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Home » Culture and Criticism

21 Jump Street: “21 Jump Street, Part 1”

Submitted by on September 1, 2009 – 7:44 PM28 Comments


Credits.Speaking of credit, I have to give it to the theme song: it’s unpleasant to listen to, and yet it gets stuck in my head every time.

A suburban family, the Weckerles, readies for supper.The dialogue makes sure we’ve noted the generation gap: demi-punk daughter Noreen, with white-streaked dark hair and a graffiti-fonted “CORRUPT” sweatshirt on, blasts “rock” (actually the kind of vocals-free asthmatic guitar associated with bleak divorced-singles mixers in fern bars) while setting the table; Dad mutters darkly; and Mom kvetches that Noreen needs to eat real food.Mom addresses Noreen as “Anorexia” in the service of this goal, which is pretty funny and would never get past S&P anymore.Apparently, Noreen’s friend’s father got pinched for drunk driving, which Noreen finds hilarious.

On the end of this discussion, enter son Kenny Weckerle to add some color to Noreen’s portrait of the friend’s father as a total alkie.Kenny is played by Brandon Douglas, a star of the short-lived Felicity precursor Class of ’96 (he was the preppy kid) who’s probably better known as Dr. Andrew Cook on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.When Dad asks how the clarinet is going, Kenny grouses that he’s turning boredom into an art form.Mom chides Kenny that it’s the same clarinet Dad learned to play on.Kenny sarcastically bets that it comes in “real handy” when Dad wants to “serenade some doofus into a whole-life policy.”Point to Kenny.Dad wonders sadly what it is about him that Kenny doesn’t respect.”Nothing,” Kenny shrugs.”I just think the clarinet stinks.”If anything stinks here, it’s not the meatloaf, which Noreen insults; it’s the sound syncing, as Brandon Douglas clearly said “sucks” but had to re-loop the less offensive word in later, with Smithers‘s-naked-screensaver-of-Mr.-Burns-esque results.

brandougA few things to note before we move on to the scene’s payoff — the opener seems to go on for quite a long time; we don’t see a main character for like five minutes.I always forget, when watching “vintage” TV, that dramas back in the day ran 46-48 minutes, not the 42-44 we’re more used to now.Eric Deggans once observed in an interview that older shows felt very slow and squarely edited to him, in contrast to current dramas, and whenever I’m watching an old L.A. Law rerun or something, I’m reminded of that.

But the sequence isn’t without its takeaways, to wit: 1) the clarinet in the first act does tootle in the third; 2) Kenny, while somewhat teenager-y, is not markedly sullen, withdrawn, rude, or out of it here; and 3) this is the last time that any scenery sharing a scene with Brandon Douglas will escape unscathed.

Okay, so: Noreen has just dissed the ‘loaf when two African-American dudes crash through the glass doors just behind the dining-room table.The leader is in semi-Michael Jackson drag — red jacket, aviators, curl of Jheri — and brandishing a shotgun and some Terminatoid dialogue: “Stay quiet, stay alive!”Shrieking and begging for mercy ensues; Dad asks what Beefier Michael Jackson could possibly want, and BMJ orders him to ask his “cry-boy” son, then grabs Kenny’s face and snarls that Kenny owes him six grand.”Do you know these boys?” Mom quavers, and it takes me a second to realize she means BMJ and his sidekick, since they both look 30.”MOM, PLEEEEEASE!” Kenny bawls, and promises that he’ll get the money, he just needs more time, blah blah blah, at which time BMJ shoots the TV and says time’s up.He’ll just take that Jag in the driveway as a down payment.Dad’s not having it, but Sidekick monotones that he should “give up the keys — or we take little sister here to the prom!”Noreen is somewhat titillated by this prospect, but also somewhat terrified; Dad hands over the keys.”It was nice meetin’ you folks,” Sidekick Snidely Whiplashes.”Sorry we can’t stay for dinner.”

Endless shot of Sidekick pulling out in the Jag, and BMJ pulling out in the Ferrari they appear to have arrived in, as the cheaply-fonted guest credits roll.An early-generation Casio set to “marimba” lets us know that these dudes are bad news.

Back inside, Brandon Douglas is, based on the windmilling that passes for his physical blocking, evidently under the impression that he’s in a silent movie — despite the fact that he is yelling at the very tippy-top of his lungs at Dad not to call the cops, even yanking the phone cord out of the wall.Dad calmly plugs it back in, pointing out that BMJ and Sidekick tried to kill them.”YOU CALL THEM AND THEY WILL KILL ME!”Before Dad can explain that screeching through gritted teeth is not exactly “acting,” we cut to…

…Officer Charlie, played by Hey, It’s That Fat Cop Or Security Guard! Barney Martin, explaining a few things about shoot-outs and wimpy public defenders to rookie Officer Tom Hanson.To the surprise of no one who has watched television before, Hanson wants to get in there at crime scenes and bust some heads, while Charlie counsels safety (and laziness), because?…Come on, you know this one.Why won’t Charlie go into a shoot-out, even if there’s a hostage?Thaaaat’s right: he’s six months away from his pension, as he explains while an extra hooks a drive-in tray to the police cruiser, setting up an unfunny sight gag in a few minutes.

9486090_tmlAnyway, Hanson protests by-the-book keener new-kid blah, Charlie drones back “30 years ago there was no ‘academy’ — just the streets” blah, then mentions that Hanson’s previous two partners wound up with broken noses: “Seems you like to roll in hot and kick tails.”Well, if his last two partners also talked like a parody of a noir film starring Nelson Eddy, I’m starting to understand why Hanson has a chip on his shoulder, but anyway, Hanson demurs, and Charlie says that, “with that babyface you got,” everyone else has probably been kicking Hanson’s tail since the seventh grade.Hanson makes a boo-boo face.”I knew your dad,” Charlie says, more gently.Hanson whips his face toward Charlie in a classic bit of My Dead Dad Informs Everything I Do On The Job business; Charlie goes on that Hanson Sr. was a good cop, and “a hell of a lot bigger than” Hanson, and then a call comes in on the radio about the Weckerle home invasion and they have to peel out, scattering the tray and its contents and spilling Charlie’s coffee all over Hanson, who wails, “Yeerrrrrrrr, thank you!”

At the Weckerle residence, Hanson and Charlie take the report; Charlie isn’t optimistic about the Jag’s chances of surviving unchopped.Meanwhile, Noreen makes eyes at an uncomfortable Hanson, whose hair was clearly already styled for the signature 21JS men’s anti-gravity updo, then pasted back down for his patrol scenes.Dad says that Kenny locked himself in his room and won’t tell him anything, and Noreen smirks that, the last time this happened, Dad had forbidden him to go to the Eurythmics concert (drink!) because he got a D in gym.Then she asks Hanson if he’s old enough to be a cop: “You look just like that kid in Pretty In Pink.”Drink!Hanson uses cop-speak to ask if Kenny knows BMJ and Sidekick; after Charlie translates, Noreen says she doubts it: “They were pretty hard guys.Kenny’s in the school band.”Hee.

Mom comes in with beverages and reports that Kenny still won’t come down; he’s scared.Charlie makes a “joke” about his ulcer, then another “joke” calling Hanson “Clint Eastwood,” then tells Hanson that since he just finished the unit on “domestics,” he’s up — although Charlie himself would just take the hinges off the door and “beat” the information out of Kenny.Hanson covers with a joke and asks if Kenny is a good student.”Yeah, except in gym,” grumps an offscreen Kenny.Cut to the stairs, where Kenny is slouched in a sad-clown delinquent pose.On the landing radiator directly behind him is a creepy stuffed monkey.”And if you’re bad at that, you don’t get to go see the Eurythmics,” he adds with a rubbery frown.Mom says the police are there to help; when he scoffs, Dad orders Kenny downstairs, and when Kenny still doesn’t move, Hanson steps in.

“Pretty scared, huh?” he asks Kenny, as though talking to a toddler who doesn’t want to take a bath.Kenny glares at him through tears but stays silent.Hanson asks if Kenny knew the guys.Kenny lifts his head and whispers, “I won’t tell you spit.”Good one!…Wait, what?”It’s not against the law to be afraid,” Hanson tries, but Kenny wants to be left alone.”Okay.But what happens if they come back?”Hopefully they’ll bring an acting coach with them; Kenny imitates Mr. Staypuft’s angry face and flounces to his room.

Outside, Charlie gives Hanson shit for not getting any info.Hanson is blasé; Kenny wasn’t going to tell them the truth, so they’ll turn him over to juvie and let them handle him with a tough-love program or something.Charlie’s like, whatever, and lets Hanson drive the cruiser, throwing in a gratuitous warning to watch the potholes because Charlie has hemorrhoids.Unfunny banter re: Charlie’s wife.

Elsewhere in the city, three dudes take what seems like a fortnight to rob a convenience store.One of them baby-walks out of the fridge, clinging to a six-pack of beer.Hee.They peel out; the owner calls the cops.

In the car, Charlie and Hanson theorize on what’s got Kenny over a barrel with BMJ, and settle on drugs.We’ll see other examples of the mindset later, but this was the era in which the anti-drug message — both TV’s and the government’s — was utterly without nuance; supposedly “addicted” characters acted completely normal…until they started acting like Helen Hunt in that After School Special where she took PCP and jumped out a window, at which time they either died, or they got help, apologized to their parents, and were rehabbed upon discharge from the hospital.In other words, get used to hearing the word “drugs” followed by a literal minor-chord sting on the soundtrack…and remember that, to this point in the episode, there is no evidence that Kenny is actually taking drugs, with the exception of Shatneritin.

Desperate-livesHanson agrees, saying Kenny didn’t look like a junkie, but Charlie asks if he expected “Lenny Bruce” (drink!) and get-off-my-lawns that, “nowadays, you’ll find more junkies in pro sports than you will at a jazz club.”Then Charlie sees the convenience-store getaway car coming the other way and his Spidey sense tells Hanson to turn around.Hanson flips a bitch, and they pull up alongside the getaway car to ask if everything’s okay.Yes, says the driver.You sure? Charlie asks.Because we’re stopped at a green light here.Moments later the light turns red; the getaway driver freaks out and peels through it.Hanson goes into pursuit just as the 211 call comes in over the radio.

Car chase.Charlie’s sore bum.One-way street.Finally Hanson manages to end the madness by wrecking into the getaway car, and to make a very long story short, while Charlie is off calling for backup, the perps tease Hanson for looking young, Hanson shits a brick and does a lot of yelling, the perps distract him and then one of them tackles Hanson while another steals the cruiser, and when Charlie rushes back over to prevent Hanson from giving Tackle Dude a crunchy (but young-looking) beating, Charlie accidentally gets punched in the nose.Ha…ha.

The next day, Hanson arrives at PD HQ and undergoes the predictable ribbing from fellow officers, who call him “Crash Gordon,” ask if he can straighten out their sinus problems, and so on.In the locker room, one of Hanson’s previous partners — who has a Band-Aid on his nose — complains that Hanson’s a loose cannon and too young.Charlie, who has the facial equivalent of a post-surgery pet cone on his nose, defends Hanson as a good cop who’s a little sensitive about having his youthful appearance pointed out, but the previous partner ain’t having it.Enter Hanson to apologize for the nose; Charlie plays it down, and relates that they’ve found “most of” the cruiser but have no suspects — and the captain wants to see Hanson.

Cut to the captain chewing out a vice detective as they walk past a holding area containing extras dressed as Sid Vicious.Hanson joins him as the vice guy walks off, and the captain complains that now all the vice guys want to do is “wear pink sportcoats and drive Ferraris.”Drink, pal.Fancy handheld tracking shot as the captain says he’s got to make some changes; exposition reveals that Hanson is 21 before the captain says that Hanson isn’t effective at controlling situations, and the criminals aren’t scared of him so much as laughing at him — “no offense.”

Then there’s a Sugar Ray Leonard reference (drink!) before the captain gets to the point: Hanson’s a good cop, but he’s a liability to the other officers, because he’s too angry.”I’m not angry!” Hanson angries, and accepts a proffered cigarette (drink!), then mutters that he doesn’t even smoke.The captain says he’s reassigning Hanson to the Jump Street Chapel undercover unit, where younger-looking officers hide out in high schools and you know the drill.”Kind of like Fast Times at Bust-Your-Buddy High? [drink!]” snarks Hanson, apparently not understanding the basic nature of police work.He’s not interested; he hated high school the first time.The captain says he’s had 11 homicides in high schools since the turn of the year, but Hanson went to the academy to go on patrol, “like my –“Yeeeees, yes.Like your dead daddy.The captain says that either Hanson takes this assignment, or he’s on a desk until he looks older.”Think it over,” the captain says, before saying that he used to ride with Hanson Sr., and Hanson should “be proud” of what Hanson Sr. did that night.He adds that, if they find the guys who stole the cruiser, he’ll give Hanson the collar.Give it to Charlie in exchange for the broken nose, Hanson says.”Got your dad’s sense of humor, too.”

Cut to a picture of Hansons pere and fils in an old photograph, in which they are…inspecting a baseball?I don’t know.I also don’t know why Hanson Sr. has hisfull uniform on, including the hat, to play with his kid in a candid photograph, but God forbid the writers trust us to infer from the fact that Sr. was just mentioned that this is Hanson’s dead hero cop father.The shot stays on the photo while a saxophone bleats nostalgically; then there’s a HILARIOUS focus pull from the photo to the reflection in the photo glass — Hanson Jr., actually playing the actual saxophone while making Brando faces.Amazing.

deppsaxThen Hanson, shirt unbuttoned to show his hairless chest, pops a tape into an answering machine (drink!).It’s the old outgoing message from when his dad was still alive, followed by a call that got picked up and taped.Hanson studies the baseball-inspection photo while, on the tape, his dad Smurfs, “Howdy, sport — Mom home?” and then Depp, doing his best kidsy younger-Hanson voice, blats something about getting into a fight at school.Hanson Sr. “but we talked about that,” Hanson Jr. “but the kid said all cops are pigs,” Hanson Sr. “your mom’s right, you need to grow up,” moody shots of Hanson Jr. driving the vintage car that became the signifier of TV dude cool for a full decade afterwards, and some guy who can’t quite hit the higher notes singing about being lost inside the walls of Byzantium, whatever the hell that means.So, for you newborns in the readership: Hanson misses his dead cop dad.Actually, scratch that; even Master S figured this shit out weeks ago.

Hanson reports to work at 21 Jump Street, still wearing his patrol uniform.Perhaps a glance at the dictionary for the correct definition of “undercover” was in order before leaving for work, but anyway, the guy is still straining at the falsetto portion of a crappy verse about Mephistopheles filling him with romance (…what?) as Hanson looks disapprovingly at the casually-decorated interior of the Jump Street Chapel.And I kind of don’t blame him, because said interior contains one Doug Penhall.

I know we have a lot of Penhall fans in the audience; I don’t want anyone to feel judged, especially if you thought he was cute back in the day.He was kind of cute — on mute.But the character is a goob and he has always bugged me.If you can’t hang with the “shut up Penhall” tag, bail now.So, yes: Penhall starts goobing immediately upon appearing onscreen, yelling for everyone to escape out the back door, “it’s the fuzz!”, and teasing Hanson about his formalwear.Hanson — hoping it’s not, because Penhall is fucking annoying — asks if this is Jump Street Chapel.”Only if you’re Catholic,” Penhall hyuks, then rambles on about how he thinks it’s a synagogue because his mom is Jewish, Ioki thinks it’s a Buddhist temple, blah blah bingo joke.H.T. “Harry” Ioki introduces himself and asks if Hanson is infiltrating the student council.Heh.Nobody asked Penhall, and yet, here he is again: “H for ‘Harry,’ T for ‘Truman.’Guess what year his parents moved to the States?”Uh…sometime during the Truman presidency?Which, based on what we learn later, isn’t true, and even if it were, would make no sense?And why are you shouting?For the first of what will no doubt be millions of times: Shut up, Penhall.   Ioki adds that he’s named after the guy “who dropped an atom bomb on my house.”Which…what?Isn’t Ioki Vietnamese?And in his twenties?Shut up, Ioki.

penaokiHanson’s like, uh…huh, so I need to see Captain Richard Jenko.Penhall, up to 11: “YO! JENK!”Shut up, Penhall.Then he tells Hanson he needs to “turbo-charge” his hair, because he looks like Richie Cunningham.Drink!And shut up, Penhall.And shut up, Ioki’s scary blue silk shirt and bolo tie.My crush back in the day was on Dustin Nguyen, but he wears some unacceptable gear; this isn’t even that bad (there’s a pair of pleated Z Cavariccis in our shared future that I already dread).

Frederic Forrest slides down the fireman’s pole, on what must have been the 12th take, because it looks really painful and there are a lot of squeaking noises.This is Jenko, of course, and he’s kitted out in his customary hippie uniform: flat cap, bell bottoms, long hair, and a leather flight jacket WITH A STENCIL OF JIM MORRISON ON THE BACK blerf shut up Jenko.But of course he doesn’t identify himself to Hanson, so we have to sit through an endless misdirection during which Hanson’s anus contracts to the diameter of an amoeba and Jenko throws around burned-out lingo like “man” and “far out.”We also find out that Jenko is “a Deadhead since Woodstock” (der) and plays in a garage band with “some bunco dudes.””Bunco dudes”?Did they still have bunco squads in the ’80s?Is Charles Durning going to pop out from behind a support column and yell, “HOOKER!”?I remember Jenko as much much more irritating and embarrassing to watch back in the day, but despite the fact that Forrest seems to play this character over and over (see also: Whatever), I kind of like it now.Not the Jim Morrison jacket, though; that shit gots to go.

They head into Jenko’s office, which contains, among other sixties accoutrements, a dartboard with a picture of Nixon in the center (drink!) and a giant poster of Jimi Hendrix.Jenko rhapsodizes about Hendrix’s guit skills for a few minutes before he is obliged to PSA that it’s too bad Hendrix had to “throw it all away on a short ride getting high.”Hanson is “not familiar with” Hendrix.Either the classic-rock station’s signal does not penetrate into the interior of Deadcopdadistan, or that’s bad writing.Call it.”Who did he play with?” Hanson Mennonites.Jenko, in disbelief: “God.”He offers Hanson some breakfast in the form of Cool Ranch Doritos, but Hanson sniffs that he’ll grab an omelet later.Jenko says that he certainly will not: teenagers breakfast on chips and pop and pizza, and Hanson will need to get with that program.”It’s the Pepsi Generation, man!”Then he calls Hanson “sport,” which Hanson asks him not to do, and Jenko drops the stoner act for a moment to remind him that he’s Hanson’s boss: “I’ll call you anything I want.Have a seat, sport.”Hanson flops into a chair and Jenko breaks it down: “these bad grown-ups” come from somewhere, which is why what they do at Jump Street is important.They’re getting to the criminals in high school, before they do any real damage, or something like that.

Jenko shotguns the rest of his Coke and yells for Judy Hoffs, explaining that the rest of the team is about four weeks ahead of Hanson, so they’ll have to rush him through some of the training.”Training?!” Hanson shouts; Jenko tells him he has to learn how to look and act like a delinquent.Hoffs appears, wearing huge earrings, poofy hair, and a cropped jean jacket covered in gold pins, which if I recall correctly I thought was some really cool shit at the time.Jenko introduces them, tells Hanson to obey Hoffs, tells Hoffs to do something about Hanson’s “Jack Kennedy haircut,” and leaves, but not before stepping Hanson through a soul-brother handshake and then dissing him with a down-low-too-slow.Hee.Hoffs reassures Hanson that, despite the hippie trappings, Jenko is the best as far as undercover goes, and introduces herself.Hanson tries a sarcastic version of Jenko’s soul shake from earlier, but Hoffs revises his hand to a regular handshake: “That’s okay, honey.My people don’t do that anymore.”Hee!The show is funnier than I’d remembered — except when it’s trying way too hard.…Penhall.

Montage!Hoffs is psyched about Hanson’s new rig — jeans, leather jacket, studded belt — while Hanson is horrified.Hoffs digs Hanson’s new two-story gelled haircut, while Hanson thinks it’s too tall.An R&B group raps about how “it’s not easy being me,” while Hoffs instructs Hanson in the ancient arts of Galaga and stuffing one’s face with junk food.Hanson is beginning to enjoy himself; it’s the first time we’ve seen Hanson’s teeth all episode.At a record store, Hoffs edits Hanson’s vinyl choices (drink!) and tries to convince him to get an earring.

Outside a music club, kids french each other, wear studded leather jackets, have punky hair, and drink beer.Penhall is on the case, swigging from a bottle and looking, frankly, squirrelly.Jenko’s hippiemobile yellow van approaches, and Penhall hucks his bottle at it, prompting a “confrontation” with Jenko (who has now added a headband, Lennon frames, and fringey jacket to his look) in the service of giving Hanson — stashed in the back of the van with Hoffs and Ioki — a good look at their target.Hanson wonders why they don’t bust the guy, a Pearl Jammy-looking guy named Jase, now; Jenko says they just needed to make sure Penhall was “cool” (obviously not in every sense…heh), but they’ll have plenty of chances to bust him.

Jenko then asks if Hanson knows what he’s supposed to do.Hanson yeah-yeahs that he’s making a buy, no big deal, and loftily reminds everyone that he’s not new: “I was on patrol.””Oooh, patroooollll,” Ioki snots, saying Hanson probably has problems even buying beer, but Hoffs says he’s one to talk; Ioki bought $100 of baby laxative his first time out.Jenko tells them to cool it and gives Hanson his brief: he’s Penhall’s cousin and he’s supposed to be tough, so “don’t come on like Dick Clark [drink!],” and then something about Gale Sayers, and last but not least: no bust.This is just a test so that Hanson can get a buy under his belt.As Hanson gets out of the van, Jenko reminds him again: no bust. This will totally go according to plan, you guys.

Inside, Penhall calls to Hanson: “Yo, cuz!”Shut up, Penhall.There’s some typical suspicious-dealer posturing before Hanson, now wearing an earring, is invited outside to do business with Jase.Penhall stays behind as, in the alley, Hanson asks for a lid.Jase echoes me: “A ‘lid‘?Where you from — Omaha?””Buffalo,” Hanson snots.”Buffalooooo,” Jase says, hilariously, and adds it must be “stuck in a time warp.”Aw, leave off The Lo.But: seriously.Nobody would have called it a lid back then, so you have to wonder why Hoffs didn’t take five minutes to bring Mr. Not Familiar With Jimi Hendrix up to speed on the then-current drug lingo.Then again, maybe Jenko was in charge of that, and he would call it a lid. There’s dickering over whether Hanson gets to see and smell the product first; the deal is made; and when Hanson stupidly asks Jase what his problem is, Jase points a pistol at Hanson’s third eye and says he thinks Hanson is a cop.”I don’t need this, scumbag, I can get my drugs from anybody,” Hanson stilteds.Jase: “I…still think you’re a cop.”Snick.Hanson looks all around in a highly suspicious coply fashion for about twenty minutes before bluffing, “Then pull the trigger.”

Jase withdraws the gun and observes, while slapping Hanson’s face gently, that cops have to be old enough to drive after dark.Hanson snatches the gun, kicks Jase in the nuts, punches him to the ground, and holds the gun on Jase while tough-guying that Jase should learn to trust his instincts.Jase wets his pants (figuratively).Hanson manhandles Jase onto his stomach and formally makes the arrest; in the background of the shot, the Jenkomobile charges up, and the man himself storms out of the driver’s seat to rip Hanson sixteen new ones.Hanson yells that the suspect threatened to kill him and sold him drugs, but Jase actually sold him a pair of smelly socks.Which Hanson totally sniffed, and thought was pot?Exactly which academy did this fool go to?How do you live in a city of any size and not know what pot smells like, even if you don’t smoke it yourself?Would someone like to tell me which drug does smell like socks?Because I’m no expert (hi, Ma!), but: no, dude.

elton-john_10Hoffs and Ioki exchange an “oh brother” look as Jenko continues yelling.I don’t quite understand why they can’t hold Jase on something, since there was intent and he had a gun, but Hanson is being a pill, so I can live with Jenko hollering on him for biffing the arrest on a guy they’d been watching for months, who will get sprung by noon tomorrow.Hanson tries to apologize, but Jenko’s like, save it, cowboy — Penhall’s cover is blown, and also, now I will make a reference to Elton John in a hat shop, and everyone will drink.Hanson turns to Hoffs and Ioki, who both turn away.

Kenny is out delivering papers on his moped.He is also smash-and-grabbing a jewelry-store display.Because he’s on drugs!I guess!

In the Jump Street lot, Penhall, Ioki, and Hoffs work on a vintage car, which won’t start.It looks like a Bugati but don’t hold me to that.Hanson pulls up and snarks, “Nice car you got there, Doug.”It’s actually Hoffs’s, Hanson, and I don’t think you get to rip on anyone’s vehicle after bricking an operation the night before, but thanks for playing.Hanson is shocked (but pleased) that it’s Hoffs’s ride; she assumes it’s because he doesn’t think a black girl would drive a car like that, and makes some joke about a purple Caddy, but it doesn’t seem like Hanson meant that (or gets the reference anyway).He sticks his head under the hood, toggles one doodad, and of course the car starts.And of course Penhall bellows “what are you lookin’ at!” at Ioki, hurls a wrench “comedically,” and walks away.

Check-in time inside.Hoffs gets chided for getting good grades undercover; not much is happening, she says, so she’s had time to study, but honor-roll students don’t usually hang out with felons, so Jenko — who is wearing a huge turquoise ring, which I want to own — tells her to watch her cover.Penhall is hoping to play golf for the rest of the semester since, he says pointedly, his cover is blown and Jase is out of the mix; as Hanson rolls his eyes, Jenko says Penhall will be reassigned. Ioki is waiting for buy money from HQ so he can make a deal on his assignment.And Hanson is going to Amherst High as a disciplinary transfer: he has a drug problem and a serious attitude, and if he could do Jenko a favor and not blow his cover on the first day, that would be great.There’s nothing really going on at Amherst that they know of, so Hanson should just observe and keep a low profile.Penhall, in caveman voice: “Let’s go do it.Ahhh-ooooooh!”Do what?Your cover is blown; you’re staying home to do paperwork.Shut up, Penhall.

Time for school.Degrassi-credits-style close-up on a girl’s bejeaned butt, which I’m glad is a shot-selection trend that went out of favor; in this case, it’s pretty funny because the jeans are so pale they’re practically white, and so high-waisted they’re practically overalls.Brief montage of contemporary fashions, including giant-shouldered overcoats, checkered scarves, and mismatched Chucks.Oh, and the ponytail in a scrunchie with big cobwebby bangs.Let’s see…I was: guilty; guilty; guilty; and…guilty.Fuckin’ eighties.

Hanson pulls into the school lot — followed, as it happens, by BMJ and his red Ferrari.Hanson inadvertently takes BMJ’s parking spot, but isn’t about to back down despite BMJ’s orders for him to move.BMJ leaps out of the car and whips off his aviators; this must mean he’s serious, because a crowd of kids gathers instantly to watch what is probably a guaranteed beatdown under these circumstances.Sidekick robots, “You heard.The man.Move itttt,” and menacingly bounces a lit cigarette off Hanson’s chest.Hanson picks up the butt and puts it down Sidekick’s pants; the crowd oohs.BMJ kicks Hanson’s car and leaves a dent, snapping at him to move it.Hanson keys BMJ’s hood with the word “NO.”Heh.Aaaaand: Hanson! BMJ! Fight! Sidekick hovers nearby but doing nothing to earn his spot in the passenger seat.A teacher appears to break things up; Hanson, given the opportunity to rat, pretends he and BMJ, whose real name is Tyrell, are friends having a disagreement, and they both get sent to the office.

The principal is one of those guys who can barely cobble together a sentence without using a sports metaphor.Hanson and Tyrell, correctly, roll their eyes repeatedly as the principal lumps Tyrell with two weeks’ detention and a report filed with his p.o.It’s here that I started asking myself why Tyrell bothers attending school at all.He’s clearly not interested in the academics, at least as far as we see, and he’s doing well enough for himself in the dealing sector that he’s got an Italian sports car and a henchman.Presumably Sidekick is better at completing transactions and recruiting new customers than he is at acting or backing Tyrell up in fights — he’d have to be, really — so why can’t Tyrell just delegate day-to-day operations to him and spend the day chilling in front of GH?

Tyrell is no more impressed with these disciplinary actions than I am; he’s dismissed, and Hanson endures a sportsy lecture about his prior discipline program, followed by an order to appear with his father the next night or he’ll get kicked out of school.

At his locker, Hanson is battling with his combo when Kenny, who’s locker is nearby, almost makes him.Hanson faces the shelving and gulps, but it’s not Hanson Kenny’s looking at; it’s Tyrell, a.k.a. Waxer, who’s come up behind Hanson and grabbed him by the neck.”Leave me alone, man,” Kenny clown-faces, and runs away.Beefy Michael Tyrell Waxer Jackson tells Hanson that he’ll like it a lot at Amherst High…”if you like dyin’.”Hanson ponders that curveball as he comes to a stop in front of a weird hallway mural by that Spanish painter who paints the balloons of people screa…ming…?

…To be continued!




  • Tom says:

    Awesome. I actually have seasons 1-3 on DVD and it does get sort of better … then worse.

    Btw, there’s an episode in season 2 where the “Japanese” thing is explained in that Harry had faked his idenitity because he was in the country illegally.

  • Nina A says:

    Glad to know i wasn’t the only one with a crush on D.N.-but those clothes.

  • Injera says:

    Thanks for this! Another one for a DN crush – I’d completely forgotten that his character was supposed to be Japanese.

    Looking forward to the next installment. When I reached “To be continued” I actually said “awwww?” out loud.

  • Sarz says:

    At least this is well before the Greico years.

  • Shannon in CA says:

    I knew I should have stayed away, now I want to get the DVDs! Also: “Kenny imitates Mr. Staypuft’s angry face and flounces to his room.” Hee!

  • Rachel says:

    Frederic Forrest! Played the same character in Valley Girl, too! LOVE that guy. He’s got one note, but he plays it really really well.

  • Sheila says:

    *popcorn* AWESOME.

  • Beadgirl says:

    Oh, AWESOME. I remember watching the pilot with my father. I even watched through the Greico years. I totally need to add this to my netflix queue right now.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    FYI, the link from the first graf should lead to Hulu, where you can watch the first half of S1.

  • Sandman says:

    “Hanson tries a sarcastic version of Jenko’s soul shake from earlier, but Hoffs revises his hand to a regular handshake: ‘That’s okay, honey. My people don’t do that anymore.’ Hee! The show is funnier than I’d remembered — except when it’s trying way too hard. …Penhall.”

    The one time this show made me laugh out loud. Intentionally, that is. I’m glad you think that line holds up. The recap is enormous fun! I especially like the 80’s drinking game, and the “Hi, Ma!” Hee.

  • Mary says:

    To the top of the Netflix queue! I needed something now that I’ve caught up with Madmen.

  • Jaybird says:

    I just have to applaud the usage of “Mennonite” as a verb. Heh.

  • Felicia says:

    *Shatneritin* OMG! Now that is some funny shit…

  • attica says:

    Man, this recap thingie is way better than I’d even hoped! (It’s almost like you have some experience at this, you know?) I can’t wait for more.

  • Grainger says:

    Once you get your first taste of recap, you never quite kick the habit. The first one’s free. That’s how they get you! You start out and it’s awesome, you’re recapping on the web, you’re recapping with your friends, you’re freelance recapping in the theater while Uma Thurman cuts people’s arms off. But pretty soon, the occasional recap’s not enough; you run off during your lunch break to do a quick recap in the car, maybe a web short or a comic book or something. You get home early and stay up late so you can do an extra episode on each end, burn through that “Emergency!” boxset just a bit quicker and move on. Always gotta be new, always gotta be fresh, the eighties is a _goldmine_ and you’re dynamite. After a while you don’t go to bed at all, you just live on the recap.

    Then suddenly the suits step in. Suddenly it’s not just a hobby, it’s a life; you’ve got obligations, you’ve got standards, you’ve got some cold-eyed cat in a sharkskin suit talking about his ten percent. Liveblog it, live chat, Twitter, recap on webcam so we all can see. Recap with this guy, recap with that girl, recap with someone from the forum who won a contest. You want to keep recapping, right? This is what it costs.

    Recapping. It feels great at first, but you can’t stop, and eventually it kills you.

  • Emerson says:

    So funny. More.

  • Shannon in CA says:

    @Grainger i think i just fell in love with you!

  • Andrea says:

    Love, love, love it! I’m with Injera — when I got to the to be continued, I said, aloud, “what!?!?” This is so good — and now I need to get the dvds. Thanks so much for doing the recap.

  • RJ says:

    Does anyone else remember the TV Guide Grieco interview in which he said, and I more or less quote, “I see myself as being hot for the next 7 years. I just don’t see anyone else around who’s got what I’ve got.”

    Does anyone remember anything he’s been in since?

  • Eric says:

    Thanks for the awesome. I don’t know if the “lid” reference was antiquated at that point, but on Different Strokes, Willis bought a “lid” in the episode where he became addicted to the marijuana. That was a few years before, and it seemed dated even when Willis said it even though I was like 10. And then Nancy Reagan and Mr. T showed up and all hell broke loose.

  • Vanessa says:

    Thank you, thank you. So funny. So missed. You’re the best. It’s like a little present, just for me.

  • Grainger says:

    @Shannon: Thanks, although I kind of ripped off the idea from “Mr Mom”.

  • Jen S says:

    *Weeps with joy*

    I’m going to have to Hulu this one since I think I started watching partway through season one (The kids at school were talking and I had to check it out, of course) but “either classic rock stations do not penetrate to Deadcopdadistan” was instant classic.

    And I also have to thank you, Sars, for getting both of us namedropped on the latest Agony Booth Agonizer recap of Degrassi’s “What A Night!” This must be what it feels like to be FAMOUS!

  • Odmin says:

    выход из кризиса – внуково 2 ?

  • juicygi says:

    i just bought season 1 in december and i’m going through it right now. you have captured the tone perfectly. in my youthful ignorance and in the throes of my jd adoration (which has not waned with the years), i never realised how … good god, how terrible it is! but i still love it. and it was filmed in my hometown right when i was in junior high. there wasn’t a person i knew who wasn’t an extra or who had an episode filmed at their school or whose older sister made out with johnny depp at a bar.

    these recaps are excellent – thanks so much!

  • angela says:

    Season 1 is okay, but like most TV shows you have to stick with it to see it in its prime. Everything really comes together in season 2. I admit, as a Penhall fan, he was not very likable in the pilot…or most of the first season at all, really. But if you don’t love him by season two, then clearly something must be wrong with you.

    I must admit, I’m not a fan of recaps in general because they usual rag on my favorite parts, but I did laugh out loud when you referred to Jenko’s van as the ‘jenkomobile’.

    But hey, no mention of Hanson deliberately licking his lips when he meets Hoffs? I am disappoint.

  • MischievousOne says:

    Does anyone remember the episode of 21 Jump Street where Hanson is left beaten and bloody in an alley and they figure out who the bad guys are because they threw their coffee lids on the dashboard? They turned out to be bad cops. The coffee lids gave it away because apparently only cops toss their coffee lids on the dashboard because they don’t own their squad cars. Anyone? Anyone? I’ve been trying to find it for a while. :(

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I don’t know it, but thanks to Googling to try to FIND it, I now know that there’s 21JS fan-fic. I think the internet finally broke me, friends.

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