary of the 20-year-old-looking new kid in school with the awesome hair and the US Weekly cover-looks.
School's out. And so am I. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary with Peter DeLuise
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