If you’re one of the many millions who’ve taken comfort in the motorcycle-riding savvy and people skills of Jon Baker and Frank Llewelyn Poncherello in the half-drama, half-comedy TV hour CHiPs that maneuvered its way into our social mosaic on NBC from 1977 to 1983 and through syndication and streaming seemingly thereafter, you may have marked this reboot on your must-see calendar.
Dax Shepard wrote and directed CHIPS, raising that little i from the original California Highway Patrol. That’s not the only change from the guy you may know best from his goofy commercials with real-life wife Kristen Bell or gangly offbeat brother Crosby in the great family TV ensemble Parenthood. (Oh, how I still miss you Bravermans, all).
Shepard writes himself into the center of CHIPS as Jon, a former motocross champion all banged up from too many crashes. He’s estranged from his shrewd beauty of a wife (played by Bell, voila), relegated to counseling sessions that have left him with an awesome recovery vocabulary and high hopes that are not based in much reality, as, alas, he’s been relegated to the guest house out back. To recapture her heart, he’s cooped up the scheme to ride his way back as a motorcycle cop, following in the boots of her dad.
He’s fashioned partner Ponch as a FBI agent on assignment from Miami, in the hunt for cops-gone-bad.
Michael Péna takes the role of this uneasy motorcycle rider as serious comedy. Péna does moody, loud, manly and Lothario on an equal plane with Shepard’s silly, new age, heartsick and metrosexual. Lo and behold, what starts as a ruinous work and personal relationship for Ponch and Jon somehow warms up as they chase the bad guys.
The vibe is nothing like the TV show, mind you, where Erik Estrada played Ponch with a knowing wink and Larry Wilcox took Jon never two inches from the center line. These two are all over the place. They deal with and hand out much violence. There’s an underlying innuendo of all sorts of sexual feelings. And, oh, yeah, Vincent D’Onofrio and Adam Brody also jump over from their TV past, as a fantastic cop villain and a harried former FBI agent partner.
May dear wife Karen and I took in the rollercoaster ride of 100 minutes with a medium-sized crowd in the Regal Cinemas’ medium-sized theater for a 7:50 p.m. Friday screening in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertaining complex Destiny USA. The watchers, a mixed bag of there-for-the-original and let’s-see-what-our-generation-can-do, seemed content with the change-up and new bag. Us, too.
If you were or are a fan of the 70s-80s TV show ‘CHiPs,’ why? Do you want your reboots to stick to the original flavor or serve up a new dish, and why? What’s your take on Dax Shepard?