Series: 21 Jump Street

"..You'll find you'll need us, 'cause there's no one else to call..."

The 1980s version of The Mod Squad, with a somewhat more believable premise. The series lasted from April, 1987 to April, 1991, with a total of 103 episodes in five seasons.

21 Jump Street was the Fox Network's first drama, and aired on its premiere night along with sitcoms Married... with Children, The Tracey Ullman Show, Duet and Mr President.

Here, it's about a special undercover police unit in an unnamed American city, where young-looking police officers infiltrate schools to investigate youth-related crimes.

The series made Johnny Depp a star, but a Teen Idol was the last thing he wanted to be. As such, he quit at his first opportunity, which made the show Jump the Shark at that moment.

A very well received film "sequel" (a raunchy comedy spinoff) has been released, starring Jonah Hill (who also co-wrote the script), Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, and Ice Cube. Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise appear in cameos as their original-series characters, Tom Hanson and Doug Penhall. Holly Robinson Peete also returned as Judy Hoffs, in a slightly more substantial role. The film itself recevied a sequel, which finally featured small cameos from Dustin Nguyen and Richard Grieco.

Due to the drastic difference in tone and contradiction of the show's continuity, the movie is not necessarily recommended for fans of the series.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adults Dressed as Children: More adults dressed as teenagers; the whole premise of the show is young looking police officers going undercover in high schools. Decades later, Depp would poke fun at the "fascist" nature of this premise.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Due to the show's attempts to confront such difficult issues as drug use and criminal behavior in high schools somewhat realistically, episodes often end this way, sometimes qualifying for a Downer Ending if a student they're trying to protect dies or goes to jail, but leaving the viewer with the question of what to do about the tragic circumstances that led to it.
  • Artistic License History: Due to a slightly awkward Retcon, Ioki is hiding the fact that he is Vietnamese, supposedly to avoid the ire of colleagues who may have fought in the Vietnam war. The strange thing is, Ioki would almost certainly be from (the former) South Vietnam, who were America's allies. (And even if he was from North Vietnam, his colleagues wouldn't know that.)
    • Unless their potential discrimination were based on resentment of being in the war instead of hatred for the enemy.
  • Asshole Victim: The Shock Jock whose car gets blown up in "Next Victim". Due to his hateful and racist ranting, the team is none too happy about having to look for the person who did it.
  • Badass Long Coat: Booker wears these on occasion, when not sporting a leather jacket.
  • Berserk Button: Hanson reaaally hates it when people make fun of how young he looks.
  • Bowling For Ratings: Hanson is an avid bowler.
  • Break the Cutie: Season 4's "Stand By Your Man" does this to Judy, who gets raped by a med student she's been getting friendly with as part of her cover identity, and spends the rest of the episode dealing with the emotional and legal fallout of confronting her accuser.
  • Breather Episode: "Chapel of Love", in which the guys reminisce about bad dates over a poker game on Valentine's Day, could be considered this, coming right after a Very Special Episode about a teenager with AIDS.
  • The Bus Came Back: After Booker quits the force and is spun off into his own series, he returns midway through Season 4 for a two-part crossover between the two series.
  • California Doubling: Though supposedly set in the U.S., the fact that 21 Jump Street is shot in Canada is made by the fact that the extras/bit parts were hired locally and thus do decidedly non-US things like say "grade 3" instead of "3rd grade" and write graffiti with words ending in "-our" instead of "-or".
    • The only slightly blurred "Beautiful British Columbia" license plates are also a dead giveaway. And the bus route prominently displayed in the credits: Hastings.
    • When a license plate is clearly visible, it says "Beautiful Evergreen State", which is the Washington state nickname, but with the British Columbia plate design.
  • The Chick: Judy Hoffs. However, she is the only one of officers to make Detective, and is depicted as being an intelligent, well rounded member of the cast. Her status as the chick comes from her tendency to rely on her feelings about the suspect, which often are proven wrong. Also, she tends to be addressed by first name more often than the other officers.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Hanson and Ioki's departures between seasons 4 and 5 are never explained.
  • Citizenship Marriage / Fourth Date Marriage: In "Come From the Shadows", Penhall falls head over heels for an immigrant woman from El Salvador, and goes so far as to marry her mere days after meeting her, to prevent her from being deported. Knowing that Status Quo Is God makes the inevitable Downer Ending a Foregone Conclusion.
  • Clip Show: "Back From the Future" uses a young cop 50 years in the future, interviewing the now elderly members of Jump Street about their glory days, as a framing device for this.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: The American DVDs suffer from this - while the licensed music wasn't the WHOLE draw of the show, it was an important part of the atmosphere, and lyrics were often used to communicate plot, which makes chunks of some DVD episodes make very little sense now that they're backed by nothing but elevator music. The DVDs still sold enough to finish the show, possibly because there weren't many bootlegs in circulation. Uploads of the show now are almost always from this butchered version, even though the full versions do exist (see the Trivia page).
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Played straight for some of the rebellious teens featured. Subverted for Hanson, who spent his youth as an uptight Republican and doesn't go through his rebellious phase until after joining the Jump Street division.
  • Compulsory School Age: The cops are still adult age, but they look like high schoolers, so they have to go to high school to fight crime that happens in/around high school.
  • Crime and Punishment Series
  • Da Chief: After Capt. Jenko is killed off, Capt. Fuller takes over and makes it very clear from the beginning that he means business and giving him any lip is a bad idea.
  • Dirty Harriet: Judy joined the Jump Street program because it was the only way she'd be able to get any other type of assignment. Of course, this didn't mean that she didn't still get just such an assignment occasionally.
  • Disguised in Drag: Both Hanson and Ioki had to do this for undercover assignments.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The theme tune was performed by Holly Robinson who played Officer Judy Hoffs on the show (with the "JUMP!" shout provided by Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise).
    • Incidentally, this is one of the few Stephen J. Cannell shows where the theme tune was not written by Mike Post (see also Hawkeye (not that one), Cobra, Street Justice and Missing Persons).
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Captain Jenko, We Hardly Knew Ye.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In "Best Years of Our Lives", this is pretty much everyone's in-universe reaction to Penhall when he starts telling incredibly crass jokes about suicide as a coping mechanism to deal with a student killing himself (and, as it turns out, his own mother doing the same back when he was just six).
  • '80s Hair: A huge offender.
  • End of Series Awareness: Season 2 ends with the Jump Street program being suspended, possibly due to the writers not knowing if the show itself would be canned or get a third season.
    • Hanson makes several references to wanting to quit the force in Season 4. It was well known by this point that Johnny Depp wanted to leave the show, which he actually did at the end of the season.
  • Fan Sequel: 21 Jump Street Rangers, which takes place years after the original team's adventures. (The series also adapts Tomica Hero Rescue Force for added points.)
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck! : Happens frequently. "Good gaul-darn riddance!"
  • Henpecked Husband: Despite not actually being married, Penhall gets a bad case of this when Dorothy rather abruptly decides to not only get back together with him, but also to move in with him. Cue every nagging housewife cliche the writers can think of.
  • Hold The Unsolicited Ingredient: The episode "Gotta Finish the Riff"
    Reginald Brooks: [ordering pizza for his hostages] I want 10 with sausage, 10 with pepperonis. And no anchovies. I see one anchovy and I kill the librarian
  • I'm Going to Hell for This: In "Chapel of Love", after telling a story about the time he had an affair with his partner back in the 70s and getting ridiculed by the other guys got it, Captain Fuller points out that they're all going to hell anyway for playing poker in a church.
  • Manic Pixie Dreamgirl: An episode featuring a girl named Quincy, who sort of positions herself as this, dragging the straight-laced Hanson around and trying to convince him to "lighten up". Of course, her idea of fun is crime sprees and potentially-fatal thrill-seeking. She terrifies him, and ends up shot to death by security guards while robbing a house.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The 'psychic' girl in the Halloween episode. She sees/draws things that she shouldn't have any way to know, but she's not infallible either. Psychic, or lucky guess?
  • Mr. Fanservice: Young Johnny Depp.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Young Holly Robinson. There's an in-story reason for it sometimes, when they want her to pose as a "bad girl" and/or distract a perp.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Captain Jenko, an aging hippie who, in the first episode, has to teach Hanson how to act like a bad seed.
  • Older Than They Look: The show was entirely based around the premise of cops who looked young enough that they could go undercover as high school students.
    • Which was pretty silly, and only sorta worked because of Dawson Casting. The actors standing next to ACTUAL high-schoolers would've looked hopelessly out of place.
      • Not silly considering many programs were based on cops passing as high school students.
  • Orphaned Punchline: The third season premiere ends with a joke of the "Several racial stereotypes walk into a bar" variety being told by Booker to Hanson. We never hear the punchline, which fits the overall Ambiguous Ending concerning whether Booker is actually racist or was just playing the role for a case he and Hanson had worked on together.
  • Out of Focus: Most episodes tend to center around the one or two officers working a case, with the captain and the other characters only getting a few lines here and there, but Season 4's "God Is a Bullet" is notable for not featuring any scenes at the precinct, and Penhall and Hoffs being the only main characters who appear.
    • This becomes more prevalent as the later seasons progress, with most of the characters other than the one or two in the spotlight getting a mere Mandatory Line, if they appear at all. Johnny Depp - ostensibly still the star of the show - is absent more frequently than any other actor at this point.
  • Police Are Useless: The opinion of the Street Rangers from season three.
    • In general, even though the main characters are the police, uniformed officers still appear to be useless, since the story almost always makes some excuse to not bring them in and bust a suspect, because of course Jump Street needs to gather more evidence via their undercover officers first. This can be a bit silly in situations where most real-life officers would call for backup, but it's probably more a case of The Main Characters Do Everything.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Penhall and Hanson, respectively.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: In one episode, Officer Tom Hanson witnesses his girlfriend being shot in a convenience store robbery and feels guilty that he was unable to stop him. He spends his days watching the surveillance camera tape, replaying the same moment over and over, being obsessed over how much time it would take for him to have been able to stop the murderer.
  • Popular History: The show stands as a good example of what the 80's were actually like.
  • Sad Clown: Penhall.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up:
    • In the episode Woolly Bullies, the main characters recount the bullies who have plagued them in their youth. When Doug Penhall recounts his particularly bitter memories of such a tormentor, a friend suggests he seek the bully out and confront him. However, when Penhall does just that by finding the bully's current home, he learns that the bully is now a pathetic unemployed loser with an unhappy marriage to a shrewish wife. Delighted at this turn of events, Penhall decides not to speak to him and returns home quietly gloating how he got the classic best revenge by living well.
    • He even suffered a case of Threw My Bike on the Roof.
  • Series Continuity Error: The episode "Things We Said Today" has a minor one, at least if episodes are assumed to be set in the same year they aired. A flashback to the day of the Challenger Explosion in January 1986 shows Ioki working a case and the Jump Street squad commenting on Captain Fuller as if he were still new to the squad. The first episode of the series aired in April 1987; Captain Jenko was still in charge at that point and Hanson was just joining the squad.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: Booker, who is totally rad and a good guy deep down, but is kinda dangerous and plays by his own rules. Like, totally.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Sal was rushed into marriage at a very young age by an angry father who caught him and his then-girlfriend fooling around, even though nothing sexual had actually happened between them (though it wasn't for lack of trying).
  • Shot in the Ass: Happens to Hanson in "The Dragon and the Angel". Even worse, it turns out to be Penhall's fault.
  • Stargate City: Filmed in Vancouver.
  • Sixth Ranger: Richard Grieco's character, Dennis Booker, for one season. His character was then given his own short-lived spinoff.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: David Barry Gray's Dean Garrett replacing Johnny Depp's Tom Hanson.
  • Teacher/Student Romance:
  • True Companions
  • Vanity Plate
  • Very Special Episode: The show often dealt with hot-button issues, and often had a brief spot afterward with a phone number for the organization dedicated to addressing a particular social problem.
  • Villain Protagonist: The 4th season episode "Mike's P.O.V." Unlike a typical episode where the crime is committed offscreen and we watch the Jump Street crew being briefed about the case and piecing together clues, everything is shown from the villain's perspective. We know from the beginning of the episode that Mike is the murderer, but since Hanson and Penhall function as secondary characters, we don't see the full details of how they manage to figure this out before arresting him.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "Christmas in Saigon" is one of these in addition to being A Day in the Limelight for Ioki. "Chapel of Love" is one for the rest of the cast, as they all reminisce about bad dates (though in Hoffs' case, the bad date happened during the timeframe of the episode).
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Johnny Depp's attraction to eyeliner didn't start with Captain Jack Sparrow - during his time on this show, he was undercover in drag in "In the Custody of a Clown" and looked far too convincing.
    • In on episode, Hanson complains about being in drag for other cases, and laughs that it was getting him asked out by guys. Consider how effective he is in drag, it's hard to tell if he's joking or just laughing it off.
    • Harry dresses up as a woman so that his stakeout with Doug in season three looks like a regular date.
  • Woobie of the Week