Wednesday, September 12, 2012

21 Jump Street: "Pilot (Part 1)"

Today I'm showcasing a post from my newer blog The Chapel Files ( I've made it a little project to watch and critique every episode of the show that made Johnny Depp a household name, costarring the funny and very attractive Peter DeLuise. Enjoy! And feel free to check out The Chapel Files.

The episode begins with the show's do-it-yourself theme song with Holly Robinson (who plays Judy Hoffs) on lead vocals. The backup screams of "JUMP!" are provided by Johnny Depp, who plays Tom Hanson, and Peter DeLuise who plays Doug Penhall. Holly's not a bad singer at all, but I'm a bit curious as to why they didn't have somebody else perform the theme song. Budget issues probably had something to do with it...

We move on to the first scene. A preppy, wealthy family (the Weckerles) is getting ready for dinner: Mom, Dad, and their two teenage children Noreen and Kenny. Noreen's discussing a classmate's dad getting busted for drunk driving. Mom sniffily scolds her "Criminals get busted; Mr. Baumler was...arrested." Kenny announces he's turning boredom into an art form via playing clarinet. Mom serves the family meatloaf.

This Leave It to Beaver moment is interrupted by two black teenagers breaking into the house through the dining room window. They're looking for Kenny, who owes them $6,000. Kenny tearfully promises the money if they give him more time. The larger boy, Waxer, demands the keys to Dad's Jaguar. Dad is reluctant. "Give us the keys or we take little sister here to the prom!" sneers the other boy.

After the boys leave with the keys, Kenny's dad heads to the kitchen to call the police. Kenny flips out and doesn't want the police called.

Cut to a diner, where a painfully young-looking Johnny Depp is sitting in a police cruiser talking to his partner Charlie. Charlie is the classic "6 months left 'til retirement and don't wanna risk my neck doing police work" cop. Johnny, AKA Tom Hanson, asks Charlie if that's what he was taught in the academy. Charlie responds with: "30 years ago, there wasn't any academy. You rode in the backseat of a black-and-white for a week and a half." As a criminal justice student, I found the attention to detail regarding the history of policing to be a nice touch.

Charlie makes it clear that he doesn't really want to ride with Tom. Tom's previous two partners ended up with broken noses due to his tendency to charge headfirst into situations. Tom and Charlie peel out of the diner parking lot with the food tray still attached to the window; they're responding to a domestic disturbance call at the Weckerle residence. Dad recounts the story of the break-in while Noreen eyes up Tom. "Are you sure you're old enough to be a cop?" she asks. "You look just like that kid in Pretty In Pink."

The cops discover that Kenny is a band geek and nobody in his family has a clue who these kids were or why Kenny owes them $6,000. Charlie suggests kicking in the kid's door and beating the answer out of him. Tom chuckles nervously. Kenny speaks up from another room, trying to act tough. He fails miserably when he complains that he was grounded from a Eurhythmics concert for failing gym and says to Tom, "I don't have to tell you spit."

Tom and Charlie leave, agreeing to hand the case off to Juvenile. Charlie becomes suspicious of a car that stops for a green light and learns from the radio that the car was seen leaving a convenience store robbery. A chase ensues with Hanson driving erratically, flying down a one-way street. A pit maneuver ends the pursuit.

The suspects are ordered out of the car. They begin to taunt Tom about his baby face. Tom gets angry and ends up in a physical scuffle with them. Charlie comes over and tries to break it up. Tom's wild swing catches the older cop in the nose.

The next morning, Charlie is shown in the police locker room with  tape covering his broken nose. One of Tom's previous partners says he thinks Tom is a liability. Charlie disagrees; the kid's a good cop who doesn't like being picked on about how young he looks. Tom comes in and Charlie lets him know that the captain wants to see Tom.

On the way to his office, the captain complains to the rookie about the Vice detectives. "All they wanna do now is wear pink sportcoats and drive Ferraris." Freeze! Miami Vice! The subject turns to Tom as they sit down. The captain tells Tom he's not intimidating to suspects and nobody wants to ride with him anymore. He suggests Tom is too young. Tom thinks he's being fired and complains: "6 months at the academy and now I get to go manage a doughnut shop. Or maybe I could be one of those rent-a-cops who checks proof at a teen club."

The captain tells Tom that the department has a secret undercover program called Jump Street Chapel, which got its name because it's run out of an abandoned chapel on Jump Street. The program involves sending young-looking officers undercover in local high schools. Tom is initially uninterested, calling it "Fast Times at Bust-Your-Buddy High." He tells the captain that he hated high school the first time and lists his reasons why. The captain delivers an ultimatum: It's either Jump Street Chapel or driving a desk at Parker Center (the department's administrative building) until he looks old enough to be a cop.

Tom goes home to think about it, mournfully playing his saxophone in front of a framed picture of himself as a little boy with his dad Tom Hanson Senior. Tom Senior is in a police uniform. Tom plays an answering machine tape of what is presumably the last time he talked to his father, which was clearly a long time ago since the two discuss Tom Junior fighting at school.

Next we see Tom pulling up to an old church in a beauty of a '60s-era Mustang: blue paint job with black leather interior. He's wearing his patrolman uniform. The church's windows are boarded up and the surrounding neighborhood is also in disrepair. There are a few other vehicles near the church, notably a faded yellow van, a green roadster, and a blue-and-white motorcycle that looks like it could be a Harley-Davidson. 

Tom walks up into the loft of the church. It initially appears empty. Suddenly, he's ambushed from the side by a tall, heavyset cop with long curly brown hair and a pierced ear. It's Peter DeLuise. He looks over Hanson's attire and quips, "Guess nobody told ya this prom ain't a formal." He introduces himself as Doug Penhall. An Asian police officer played by Dustin Nguyen appears behind Doug. His name is H.T. Ioki.

Tom asks if he's in Jump Street Chapel, to which Doug replies "only if you're Catholic." This leads Doug and Harry to discuss  their respective lineage. The dialogue is delightfully politically incorrect. Doug reveals that his mother is Jewish, "which only means I get to celebrate both guilt and hell." Harry clarifies by saying that Doug's father used to be a priest and adds: "So don't play bingo with this guy; he's a killer."

Doug tells Tom that Ioki's initials stand for Harry Truman Ioki and asks him to guess what year Harry's parents immigrated to the United States. Harry deadpans that he's "named after the guy who dropped an atom bomb on my house."

Tom says he needs to talk to Captain Jenko. Doug turns and bellows "YO! JENK!" over his shoulder. Tom looks stunned that somebody would be summoning their superior in this fashion. A middle-aged man with long, stringy black hair makes a grand entrance by sliding down a yellow-and-red-striped fire pole. And I'll be damned, the actor is Frederic Forrest, AKA "Chef" from Apocalypse Now! He's wearing jeans and a leather bomber jacket  with a picture of Jim Morrison on the back.

The guy tells Tom that he's "been a Deadhead since Woodstock." Tom says he didn't go because he was only 5 years old and asks again where to find Jenko. Tom is shocked that this guy turns out to be Captain Jenko. He's equally confused by Jenko's hippie slang. He asks if he has time to get an omelet.

Jenko gives him a look. "When was the last time you saw a teenager have a cup of black coffee and an omelet for breakfast? From now on, it's potato chips, sodapop, pizza, and French fries." He tosses Tom a can of Coke and a bag of potato chips from his desk and cries, "It's the Pepsi Generation, sport!"

Jenko tells Tom that the rest of the undercover unit is several weeks ahead of him and Tom will have to be rushed through some of the training. He says he'll pair Tom with Officer Hoffs and shouts for Hoffs to wake up. Judy Hoffs, played by Holly Robinson, enters this office. It's obvious from the look on Tom's face that he thinks she's cute. "Run this cat down to wardrobe," Jenko instructs. "And for God's sakes, do something about that Jack Kennedy haircut."

Jenko leaves. Tom and Judy shake hands. He offers her a chip. A montage of Tom trying on clothes, getting a haircut, hanging out at an arcade with Judy, and buying records. By the end, Tom is clad in tight acid-washed jeans, boots, a black T-shirt, and a black leather jacket. His hairstyle is similar to James Dean's and he has a pierced ear.

At night, Tom has his first field training assignment, posing as Penhall's cousin. Jenko gives him firm instructions to buy drugs from the target, a kid named Jace, but not bust him. Tom and Jace head into an alley. Tom is visibly nervous. Jace gets suspicious and puts a gun to Tom's head. Tom tackles Jace and arrests him. Jenko tears into the alley and jumps out of his yellow van. He discovers that there were no drugs in the plastic bag, just a pair of smelly socks.

Jenko gives Tom a thorough ass-reaming in the street. "Now I gotta pull Penhall out!" he yells. "'Cause now the creeps who were hanging with Jace are gonna make him faster than Elton John in a hat shop!"

In the wee hours of the morning, Kenny leaves his parents' house on his motor scooter. He rides to what looks like downtown and starts delivering newspapers. He spots some watches on display and smashes the store's front window. He shoves them into his newspaper bag and rides away.

At Jump Street Chapel, the gang is gathered around a table for roll call. Doug is annoyed with Tom for blowing his cover. Judy is earning good grades and Jenko warns her "Honor students don't usually hang out with felons." Jenko tells Tom that he's been sent to Amherst High as a disciplinary transfer. Nothing is really going on at Amherst that the department knows of; it's just a chance for Tom to get his feet wet.

As Jenko dismisses them, Doug pounds on the table and lets out a loud wolf howl. Jenko mutters that he's glad Doug's on their side, giving us the hint that the big guy may be a little unstable.

In the Amherst parking lot, Tom makes the mistake of pulling into a parking space that's normally occupied by a red Ferrari. The luxury car belongs to Waxer, the guy who broke into Kenny Weckerle's house. The disagreement quickly turns physical. A teacher breaks it up and sends both boys to the principal's office.

Jake Schaffer, Amherst's principal, has a tedious conversation with Tom and Waxer using football metaphors ("completion record," "10 minutes into the first quarter on a Monday morning", etc). Tom learns that Tyrell "Waxer" Thompson is on probation. 

A short time later, Tom is in the hallway at his locker. With a jolt, he recognizes the guy a few lockers down; it's Kenny Weckerle. Kenny shouts for Waxer to leave him alone, but it's not Kenny that Waxer's interested in this time. Instead, Waxer approaches Tom.

"You gonna like it here at Amherst, boy. You gonna like it a lot if you like dyin'," Waxer threatens.

TO BE CONTINUED...flashes across the screen.