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Bruce Munro

Published January 1st, 2005 | by Bruce Munro

21 Jump Street – Season Five Review

Classification: 15 Director: Various Rating: 3/5

The chances are you’ll be drawn to 21 Jump Street because of the picture of Johnny Depp on the front cover. But if you’re buying it so as to see how the great man learnt his trade, I’m afraid you’re going to be in for a big disappointment.

Depp only actually stars in one of the episodes on this fifth season DVD (which is actually from the fourth series and was apparently held back just so his face could be put on the cover of merchandise such as this).

You probably know the story, but… The show had made Johnny Depp a household name in the US but he came to hate it as it prevented him from developing a movie career. Eventually his lawyers managed to get him out of his contract (he helped by giving deliberately bad performances). Post Jump Street his first port of call was Tim Burton’s office, who handed him the lead role in Edward Scissorhands, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The show’s producers tried to fill the void left by Depp by introducing Michael Bendetti, a young actor who looked a bit like him. He unfortunately didn’t have quite the same talent as the man he replaced (the highlight of his subsequent career seems to have been an appearance on the Red Shoe Diaries) and the show was not recommissioned for a sixth season.

The one episode that Depp appears in is ‘Blackout’, which is about a group of high school basketball players who rape a girl. Depp and his fellow police officers from 21 Jump Street specialise in impersonating high school kids and/or teachers in order to investigate crimes involving teenagers, so they are sent in. A storm causes a power outage and the boys begin to rampage round the school a la Lord of the Flies until someone gives an impassioned speech on the dangers of a mob mentality. “Just because everyone else is doing it”, she says, “doesn’t make it right”.

Yep, 21 Jump Street is one of those shows that always concludes with a clear moral. Watched now, the show doesn’t seem very hard hitting (it isn’t helped by having a soundtrack which makes Miami Vice’s sound like Bach in comparison) but I suppose we have to bear in mind that in the 1980’s it was quite daring for a show aimed at young people to address topic likes AIDS and drug abuse.

It does make you think that us Brits got the shitty end of the stick TV-wise during this era; the Americans had Johnny Depp tearing about the corridors nailing nasty bullies and drug pushers in Varsity jackets while we had to make do with Zammo in a duffel coat off his head on smack.


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