Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp--21 Jump Street (Season 1)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details!]

Fox’s weekly hour-long drama, 21 Jump Street followed undercover cops who posed as students in high schools to investigate crimes. Creators Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh based the show on a real program in Los Angeles. 

Filmed in Vancouver, 21 Jump Street became the first big hit for Fox, a network fighting for an identity among the major stations. I didn’t watch the show from its start, so when the series became available on DVDs in 2004, I was first in line to buy them. 
The Cast
Meet the cast! [clockwise] Holly Robinson, 
Johnny Depp, Dustin Nguyen, 
Peter Deluise, and Frederic Forrest

The 2-hour pilot introduces officers Judy Hoffs (Holly Robinson), Harry Ioki (Dustin Nguyen),  Doug Penhall (Peter Deluise) and Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) and Captain Richard Jenko (Frederic Forrest). 

Sal Jenco
The cast also includes one of Johnny’s childhood friends, Sal Jenco, as maintenance engineer (as he always called his position) Sal “The Blowfish” Balducci.  Sal is prominent in several episodes—mainly for comic reliefand you’ve got to appreciate that! [Trivia Alert: Sal appears in two of Johnny's later movies, Arizona Dream and Donnie Brasco. Johnny also mentioned his name in Dead Man.]

Officer Tom Hanson
In the series pilot, Tom Hanson is a recent police academy graduate, whose green behavior and baby face land him in trouble at his precinct. They reassign him to the Jump Street Program, where his young looks can work to his advantage in local schools.
Hanson reports to work, located in an abandoned chapel, dressed in full uniform and bogged down by procedure. He initially clashes with everyone, especially Captain Jenko. Captain Jenko, head of the Jump Street Program, acted like a hippie trapped in the ‘60s.  Frederic Forrest, who played him, was a big draw for the cast. Assuming that the series would not last more than a year, Johnny took the role of Hanson for the chance to work with him.

Like A Nightmare on Elm Street, someone else was originally cast in Johnny's role. Can you imagine??? Jeff Yagher filmed for the first few weeks before the producers realized that things weren't working with the character. They went back to the audition tapes and called Johnny. He reshot the scenes, and everything was a go! 

Tom Hanson shows up as a geeky, straight-laced, nonsmoking, saxophone-playing Republican who has no idea who Jimi Hendrix is. That's about as far away from Johnny as you can get. As he put it, “The only thing I have in common with Tom Hanson is that we look alike.” 

New captain, Adam Fuller (Steven Williams) 
takes the show in a different direction. 

A New Leader
Captain Jenko was killed off the show after six episodes and a new captain, Adam Fuller, took over and made some changes. Suddenly, the chapel is filled with employees, who bustled around in the background pushing paper and answering phones. Serious, imposing, and definitely in charge, Captain Fuller (Steven Williams) was just who they needed.
Once Captain Fuller arrived, my memories came flooding back with each new episode. Let the giddiness begin!
The Legacy
It is well documented that Johnny felt trapped by 21 Jump Street, as Fox fed off his looks and turned him into a teen idol to sell the show. He felt like a product in a massive machine, over which he had no control. “He had serious chops as an actor. He was beginning to realize that Marlon Brando wasn't going to be on the cover of next week's Teen Beat and maybe he shouldn't be there either," series creator Stephen J. Cannell said. "And maybe this show wasn't taking him where he wanted to go, so there was some frustration."
Johnny can rest assured that 21 Jump Street isn’t as dark a chapter in his career as he may think. I and millions of others loved and learned from the show. Season 1 covered such topics as burglary, vandalism, arson, drug use, gangs, and abuse. Guest stars included Jason Priestly, Josh Brolin, Blair Underwood, and Johnny's then-girlfriend Sherilyn Fenn.
The Tribute
Drawing something about 21 Jump Street was daunting. It wasn’t until I started watching Season 1’s 18 episodes—covering different topics, characters, and storylines—that I started to panic. I decided that each season deserved its own drawing. After all, this show represents four years of Johnny’s life and should not (and could not) be squeezed onto one page.  
Who's that girl?
The illustration concept is courtesy of the show’s ending credits sequence. As the credits roll, an unidentified woman with long red fingernails casually flips through a yearbook. My sister and I always wondered about this lady, and we were not alone. In his DVD commentary, Peter Deluise asks, “Who was this woman? Where does she come from? Is she a streetwalker?” Exactly. After the first season, they switched from the yearbook action to a montage of student sports and other activities. But, come on, the mysterious streetwalker is much funnier. I’m sticking with her.
Here, The Kitties share the highlights from 21 Jump Street, Season 1.

Johnny Kitties: The Johnny Depp Project: 21 Jump Street--Season 1 (1987) [October 12, 2010]

Meet the kitty cast with '80s flair!
  • Norman as Doug Penhall, who loved wearing his key earring.
  • Comet as Harry Ioki, who was always stylin' with bright colors, interesting ties, or shiny jewelry.
  • Ashes as Judy Hoffs, who rocked the biggest hair and a jean jacket smothered in pins and badges.
  • Gordon as Tom Hanson, who was awesome.
  • B.J. as Captain Adam Fuller, who always looked coolest in his shades. (B.J. is digging the beard.)
  • Simon as Sal Balducci, who was nicknamed "The Blowfish" because of a certain trick that Simon is still perfecting. 

Sing the song! 
I loved 21 Jump Street’s theme song, sung by Holly Robinson. But, now that I’ve heard it an infinite number of times on the DVDs, I’m over it. When I heard it on Sunday nights at 7, though, it was the greatest because it marked the start of a new episode.

Check out some episode highlights!
  • Episode 3. America, What a Town: Throughout the show, the Jump Street cast created different handshakes to pass the time and entertain themselves. (Watch the show and you'll find more!) The one that The Kitties demonstrate here ended up in the opening credits' montage.
  • Episode 4. Don't Pet The Teacher: Inherited from his father, Hanson's Mustang got a key role in this episode when one of its tires blew and Tom made a date with the woman who came to his rescue. I loved that car.
  • Episode 6. The Worst Night of Your Life: The Kitties insisted on documenting this moment. Investigating a possible arson threat, everyone dressed up to attend prom. You've got to love the '80s outfits!
  • Episode 9. Blindsided: This episode introduced The McQuaid Brothers. Hanson and Penhall created these covers, high school student bullies who became recurring characters for the next few years.
  • Episode 13. Mean Streets and Pastel Houses: Investigating rival gangs, Hanson went punk for this episode and enjoyed it! Here, Gordon dives into the crowd at a rock concert. (He does his own stunts.)

What are your favorite episodes from Season 1? 

Tune in next month to see some of my favorite moments from 21 Jump Street, Season 2! 

Note: Aside from my own illustration, all images ©Fox Broadcasting Company.


    Anonymous said...

    Favorite episode of season 1? Definitely 'Gotta Finish The Riff'. I loved the character of Jenko, but when Fuller enters the show really picked up. The system Jenko had started with just the 5 of them wouldn't have worked for an entire season, let alone the entire show. Blair Underwood who guest starred was fantastic.

    Yes, in the beginning Tom Hanson was quite different than he would grow up to be in season 2 and onward. Besides no longer being teased as square or unaware, he seems to no longer be Republican either -- ironically, Dennis Booker (Richard Grieco) refers to Hanson as 'Mr. Liberal' in the first episode of season 3. He's come a long way.

    Melissa Connolly said...

    Yes, that's definitely one of my favorite episodes! (I also like Blindsided and Mean Streets and Pastel Houses.) Bringing in Captain Fuller was a change for the better, I think. I had trouble taking Captain Jenko seriously as the guy in charge at times.

    I love how much Tom Hanson changes throughout the series. Johnny definitely puts his stamp on him, which is always a good thing.

    Thanks for visiting!