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CHiPs title screen.jpg
Title screen
Created by Rick Rosner
Starring Larry Wilcox (1977–1982)
Erik Estrada
Robert Pine
Tom Reilly (1982–1983)
Composer(s) John Parker
Mike Post (1.1, 1.5, 1.6)
Pete Carpenter (with Post)
Robert Drasnin
JJ Johnson
Nelson Riddle (1.16)
Billy May
Alan Silvestri
George Romanis (2.2)
Bruce Broughton (2.6)
Luchi de Jesus (season 6)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 139 (List of episodes)
Running time 48 minutes per episode (excluding commercials)
Production company(s) Rosner Television
MGM Television
Original channel NBC
Original run September 15, 1977 – July 17, 1983

CHiPs is an American television drama series produced by MGM Studios (now owned by Turner Entertainment) that originally aired on NBC from September 15, 1977, to July 17, 1983. CHiPs followed the lives of two motorcycle police officers of the California Highway Patrol. The series ran for 139 episodes over six seasons.


CHiPs was a lightweight action crime drama, which included elements of comedy in every episode (several of the first season episodes play as out-and-out comedies). Over-the-top freeway pileups, which occurred in almost every episode, were a signature of the show. There was little if any actual violence on CHiPs, and the show can be classified as a dramedy. The episodes filled a standard hour-long time slot, which at the time required 48 minutes of actual programming.

The show was created by Rick Rosner, and starred Erik Estrada as macho, rambunctious Officer Francis ("Frank") Llewellyn "Ponch" Poncherello and Larry Wilcox as his straight-laced partner, Officer Jonathan "Jon" Baker. With Ponch the more trouble-prone of the pair, and Jon generally the more level-headed one trying to keep him out of trouble with the duo's gruff yet fatherly commanding officer Sergeant Joseph Getraer (Robert Pine), the two were Highway Patrolmen of the Central Los Angeles office of the California Highway Patrol (CHP, hence the name CHiPs).

As real-life CHP motor officers rarely ride in pairs, in early episodes this was explained away by placing the trouble-prone Ponch on probationary status, with Jon assigned as his field training officer. Eventually, by the end of the first season, this subplot faded away (Ponch completed his probation) as audiences were used to seeing the two working as a team.

A typical CHiPs episode[edit]

CHiPs episodes were usually a combination of light comedy and melodrama. A typical episode would start with Ponch and Jon on routine patrol or being assigned to an interesting beat, such as Malibu or the Sunset Strip. In roll call briefing, Sgt. Getraer would alert his officers to be on the lookout for a particular criminal operation, such as people staging accidents as part of an insurance scam or punks breaking into cars. A few interesting, unrelated vignettes often transpired during the course of "routine" traffic enforcement.

A light-hearted subplot would also be included, such as Harlan trying to hide a stray dog from Getraer at the office. A more serious theme, such as Ponch trying to keep a kid from his old neighborhood out of a potential life of crime, might also be included. After a few failed attempts to apprehend the gang that had been menacing L.A.'s freeways, the episode would invariably culminate in Ponch and Jon leading a chase of the suspects (often assisted by other members of their division), climaxing with a spectacular series of stunt vehicle crashes.

The show then typically featured a dénouement of Ponch and Jon participating in a new activity (such as jet skiing or skydiving), designed to showcase the pair's glamorous Southern California lifestyle. Often, Ponch would attempt to impress a woman he had met during the episode with his athletic prowess or disco dancing, only to fail and provide Jon, Getraer, and others with many laughs. As the preliminary end credits would start, the image would freeze multiple times, showing various characters laughing or otherwise enjoying the social scene.

Some of the more outlandish plots included Ponch and Bobby helping a girl who believed that she was being targeted by UFOs and them racing against time to defuse a battery about to explode on an intelligent experimental police robot.

Officers rarely drew their service weapons on the show. Officer Barry Baricza was the only officer to ever draw a gun (twice he drew his Colt Python and once he unracked his Ithaca 37 riot gun).


According to a 1998 TV Guide article, show creator Rick Rosner was a reserve deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. During a coffee break on an evening patrol shift in the mid-1970s he saw two young CHP officers on motorcycles which gave him the idea for this series. He later created 240-Robert, which seemed like a hybrid of CHiPs and Emergency!.

California Highway Patrol, "CHiPs" era, motor officer helmet

Episodes occasionally reference Jon Baker's service in Vietnam. This makes his character one of the earliest regular (and one of the more positive) portrayals of a Vietnam veteran on television. Larry Wilcox served 13 months in Vietnam as a Marine artilleryman.

Though public perception links the later P-Series Kawasaki Police Special with the series, in fact they rode the C-Series Kawasaki, which had an oval windshield rather than the later model's fiberglass fairing.

Filming locations were generally in the San Fernando Valley of California. Freeway crashes were performed on recently constructed highways that were not yet open to the public. For the first season, the Glendale Freeway (Highway 2) in Montrose, California was used. After the first season, the intersection of the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) and the Simi Valley Freeway (Highway 118) in Sylmar, California were used. For the racing scenes in the episode "Drive, Lady, Drive" they used the Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California.

Although doubles were used for far-off shots and various stunt or action sequences, Wilcox and Estrada did a great deal of their own motorcycle riding, and performed many smaller stunts themselves. Although Wilcox emerged relatively injury-free, Estrada suffered various injuries several times throughout the run of the series. In several early first season episodes, a huge bruise or scar can be seen on his arm after he was flung from one of the motorcycles and skidded along the ground. But his worst accident came when he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident while filming a season three episode in August 1979, fracturing several ribs and breaking both wrists. The accident and Estrada's subsequent hospitalization was incorporated into the series' storyline.

Prior to being cast in CHiPs Estrada had no experience with motorcycles, so he underwent an intensive eight-week course, learning how to ride. In 2007 it was revealed that he did not hold a motorcycle license at the time CHiPs was in production, and only qualified for a license after three attempts, while preparing for an appearance on the reality television show Back to the Grind.

Estrada and Wilcox never drew their firearms over the course of the series. (This did occur in the made-for-TV reunion movie CHiPs '99.) The only character on the series depicted as drawing his firearm was Baricza (Brodie Greer), and he did so three times. The first was his radio car's Ithaca 37 shotgun in season 1's episode "Rainy Day",[1] where the CHiPs conduct a felony traffic stop of a motorhome-based casino.[2] The second was in season 2's premiere, "Peaks and Valleys", against two hillbillies armed with a Tommy-gun and a double-barrel shotgun who had ambushed his unattended patrol car for fun. Here the action was only implied, with his hand motion just below camera range. The last was in season 4's "Karate", in which a karate-trained car burglar (Danny Bonaduce) attacked him with a , but Baricza drew his gun to stop Bonaduce.

NBC aired reruns of this series on its 1982 daytime schedule from April to September.

During the original run of the series, syndicated reruns of older episodes were retitled CHiPs Patrol to avoid confusion.[3] Later syndicated reruns after the show went out of production reverted to the original title.

Cast of characters[edit]

The cast of CHiPs (from left: Erik Estrada as "Ponch", Robert Pine as Getraer, and Larry Wilcox as Jon)
  • Larry Wilcox as Officer Jonathan A. Baker (1977–1982) / 7-Mary-3
  • Erik Estrada as Officer Francis (Frank) Llewelyn "Ponch" Poncherello / 7-Mary-4 (15-Mary-6 in the final season)
  • Robert Pine as Sergeant Joseph (Joe) Getraer / S-4
  • Lew Saunders as Officer Gene Fritz (1977–1979) / 5-David-5 (7-David in some episodes)
  • Brodie Greer as Officer Barry "Bear" Baricza (1977–1982) / 7-Adam
  • Paul Linke as Officer Arthur (Artie) "Grossie" Grossman / 7-Mary-5
  • Lou Wagner as Harlan Arliss, Automobile/Motorcycle Mechanic, CHP (1978–1983)
  • Brianne Leary as Officer Sindy Cahill (1978–1979) / 7-Charles
  • Randi Oakes as Officer Bonnie Clark (1979–1982) / 7-Charles
  • Michael Dorn as Officer Jebediah Turner (1979–1982) / 7-David
  • Tom Reilly as Officer Bobby "Hot Dog" Nelson (1982–1983) / 15-Mary-7
  • Tina Gayle as Officer Kathy Linahan (1982–1983) / 7-Mary-10
  • Bruce Penhall as Cadet/Officer Bruce Nelson (1982–1983) / 15-Mary-8
  • Clarence Gilyard, Jr. as Officer Benjamin Webster (1982–1983)
  • Bruce Jenner as Officer Steve McLeish (1981–1982)

Cast changes[edit]

In the fifth season (1981–1982), Estrada went on strike over a dispute over syndication profits. As a result he did not appear in seven episodes; for that period he was replaced by Bruce Jenner (Officer Steve McLeish).[4][5] Despite their successful pairing on-screen, Wilcox and Estrada did not always get along behind the camera.[6] However, it was Wilcox's falling-out with the producers over what he saw as continual favoritism toward Estrada that saw Wilcox not return for the sixth and final season. Wilcox was replaced by Tom Reilly (Officer Bobby Nelson).

Bruce Penhall, a native of Balboa Island, Newport Beach and a Motorcycle speedway rider who had won the 1981 and 1982 Speedway World Championships, was also introduced as cadet–probationary officer Bruce Nelson, Bobby's younger brother in 1982–83. The season 6 episode "Speedway Fever" (aired November 7, 1982) centered on Penhall's character Nelson winning the 1982 Speedway World Final at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with scenes filmed in the pits during the meeting. The episode also used television coverage of the final (with dubbed commentary). Penhall later admitted that having a bodyguard and having to have makeup done in the pits in full view of his competitors at the World Final only added to the pressure he was under both as a rider and a rookie actor and that it felt weird having to "buddy up to Ponch" in front of the other riders while the World Final was taking place. In order to become a full-time member of the CHiPs cast, Penhall had officially announced his retirement from speedway racing on the podium of the 1982 World Final.

Estrada apparently did not approve of Reilly's work ethic and was very displeased with Reilly's real life arrest by the LAPD for possession of controlled substances during a traffic stop. As a result, Bobby was featured much less prominently in later episodes of the season, with Bruce taking his place for most of the remaining episodes.

Broadcast history[edit]

(all times Eastern/Pacific Time; subtract one hour for Central/Mountain Time)

  • September, 1977 – March, 1978: NBC Thursday, 8-9PM
  • April, 1978: NBC Saturday, 8-9PM
  • May – August, 1978: NBC Thursday, 8-9PM
  • September, 1978 – March, 1980: NBC Saturday, 8-9PM
  • March, 1980 – March, 1983: NBC Sunday, 8-9PM
  • April – May, 1983: NBC Sunday, 7-8PM
  • May – July, 1983: NBC Sunday, 8-9PM
  • September, 2014 – present: reruns on MeTV, Monday-Friday, 6PM Eastern/Pacific, 5PM Central/Mountain.


In the United Kingdom, the series was broadcast by ITV. The series started in early 1979 in most regions, and was originally screened in the Saturday tea-time slot around 17:35 but moved to the Sunday teatime slot in 1980. By 1981, as with many imported programmes of the era, the series was being broadcast at different times and days (always Saturday or Sunday) throughout the year by the different ITV regions, sharing its Saturday slot with other series such as The A-Team, Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I. and Whiz Kids.

By early 1985, the series was being broadcast during Saturday mornings by Anglia, Central, Grampian, Granada, STV and Tyne Tees; all completed the series by end of the 1985. HTV and Yorkshire completed the series by 1986, while LWT, TVS and TSW finally finished series six in 1987 after starting in 1985. A few companies repeated the series in 1987.

The entire series was shown in New Zealand on TVNZ in the 1980s.

Home media[edit]

Warner Home Video has released the first two seasons of CHiPs on DVD in Regions 1, 2 & 4. The third season DVD is slated for Region 1 release on March 3, 2015.[needs update]

Seasons 1 and 2 are also available for purchase at the online iTunes Store.[7][8]

DVD Name Ep # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 (UK) Region 4
The Complete First Season 22 June 5, 2007 August 20, 2007 September 6, 2007
The Complete Second Season 23 June 3, 2008 September 22, 2008 September 3, 2008
The Complete Third Season 24 March 3, 2015 - -


A series of 334" action figures was released by Mego in the late 1970s. Due to the materials used to construct the figures, many of them have discolored (typically turning green) or started to decompose over the years, making good conditioned examples quite hard to find on the collectors market.[citation needed] There was also a series of six die-castdiecast model vehicles produced by Imperial Toys.

In the UK, as was common with many popular US series of the era, a series of tie-in annuals were produced by World International Publishing Ltd, containing stories, photos, puzzles and features on the stars. There are four annuals in total, one each for 1980–83.[citation needed]

In 2006, a limited edition soundtrack was released on CD by Turner Classic Movies' music division via Film Score Monthly, featuring the original recordings of the main theme by John Parker (Parker's theme replaced an unused composition by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, who scored the pilot) and in-episode musical scores from many episodes of the second season, as composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri, the series' primary (and from seasons three to five sole) composer until the final season. Silvestri also arranged the theme as heard from season two onwards, and it is this version that is heard here – the soundtrack album also includes the "Trick or Treat" score composed and conducted by Bruce Broughton, his only work for the series.[9] In 2008, music from the third season was released; an album of music from the fourth season followed in 2010.

In popular culture[edit]

In the Galactica 1980 episode "The Super Scouts", a California Highway Patrol motor officer references CHiPs by lamenting to his partner, "How come this never happens to those two guys on TV?" when two Colonial warriors escape the CHP duo by using flying motorcycles.

Erik Estrada portrayed the character of Ponch on the first-season Family Guy episode, "I Never Met the Dead Man".

The alternative rock band Seven Mary Three gets its name from Jon's call sign.[10]

The 2014 Disney film Planes: Fire & Rescue features a parody TV series titled CHoPs, with Estrada providing the voice of helicopter officer Nick "Loop'n" Lopez.[11]

CHiPs '99[edit]

CHiPs '99
CHiPs '99 FilmPoster.jpeg
CHiPs '99 Movie Poster
Directed by Jon Cassar
Produced by Erik Estrada
Chris Morgan
Rick Rosner
Larry Wilcox
Written by Rick Rosner
Morgan Gendel
Starring Larry Wilcox
Erik Estrada
Robert Pine
Paul Korver
David Ramsey
Brodie Greer
Bruce Penhall
Paul Linke
Music by Stacy Widelitz
Cinematography David Geddes
Edited by Ron Spang
Distributed by Turner Films, Inc.
Release dates
  • October 27, 1998 (1998-10-27)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

CHiPs '99 is a made-for-television sequel to the series. It was directed by Jon Cassar and shown on Turner Network Television in the USA on October 27, 1998. Several cast members from the original series make a return. Original cast with promotions were Jon Baker as a Captain and Joe Getraer as the CHP Commissioner. Other original cast members were Officer Frank Poncherello returning from a 15-year hiatus with the CHP and Officer Barry Baricza.


In 2005, a theatrical release motion picture version of the show was announced, starring Wilmer Valderrama as Ponch,[12] though as of 2013 this production was still "stalled".[13] Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox were rumored to make cameo appearances. In a 2002 episode of MADtv, Valderrama and fellow That '70s Show cast member Danny Masterson were featured in two parodies of CHiPs, which featured the two actors as Ponch and Baker respectively. Mila Kunis also appeared in the second sketch. In a 2002 episode of That '70s Show, Valderrama's character, Fez, was seen in the "most likely" section of the yearbook as "most likely to appear as Ponch in a musical version of CHiPs".

On September 2, 2014, Warner Bros. announced a film adaptation of the show, which Andrew Panay would be producing along with Dax Shepard.[14] Shepard will also write, direct and star in the film as Officer Jon Baker; Michael Peña will play Frank “Ponch” Poncherello.[15]


  1. ^ " Episode Guide, Episode 120". Retrieved June 30, 2006. 
  2. ^ " Episode Guide, Episode 416". Retrieved June 30, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Journal of the Audio Engineering Society". Audio Engineering Society. March 1986. p. 190. 
  4. ^ McNeil, Alex. Total Television. 1980. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
  5. ^ Rubin, Sylvia (October 27, 1998). "Estrada, Wilcox Cash In With New 'CHiPs '99' / Popular '70s show gets updated in TNT movie". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  6. ^ Bob Lardine. "Larry Wilcox Busses His New Bride, but 'CHiPs' Co-Star Erik Estrada Gets a Kiss-Off". People (magazine). Retrieved November 17, 2008. 
  7. ^ ''CHiPs'' season 1 at the iTunes Store. (June 4, 2007). Retrieved on 2011-08-11.
  8. ^ ''CHiPs'' season 2 at the iTunes Store. (July 7, 2008). Retrieved on 2011-08-11.
  9. ^ Liner notes, CHiPs: Season Two 1978-79, Film Score Monthly, FSM0910
  10. ^ "Seven Mary Three Biography". Retrieved 2014-10-21. 
  11. ^ "Meet the Characters from Planes: Fire & Rescue". Disney Insider. 2014-03-10. Retrieved 2014-10-21. 
  12. ^ "Valderrama saddles up for 'CHiPs' remake". Yahoo! Movies. December 8, 2005. Archived from the original on December 10, 2005. Retrieved August 2, 2011. 
  13. ^ Elavsky, Cindy (6 October 2013). "Celebrity Extra". King Features. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  14. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (September 2, 2014). "Dax Shepard Driving Warner Bros ‘CHiPS’ Film; Michael Pena To Play Ponch". Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  15. ^ Couch, Aaron (September 2, 2014). "Dax Shepard Making 'CHiPS' Movie for Warner Bros.". Retrieved September 3, 2014. 

External links[edit]

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