Synopsis of TV Show
A constant flow of car-chase action, the pearly-white smile of Erik Estrada, and a kickin’, disco-driven theme song… CHiPs truly had something for everyone.
This show was the brainchild of creator/producer Rick Rosner, and its title was an acronym (sort of) for the California Highway Patrol. The episodic plot line, reminiscent of Adam-12, followed the daily adventures of two officers of the Highway Patrol, Jon Baker and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello. The show deftly mixed their adventures on and around the Los Angeles freeway system with intra-office intrigue and the events of Jon and Ponch’s personal lives.
Jon and Ponch’s compatriots at the office included their ever-patient commanding officer, Sergeant Getraer, and fellow officers Grossman, Turner, Fritz and Baricza. Other characters would be added to the show’s ensemble cast as the years went on, including mechanic Harlan and Officer Sindy Cahill (Brianne Leary). The latter was a “chippie” (a nickname for a female CHiPs officer) designed to add some sex appeal for the show’s male viewers. Sindy only lasted one season and was replaced by two other “chippies”: Officer Bonnie Clark and Officer Kathy Linahan.
Despite the frequent car chases (and crashes), the show was never a grim affair. Friendly to its many kid viewers, CHiPs emphasized a light, humorous tone in its storytelling, especially when dealing with lives of Jon, Ponch, and their fellow officers. The show’s blend of humor and action guaranteed high ratings and reeled in a serious contingent of those younger viewers, who snapped up Jon and Ponch dolls, toy CHiPs motorcycles, and other memorabilia by the dozen.
The show first hit a snag when Erik Estrada (Ponch) got into a dispute with the show’s producers over his salary in 1981 and was replaced for a time by former Olympian Bruce Jenner as Officer Steve McLeish. Larry Wilcox (Jon) quit the show in 1982 and was replaced with Bobby Nelson. Bruce Nelson, Bobby’s kid brother, was also added to the show at this time as a trainee officer.
CHiPs finished its six-year run in July of 1983 after 138 episodes. The show almost immediately went into syndication, where it is still a popular item with viewers of all ages. Wilcox and Estrada re-teamed in 1998 with show creator Rosner to make CHiPs ‘99, a made-for-TNT television film. It was a reunion that many a cop-show fan had longed for and was a ratings success.
Release History of Prime Time Show9/15/77 - 7/17/83 NBC
TV Sub Categoriesdrama
Television StudioMGM Television, Rosner Television
TV CastOfficer Jon Baker (1977-82) Larry Wilcox
Officer Francis "Ponch" Poncherello Erik Estrada
Officer Bobby "Hot Dog" Nelson (1982-83) Tom Reilly
Sgt. Joseph Getraer Robert Pine
Cadet/Officer Bruce Nelson (1982-83) Bruce Penhall
Officer Arthur Grossman Paul Linke
Harlan Arliss (1978-83) Lou Wagner
Officer Jebediah Turner (1979-82) Michael Dorn
Officer Kathy Linahan (1982-83) Tina Gayle
Officer Benjamin Webster (1982-83) Clarence Gilyard Jr.
Officer Barry Baricza (1977-82) Brodie Greer
Officer Sindy Cahill (1978-79) Brianne Leary
Officer Bonnie Clark (1979-82) Randi Oakes
Officer Gene Fritz (1977-81) Lew Saunders