Sunday, January 09, 2011

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp--21 Jump Street (Season 4)

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


The Final Year
I know, you've been sweatin' it all month long, but don't worry: Hanson got out of jail during the first episode of 21 Jump Street's fourth season. Imagine how I felt when I had to wait all summer! It turned out that, even though he thought he might have, Hanson didn't murder anyone at all! He was framed! I knew it!

As the years went by, the producers must have realized the Jump Street cast was getting older. While the show still covered its typical issues—drugs, violence, abuse—the series seemed to be running out of ideas true to its original premise of crimes in high schools. I remember Season 4 most for the main characters’ personal stories. This season, Hanson--who 4 years ago was squeaky clean and green--experiences life in and after prison, Ioki recovers from nearly fatal gunshot wounds and his addiction to pain killers, and Hoffs is assaulted! Booker breaks some rules to get Hanson out of jail and loses his job as a result--all commendable, but I still find him to be an untrustworthy mystery.

The Star of the Season
Hanson and Penhall in "La Bizca"
©Fox
For me, Penhall (Peter Deluise) stole the show in Season 4. We bonded over our mutual disgust with Booker’s involvement in Hanson arrest. Then he fell and love and turned into a prince. In a storyline that had me glued to the TV, Penhall falls for Marta, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, whom he later suspects being involved in a baby-selling ring. (See what I mean about the lack of student-driven stories?) After realizing he was wrong, he asks her to marry him in an effort to save her from deportation. Since this all happened within 5 days of their meeting, the judge in charge of Marta's case refuses to recognize the marriage and sends back to her war-torn country. In a later episode called "La Bizca," Penhall and—for moral support—Hanson travel to El Salvador to find her. Although too late, Penhall agrees to care for her nephew Clavo and adjusts to fatherhood for the rest of the season.

Aside from this fascinating drama, this season is jumbled. Episodes aired out of order. One week, Captain Fuller has a beard. Next week, he doesn't. The week after, he does. Then, he doesn't. In one episode, he says he can't remember the last time he saw his son Kip when loyal viewers know it was just a couple of years ago that Kip visited and was introduced to everyone at Jump Street.

The Star Ready to Go
"You talkin' to me?"
("Old Haunts in the New Age")
©Fox
By now, Johnny was clearly over working on 21 Jump Street. In some episode--in what I can only guess is protest--his face is covered by his hair and he barely speaks. This tactic is most noticeable in "Blackout," an episode that was filmed during Season 4 but aired as the first episode of Season 5. In other Season 4 episodes, Johnny occupies himself in scenes by tossing fruit or playing with desk props. In the Halloween episode, he dressed up as Robert DeNiro's character in Taxi DriverPeter Deluise explains, "Johnny was always very cool, a very misunderstood guy. He was incredibly shy and because of that, he'd keep quite quiet." Many people mistook Johnny's shyness for aloofness, and the massive publicity caused by the show drove him crazy. Growing out his hair until it completely covered his face, Peter says, was a reaction to all that. 


Chillin' in "Wheels and Deals, Part 2"
©Fox
In a 2008 interview with David Letterman, Johnny recalled an incident that expressed his feelings back then. Driving on Fox's California lot, he spotting a billboard that featured his close-up, posing with a gun. "Some kids pack lunch," it read. He and a friend returned to the site that night on roller skates. Armed with paint buckets and rollers, they blanked out the gun and were improving the rest of the image with their own artwork before being interrupted by a security guard.

Confused, the guard notices the resemblance: "That's you."
"I know." Johnny confirms.
"Well, what are you doing?"
"I don't like it. I think it's wrong."
Flustered, the guard looks at his watch and responds, "Well....hurry!" The billboard was gone the next day.

Despite his frustration, Johnny put in some spectacular performances this season, from the El Salvador to his salute to Charlie Chaplin. Exciting guest stars included: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Vince Vaughn, Rosie Perez, and John Waters. Let's get to it!

Here, The Kitties highlight Johnny's fourth and final season on 21 Jump Street:
21 Jump Street, Season 4 (October 23, 2010)

Episode 56. Draw the Line: In the first episode of the season, Hanson fulfills my fantasy and punches Booker out for getting him arrested for murder.


Episode 57. Say It Ain't So, Pete: I randomly videotaped this episode when it first aired and since saved and savored it. It's an ordinary episode, but I came to love it just because—until these DVD sets came out—it's all I had left to remember the Jump Street Years. Investigating a college gambling operation, Hanson (shown here) is taken to the racetrack and wins a bet on a horse. Also in this episode, Hoffs is promoted to detective, and Ioki returns to work after his long, worrisome hospital stay.


Episode 59. Come from the Shadows: Penhall experiences love at first sight with cafeteria lunch lady, Marta, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.


Episode 66. Wheels and Deals, Part 2: Because he ran the risk of being recognized by those involved, everyone but Hanson helps bring down the top guy behind his murder charge in this two-part episode. Hoffs--who was kept out of the operation--becomes suspicious when everyone comes down with a mysterious case of "bad clams" and she finds Hanson lounging behind Captain Fuller's desk, eating grapes. I remembered nothing from this episode except for their scene together, which still makes me laugh.


Episode 73. Hi Mom: Captain Fuller gets a second visit teenage son, Kip, who first appeared in Season 2. Enrolled in college, Kip decides to move in with his dad instead of the dorms.


Episode 74. Awomp-Bomp-Aloobomp, Aloop-Bamboom: Hanson and Penhall follow a student who is searching for his ex-girlfriend during Spring Break in Florida. To get there from their cold, snowy surroundings, they end up on a bus trip led by cult leader, Mr. Bean, played by John Waters. I didn't remember John Waters being a guest star on 21 Jump Street--a very strange place for him to be. But it was a wonderful sign of things to come! It meant that, by this silly episode, Johnny had seen light at the end of the tunnel, having spent his summer working with this famed director on his next film project.


Episode 75. La Bizca: In one of my favorite episodes, Penhall and Hanson go to El Salvador to save Marta. Tragically unsuccessful, Penhall returns home with his adorable nephew Clavo. (Mini is thrilled to join the cast in this role!)


Episode 79. How I Saved the Senator: This is the best episode ever. It ended up being Johnny’s last for the series. All of the Jump Street officers attended an event during which a senator is attacked. They each claim to have a hand in saving the day. A reporter comes to them for their stories in hopes of scoring a movie deal, so they tell their own versions—imagining themselves as the star of a movie in their favorite film genre. Ioki's Bruce Lee tribute was my favorite. Hoffs played a '40s jazz singer with a sly ex-boyfriend played by Ray Parker, Jr. Sal was stuck in a horror film fighting off a multiple-masked killer with a plunger. Penhall channeled James Bond. As a cowboy, Captain Fuller rode on horseback into the sunset. Asked to tell his side of the story, Hanson responded, "There are no words," and paid tribute to Charlie Chaplin in his own little silent movie.

Johnny made a fitting exit from his 4-year stint on TV, don’t you think? What’s your favorite episode from Johnny’s last season on 21 Jump Street?

Glory, hallelujah!
Although committed to one more season of 21 Jump Street, Johnny is released from his contract, finds a fantastic new agent named Tracey Jacobs, and heads back to Hollywood on his own terms.

See you there next month when we meet Cry-Baby!

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