returned with even more spectacular car crashes and more cute girls for Ponch (Erik Estrada) to charm. The series really hit its stride in this second season (aired in 1978 and '79), balancing nerve-tingling stunts with human drama and whimsical escapades. On the high-tension side, you have a school bus that careens out of control and Jon (Larry Wilcox) has to jump on the roof to rescue the kids inside; trucks jackknife across the highway, causing multiple pileups; an ambulance overturns, trapping a girl in an iron lung; an investigation of dirt-bike vandals leads to angel dust dealers. Then, to lighten things up, Ponch gets a boa constrictor wrapped around his leg and has to help out a team of stranded cheerleaders. But more than anything, this second season was a showcase for Estrada's easy, perfect-for-television charisma. Not only was he handsome and cocky, he could be surprisingly gentle and compassionate, as when he rescued a suicidal woman about to lose her home. Wilcox, even at his best, never seemed fully comfortable in his role, but Estrada radiated the kind of relaxed pleasure that invites the audience's adoration. There were certainly silly moments (the Supercycle! A tiger in a deli mart! Ponch and Jon help a woman give birth in a disco!) and the increase in cars bursting into flame stretches credulity, but most of CHiPs
stays reasonably down-to-earth and is all the more enjoyable for it. In fact, the low-key cinematography, without a lot of frantic editing, often makes the car crashes all the more vivid and jolting. This season also introduced more supporting characters, including the first significant female officer on the show, Sindy Cahill (played by the charming Brianne Leary). The boxed set features only one extra, a promotional featurette about the real California Highway Patrol, who love the show about as much as the show loves them--though the real cops' hair is decidedly less fluffy. --Bret Fetzer
Cant drive 55? Theres a ticket with your name on it sign here, please. Just jumped three freeway lanes and endangered everyone in your path? Pull it over, pal, and dig out that license and registration. California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers Jon Baker and Francis "Ponch" Poncherello are on patrol. Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox return as Ponch and Jon, and the action and fun are ready to roll in 22 road- ripping episodes. Also returning: Robert Pine as amiable Sgt. Getraer. Strap on helmets and goggles for a deadly chain-reaction crash, the appearance of a nettlesome TV-news crew, Ponchs disco dancing, Halloween patrol and a caped biker daredevil. Remember: safety first. And always signal before turning.