10 Things You Might Not Have Realised About CHiPs

Who remembers watching CHiPs? Following the lives of Ponch and John, motorcycle officers working for the California Highway Patrol (CHP, hence the title), CHiPs originally aired from 1977 until 1983 for a total of 139 episodes, and we don’t know about you, but we absolutely loved it!

Below are 10 things you might not have realised about the brilliant TV series CHiPs.

10. Erik Estrada once went on strike over a pay dispute

CHiPs starred Erik Estrada as Officer Francis ‘Ponch’ Poncherello and Larry Wilcox as Officer Jon Baker, two highway patrolmen in California.

During the fifth series, Estrada went on strike during a dispute about pay. This meant there were seven episodes where he didn’t appear at all, and was instead replaced by Officer Steve McLeish, played by Caitlyn (then Bruce) Jenner.

9. Real-life California Highway Patrol officers don’t ride in pairs

Bizarrely, real-life California Highway Patrol Offices hardly ever ride in pairs, so the show’s makers had to come up with an inventive way to explain why Officers Ponch and John did.

They did this by initially having Ponch Poncherello on probationary status with Jon as his field officer. But very soon this plotline ended and they simply stayed in a pair without explanation!

8. Erik Estrada couldn’t even ride a motorbike

Unbelievably, before being cast in the show Erik Estrada had absolutely no experience riding motorbikes, so he had to take an intensive course so he could learn.

It was later also revealed that he didn’t even have a motorcycle licence whilst they were filming the show, exactly the kind of thing that would get him in trouble with… the California Highway Patrol.

7. Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox didn’t get along

Despite their friendship and chemistry on-screen as Ponch and Jon, in real life Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox did not always get on well at all.

Wilcox also fell out with producers behind the TV series, as he believed that favouritism was always being shown to Estrada, the TV show’s breakout star. This meant that he didn’t return for the final series, and was instead replaced by Tom Reilly as Bobby ‘Hot Dog’ Nelson. Bruce Penhall also joined the cast of motorcycle officers as Bruce Nelson.

6. It was one of the first portrayals of a Vietnam war veteran on TV

CHiPs often mentioned that Jon Baker had served time in Vietnam, and it was one of the very first portrayals of a Vietnam veteran on a TV show.

In addition to that, the actor playing Baker, Larry Wilcox, actually served for a year in Vietnam as a Marine Artilleryman.

5. The lead actors performed many of their own stunts

Although many of the more difficult stunts in the TV series were performed by stuntmen, Estrada and Larry Wilcox actually did many of the smaller stunts themselves.

Apparently Wilcox suffered no injuries while filming the TV series, but Estrada wasn’t quite so lucky…

4. Estrada was hospitalised on-set – and it was written into the show

Whilst shooting a series 3 episode in 1979, Erik Estrada was in a serious motorcycle accident, fracturing a number of ribs and breaking both of his wrists.

But rather than give Estrada some time off to recover, his accident and hospitalisation were instead written into the show’s storyline! Still, while Ponch lay in a hospital bed, Jon Baker had to go to work.

3. It was broadcast alongside The A-Team and Magnum, P.I.

Despite the fact that it was originally only shown in the London region of the UK, and from the start of the second series rather than the first, CHiPs was eventually shown nationwide alongside some classic shows.

Because from 1981, the show shared its Saturday evening television slot with some other classic seasons of 80s shows, including Knight Rider, The A-Team and Magnum, P.I.

2. A made-for-TV movie starring Ponch and John aired in 1999

More than a decade after the show’s final season in 1983, a made-for-TV movie was released – one that continued the adventures of CHiPs cops Ponch and Jon. Clearly Estrada’s star power had waned enough that the pair could get along and don their motorcycle officer garb once again.

It was called CHiPs ‘99, and it starred the original pair of Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada as Jon and Ponch as well as many of the other original cast members, including Robert Pine as Sgt Joseph Getraer.

1. There was a big-screen reboot in 2014

There was also a theatrical version (simply called CHiPs) released in 2014. Dax Shepard wrote, directed and starred in the film as Jon, whilst Michael Peña played Ponch – which is roughly the same star power as Estrada and Larry Wilcox, but not in a good way…

Sadly that’s all for now. Be sure to share this post with your friends and family so they too can find out more about this brilliant TV show from our childhood!