Season Finale: 21 Jumpstreet Season 1

I’ve had a great time going through all the TV shows that Netflix streams instantly and picking different ones to try out. 21 Jumpstreet stuck out for me because it had a young Johnny Depp in it. After doing some reading I discovered that the first season which premiered in 1987 helped the then-new Fox network by being a pretty big success. The funny thing, though, is that I have absolutely no memory of this show existing from my younger years. Maybe my folks didn’t like Fox for some reason, maybe it’s because I was 4 and it wasn’t syndicated in Toledo. Who knows?

The premise is that Depp’s a young 20-something cop who gets put on a special squad of other young looking cops who get sent into high school situations undercover to try and solve crimes. They city they’re in is never mentioned but it must have an incredibly high population because it seems to be the land of a thousand high schools, with each episode taking place in a different one.

The series started out with just a handful of detectives, including Dom DeLuise’s son Peter and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper’s Holly Robinson (who also sang the theme song!) under the tutelage of Captain Richard Jenko played by Frederic Forest. Halfway through the first season, though, they kill off Jenko and Steven Williams came in as Captain Adam Fuller. With Fuller’s entrance, the small unit became much bigger, but our core group remained the main stars.

The main thing I was surprised and impressed by for a show coming out in the late 80s is how many broad societal problems the show tackled. You’ve got everything from drugs to pornography getting talked about and investigated in these episodes. Sure, these things are commonplace elements in television now, but you’ve got to appreciate the balls it took to break away from conventional wisdom and try to address teenage high school issues. Now, I would imagine actual 80s teens would call bullshit on some of the fashions and slang, but watching these episodes almost 25 years later, they’re still sadly pertinent.

Depp might be the star as the buttoned up Tom Hanson, but my favorite character has to be DeLuise’s Doug Penhall. I also like Pete’s character, she’s both tough and relate-able. I can’t say there’s any specific episodes that stick out in my mind–I did watch the full season over a month or two–but I enjoyed every episode.

My favorite aspect of the show, though, and the one I can imagine made the show popular for kids who were actually in high school, is watching these people go through the nonsense of school but not actually be a part of it. They might act like they care what the rules of the school are and what the teachers say, but in reality, this is just a job and an illusion for them. Mr. Johnson’s being a jerk in chemistry? No big deal, none of it matters. Some jerk bully is giving you trouble? Psh, not only are you trained to kill but you OWN A GUN! I don’t know if I’m explaining it well, but it’s an element of the show I definitely dug.

Yeah, There’s Actually A Movie Called Solarbabies

And it’s not that bad actually. Solarbabies (1986) is a mix of Logan’s Run, Mad Max and Goonies with a made-up sport called Skateball in it. I had never heard about this flick until sometime last year when someone recommended it for ToyFare’s craziest fictional sports feature. Well, I found my way to checking the movie out finally and it was a lot of fun. But also annoying. I’ll explain.

The movie stars Michael from Lost Boys (Jason Patric), the mom from Still Standing (Jami Gertz who was also in Lost Boys), Dom DeLuise’s son (Peter), the older brother from Heroes (Adrian Pasdar) and the kid who played Ryan White in the TV movie (Lukas Haas) plus a few other kids as a group of kids who live in a post-apocalyptic, post-Eco War desert orphanage where they’ve taken to playing Skateball. Skateball’s a a combination of hockey (but with roller skates), lacrosse and roller derby with a goal in the middle of the rink. Like in Logan’s Run or The Island, the kids are told that there’s nothing out in the real world and that this is all there is. Of course, that doesn’t last after the youngest of the group, Lukas, finds a glowing ball called Bohdi (not Patrick Swayze’s character from Point Break, but wouldn’t that be awesome?). Anyway, after a spirited game of Skateball with Bodhi, Pasdar’s character swoops in, grabs him and heads off into the desert and soon enough the kids (the Solarbabies) head out to find him and make sure the eco cops don’t destroy him/it.

Alright, enough with the summary, there are a few things I want to specifically mention. First off, Lukas is super, SUPER annoying in this movie, like Edward Furlong in T2 annoying but times 100. He’s oddly effeminate and not just in the way that all little kids are. His wardrobe doesn’t help as he’s either wearing a pink helmet, off-the-shoulder sweatshirt (think Flashdance) or, at one point, a suit of old lady clothes made out of old tires. His voice and delivery are also grating. He goes from being a normal kid with a high pitched voice to this ultra annoying kid who sounds like he’s in LOVE with everything. He gets all wispy and it freaks me out. Wow, now I’ve resorted to picking on a 10 year old kid in 1986, that’s not quite fair.

What is fair is making fun of the douchey bully kid from the orphanage who somehow gets upgraded from regular orphan to eco cop at the exact same time as the Solarbabies escape. The funny thing is that he walks around like he’s big shit even before joining the eco pigs. Yeah, being the coolest kid in a desert orphanage where you get water rations is like being the strongest guy at computer camp, sure you’re bigger than everyone else but you’re still all locked in the same shitty life. After coming up with that analogy, he got to leave the orphanage, so what do I know?

One other complaint I have is the title of this movie. Solarbabies? Really? This is what you decided to call what looks like a slightly big budget flick? Bad choice folks. Heck, they don’t even play Skateball during the day, so it doesn’t really make sense. The general-or-whatever of the eco police comes to the guy who runs the orphanage and comments on it being soft name and all the warden has to say is that they don’t need to be intimidating because they always win. Yeah, and? I don’t even think the kids call themselves Solarbabies at any time.

Okay, aside from all that stuff, I would still recommend Solarbabies (maybe just call it Skateball or something, because those scenes are pretty rad). Kind of like The Island, you get a mix of other movies that all work together really well and tell a story you haven’t seen quite in this way. It’s not highly original, but it’s definitely fun. I especially like in their travels when they come to Tire Town a place where everything is made out of either discarded tires or cars. They play with that in the sets and props really well to excellent results. Plus, it’s always fun to watch actors when they were younger. I’ll be honest I didn’t recognize Pasdar at all and Gertz looked really familiar to me but I couldn’t nail her down and I recognized her more from Still Standing that Lost Boys.

One funny thing about the movie is that they skate everywhere in the desert wasteland. Have you ever tried skating on anything other than a rink or blacktop? It’s not easy. Luckily for them, there seem to be paths from one place to another that are smooth enough for skating 🙂