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Series / 21 Jump Street

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

A 1980s police drama series that lasted from April, 1987 to April, 1991, with a total of 106 episodes in five seasons.

21 Jump Street was the Fox Broadcasting Company's first drama, and was part of its' inaugural season along with sitcoms Married... with Children, The Tracey Ullman Show, Duet and Mr. President.

It is about a special undercover police unit in an unnamed American city, where young-looking police officers infiltrate schools to investigate youth-related crimes. In the earlier seasons these were high schools, later they increasingly went into universities and other non-high school settings.

The series made Johnny Depp a star, but a Teen Idol was the last thing he wanted to be. He quit at the end of season 4, the series carried on for one other season (the 5th) after this, and then got cancelled.

Had a spinoff series, Booker, which ran for one season from 1989 to 1990, following the character of Dennis Booker.

A very well received film "sequel" (a raunchy comedy spin-off) was released in 2012, 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 received a sequel, 22 Jump Street, in 2014, which featured small cameos from Dustin Nguyen and Richard Grieco.

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

Compare The Mod Squad, a 1960s police series about young outcasts using their hippie personas to work as undercover detectives.

This series provides examples of:

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  • '80s Hair: Penhall's and Ioki's mullets. Hanson's longer haircut he had in Season 3.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Judy, when undercover at university, is pursued by a guy whom she doesn't like and who doesn't take no for an answer; at a certain point she even says to him "I find you repulsive".
  • Abusive Parents: The police team often run into these during their work with teenagers. Some examples:
    • A father sexually abuses his daughter. What's worst is that the girl went to police several times, but because her father is a police captain himself, he is able to cover up all her cries for help.
    • A family where the children are physically abused by the parents.
  • 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. In the pilot episode, Judy takes Hanson shopping to outfit him in the right (meaning hip for teenagers) clothes.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Several schools are broken into this way during the show. In one episode, Harry tries to sneak in through the vents while a school is under siege. He gets inside, but the vent and ceiling give way beneath him at the worst possible time, dropping him in front of a bunch of guys with guns.
  • 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.
  • Anchovies Are Abhorrent: Played straight when a character orders pizza and threatens to kill someone else if there's any anchovies on it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Judy and Fuller are both African-American, but he's one generation older. They get into a discussion about racism, with him being much more cynic about it. Judy is outspoken against him, until he asks this and she doesn't know what to say anymore after it:
    Fuller: What does your father work as?
    Judy: You know that.
    Fuller: I want you to say it. What does your father work as?
    Judy: He's a dentist.
    Fuller: Mine was a bell-boy.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • A preppy teenager involved in a rape and homicide ends up killed by the victim’s brother in “My Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”.
    • 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.
  • Ascended Fanboy: meta version for Johnny Depp. From his earliest interviews, he's stated his admiration for Charlie Chaplin and especially Buster Keaton. In the "Rashomon"-Style episode "How I saved the Senator", Hanson's 'movie' is a silent film in the style of Buster Keaton. This was apparently at Depp's suggestion/request.
  • Babysitting Episode: In "Next Generation", Doug has a crush on his neighbour, who is a single mum; he hopes to go out on a date with her, but instead she asks him to babysit her baby, which he isn't enthusiastic about, but he does it.
  • Bad Butt: Every instance of the word "ass" was dubbed over with the word "tail" in the first Season, leading to "I'll kick your tail!" and such. The mouths of the actors clearly are saying "ass" though.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: Peter DeLuise mentions in his commentary track for one of the episodes of the first season: the credits feature a bunch of gunplay and a car flipping over; however, the series mostly is about undercover work and centers around sedate dialog-driven scenes. The car flipping over was one of the most expensive scenes shot for the series, and was really the only one of its kind.
  • Becoming the Mask: In Joey Penhall's first episode, he's sent undercover into a cult, despite his lack of previous undercover experience, because he has the same kind of history and psychological profile as the kids who are being recruited. But it doesn't take much, or take very long, for Joey to become a genuine convert, precisely because he does have the same psychological profile as the kids considered ripe for recruitment. This is actually Lampshaded by both Joey and Doug during the later scenes when Doug is talking to Joey to deprogram him from the cult's mindset.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: In most episodes, the biggest immediate problem / case was solved while they still had a very TearJerker-y ending. Just some examples:
    • "Blindsided": A father who sexually abused his daughters is arrested and prosecuted. But, since their mother is dead, they're now orphans. The eldest daughter is almost an adult, so she may be able to foster her younger sister, which could pose a strain on both of them. Or the younger one could wind up in another foster home.
    • "Draw The Line": Hanson luckily is exonerated (he had been wrongfully convicted for murder) with help from Booker; and Ioki survives and wakes up from his coma. But Booker is Reassigned To Antarctica as punishment for his having broken the rules to exonerate Hanson, something which makes Booker quit his job and abruptly leave the series on the spot; and Ioki gets anxiety issues and develops an addiction to Morphine as a result of his shooting.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: "Don't Stretch the Rainbow" takes place at a high school with racial tensions, and a black girl and white boy who have a relationship have to keep this a secret, for fear of both getting violent repercussions for it. She even does a suicide attempt first seemingly because of the racial tensions, though later also explained to be because she is pregnant. The ending is on a happier note though, as they decide to raise the baby together, and come out with their relationship which really does seem to make an impression on the other students.
  • Bowling for Ratings: Hanson is an avid bowler, and is seen at bowling alleys in a few episodes. Specifically, he is seen bowling with two of his girlfriends he has during different times in the series (first Jackie and later Linda).
    Hanson: I can't Friday, that's my bowling night.
    Penhall: Your bowling night?
    Hanson: Yes. I'm in a league.
    Penhall: In. A. League?
  • 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.
  • Chained to a Railway: Hanson is handcuffed to a roller coaster track, with the car coming towards him. Only at the last second is he unchained, so that he doesn't lose an arm. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl he meets in this episode did this, because according to her "without feeling the rush of impending death, you're not really alive".
  • Christmas Episode: "Christmas in Saigon."
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Hanson and Ioki's departures between Seasons 4 and 5 are never explained. They just aren't there anymore one day and the rest of the characters live on as if they never had existed.
  • Citizenship 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.
    • Also Nadia's (a Polish girl on a high school exchange in the U.S.) motivation for going after every man she met in "America, Oh What a Town". She was hoping she could find a way to stay in America.
  • City with No Name: The city it takes place in is never named. The police force is only known as the "Metropolitan Police". All we know is that it is a big city somewhere in America, probably a fictional one.note 
  • Chekhov's Gun: there's a rather clever one in season 5's "In the Name of Love". In the first act, Mac visits the home of Lisa, the teenage girl he's been assigned to befriend (her father is the episode's Big Bad). During an awkward attempt at seduction, Lisa mentions that she's always wondered what it would feel like to make love on her father's black leopard skin rug. Late in the third act, the investigation is going nowhere and Mac's being pressured to think of anything the police and FBI can use to get a search warrant for the house and warehouse. He remembers the black leopard skin rug, and double-checks that black leopards are endangered... and isn't it a felony to import endangered animals or products thereof? It is. And it works.
  • Cliffhanger: The ending of Season 3. Hanson is wrongly convicted and sent to prison for a murder he didn't commit and Ioki is in coma and on the brink of death after being shot. Also, Booker and Penhall have fallen out with each other over the former's arresting Hanson, and the latter's lying during testimony in court.
  • Clear Their Name: When Hanson is arrested and put on trial for killing another cop (he was innocent of that, though he did break into the cop's house, which made him look guilty) Penhall is about the only one standing up for him; he even goes looking in the cop's house for the bullet that could prove Hanson innocent.
  • 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).
  • Compulsory School Age: The cops are 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.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: While Harry is shot and left in a coma, the other officers visit to make peppy little get-well speeches and talk about what's been going on in the department. Hoffs is mortified when she slips and admits that she thinks of him as dead. He got better.
  • Corrupt Cop:
    • Penhall comes across a group of these near the end of Season 4, when he's temporarily assigned back to uniform; the only innocent member of the group, besides Doug himself, is the rookie. When Penhall turns them in, he recruits said rookie into Jump Street. Dean Garrett was the show's first attempt at a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Hanson; he sticks around several episodes at the murky end of Season 4 / beginning of Season 5 before disappearing, only to be Back for the Dead halfway through Season 5.
    • Part of Tony "Mac" McCann's backstory; he wasn't one, but knew a group of cops who were. He'd decided to keep his head down and stay out of the mess, but instead he was shot by one of the group, who thought he was going to inform on them. Afterwards, he was metaphorically run out of town and into Jump Street.
    • Suverted for Booker. In the 1st episode he appears in, he physically bullies high school students as well as fellow undercover cops, and he acts racist, leading Hanson (and at first, the audience) to believe Booker is a Corrupt Cop. Turns out that Booker is an Internal Affairs officer though, so he was playing that role to provoke the Jump Street team. He ends up joining the Jump Street team by the end of the episode, and isn't hinted as being a corrupt cop again during the rest of his appearances].
    • "Loc'd Out" / "Draw the Line": A cop is into illegal weapon trade. Even worse, he murders his own partner, and then deliberately lies in court to frame Hanson, another cop, for the murder so Hanson goes to prison.
  • Cop Killer:
    • "Gotta Finish the Riff": Averts this, as Jenko is killed, but not on the job as a cop; he's hit over by a drunk driver.
    • Recurring character Dean Garrett is briefly shown in the teaser for "In the Name of Love"; between the murky lighting in the scene and it being half a season since his brief run on show, you don't recognize him, and think he's just a random mook getting killed off by the ep's Big Bad. Which makes it an even more effective shock when he's identified by name after the opening credits, when Captain Fuller reminds us that he worked briefly at Jump Street, which is why they're willing to work with the FBI to arrest the Big Bad.
  • Courtroom Episode: "Loc'd Out: Part 2" (the Season 3 finale) is about Hanson being on trial for murdering another cop, even though he's innocent.

  • Darker and Edgier: To the 2012 same-called movie, which itself is Denser and Wackier. The series often featured heavy subjects, and lacked the Played for Laughs style of the movie.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Booker, who normally has the smallest role of the (then) five cops, is the protagonist in Season 3 "Nemesis".note 
    • Captain Fuller, whose personal life we previously knew nothing about and who had a smaller role than the other cops, gets an episode dedicated to his estranged relationship with his son.
    • Sal "Blowfish" Banducci is a minor character, who gets a larger role than usual in the episode where Booker tries to set him up for a date.
  • 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: Hanson had to disguise himself as a woman during a case where a boy was abducted and Hanson had to pose as the child's mother.
  • "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).
  • Double Date: Played For Awkward: Penhall is caught flirting with an attractive co-worker of his, Jackie, by his girlfriend Dorothy. He then wants to set up Jackie with his best friend / partner Hanson, thus invites an (initially very resistant) Hanson out for a double (dinner) date at Penhall and Dorothy's house. The date goes extremely awkward, as Hanson and Jackie first bicker about differing music tastes and then turn out to be distant co-workers and go fight about a work case as well, resulting in Hanson abruptly abandoning the entire thing.
  • Downer Ending:
    • The end of Season 3 is a Tear Jerker and Nightmare Fuel for everyone on the team: Hanson gets wrongly convicted and sent to prison for a murder he hasn't committed; Ioki is in a coma and on the brink of death; Booker and Penhall are at each other's throats and barely can work together anymore, and the whole team is down and dis-spirited in general.
    • Penhall and Hanson go through a lot of trouble (including being tortured by the corrupt military) travelling through war-ridden El Salvador to find Penhalls wife... only to find out at the end that she has been murdered. Just a few days ago.
    • The way Jenko was abruptly written out of the series. He died, but that wasn't even shown (only a very brief shot of his funeral is shown), and worst of all, he didn't even die on the job/doing something heroic... he got ran over by a drunk driver (as the other characters say: his death was completely pointless).
    • The pilot involved a young drug-addict (Brian) who had run up a lot of debt with the drug-dealer at his school (Waxer), who was harassing him (to the point where they invaded his home during breakfast and let his parents know he owed them money). Hanson manages to put Waxer in prison and save the day. However, there are two sequel episodes to the pilot which reveal that Brian never kicked his drug habit, and died of an overdose; Waxer eventually got out of prison and quickly gets himself put back in because he's so completely screwed up his life at its very beginning (he's only about 20) that he'll never have anything decent unless he returns to crime.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Though she uses the more delicate-sounding "make love" then any other synonym for "have sex", Jackie gets quite to the point when she makes the following proposition to Hanson, who up until then she only has bickered with: (also see "One Of These Is Not Like The Others")
    Jackie: Drive me to my apartment and I'll let you make love to me.
  • Dr. Psych Patient: Hanson and Penhall have to go visit a psychiatrist after they have been involved in a shooting. When they arrive in the doctor's office, a young woman wearing a doctor's coat starts a session with them, seemingly very professional—until a man, the real psychiatrist, walks in, apologizes for being late, and sends the woman away to her hospital room (it's also clear from his reaction, that this patient of his regularly does this).
  • Dreadlock Rasta: When Fuller sees his son for the first time after his divorce again, the first thing he notices about his son is that he now has dreadlocks. The son then turns out to have become a Rastafarian, and have some hippy-ish convictions in general now.
  • Drunk Driver:
    • "Gotta Finish the Riff": Jenko is killed by a drunk driver. Happens off-screen and is only mentioned afterwards, but Judy specifically mentions how senseless his death was.
    • "Two for the Road": Fuller is caught behind the wheel with too much alcohol in him, after a few glasses of wine on a date. He initially tries to get away with this, but realizes that he was very irresponsible, and that as a cop he has to practice what he preaches.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the earlier episodes of the first season, compared to later episodes: Jenko is the team's Captain as opposed to Fuller, who was a polar opposite in personality. The team had a very different dynamic due to Hanson being just new and everybody just getting to know each other. Hanson was an awkward and uptight rookie cop but later a confident cop and a much more loose character. Also, the earlier episodes featured more straightforward police cases, while the later ones tended more towards being a Very Special Episode / Afterschool Special.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: 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.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change:
    • During the few episodes in Season 3 when Penhall leaves the Jump Street team to join the Intelligence team, he suddenly grows a pretty big beard and his hair is slightly longer and more unkempt than usual. Even the other characters In Universe remark a few times "What's with the beard?". The hairstyle change seems to symbolize how he's doubting he even should be at Intelligence the entire time he is there. His experience there ends bitter, anyway, since he is shipped off from that team after having made a mistake on a case. Then he returns back to Jump Street clean-shaven, and his spirits rise again.
    • Meta version for Johnny Depp: as the show went on, and he became more and more of a "teen hearthrob" (to his vocal dismay), his bangs get longer and longer, until they're half-covering his face; this was deliberate on Depp's part, to try and hide the face that got him so much unwanted attention.
  • 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.)
  • Fingore: Played straight and for drama when a student buys a cheap gun from the black market, and it malfunctions and explodes in his hand; his entire hand is severely injured.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • The episode "Mike's P.O.V." is told entirely from the perspective of a high school student named Mike who is paid by a teacher to assassinate his wife. The Jump Street members appear to be regular students to him.
    • "La Bizca" doesn't feature any policework at all, doesn't take place in Jump Street's own town but in El Salvador and doesn't feature anybody from the cast except Hanson and Penhall. The episode is about the civil war in El Salvador, something drastically different than the usual "crime and social issues amongst (American) teenagers" format.
    • "Chapel of Love" doesn't show any police work, instead the main characters all tell stories about dates they had (it's a Valentine's episode).
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Deconstructed in "Whose choice is it anyway?". The main guest star seriously looks into adoption, and sees a counsellor to explore her options, including abortion. The character ends up miscarrying after her boyfriend bombs the counselling/abortion clinic, him not knowing she's in there. In the episode it's also revealed that Judy had an abortion at 17; when asked if she regretted it, Judy answers poignantly that she regrets getting pregnant, and she really regrets not sharing it with her mother, but she believes that she made the right choice. The episode itself shows either a serious exploration or an example of all the three main choices: keeping and raising the baby, adoption, and abortion—and all are shown as valid choices.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck! : Happens frequently. "Good gaul-darn riddance!". Also, when the show originally aired on TV, every instance of the word "ass" was dubbed over with the word "tail"; the actor's mouths clearly were saying "ass" though.
  • Halloween Episode: There were two: "The Worst Night of Your Life" in Season 1, and "Old Haunts in the New Age" in Season 4. In both, Halloween was important as background, and both had much in common plot-wise, as noted under Recycled Script under Trivia.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tom is so traumatized by his girlfriend Amy's murder in "Orpheus 3.3", that he can do nothing but watch the security tape on repeat and attempt to do various pointless tasks within 3.3 seconds, the amount of time he believes he had to save her.
  • Heterosexual Lifepartners:
    • Penhall and Ioki were this to each other for a while during Season 3. After Penhall was thrown out of his house by his girlfriend Dorothy, he moves into Ioki's apartment (driving the latter almost instane with his bad manners). It even accumulates in a scene with Ioki dressed up in drag and them pretending to be a heterosexual couple on a date (in order to catch a criminal), in which they're bickering about their domestic differences.
    • Penhall and Hanson were like this, too; so much so, that their most frequently-repeated undercover persona was as the MacQuaid brothers.
  • Hold the Unsolicited Ingredient: In 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.
  • Irony: Johnny Depp signed onto the show mainly because he wanted to work with Frederic Forrest, the actor playing Captain Jenko. But Jenko was killed off after just 6 episodes, and Depp was stuck on the show (to his increasingly vocal discontent) until the end of Season 4.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Taylor Rolator (Josh Brolin) in "My Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades". He's a smug, coke-sniffing, thrill-seeking honor student from a prep school who essentially walks free by turning in the two buddies who joined him in raping and murdering a troubled high school girl. At the end of the episode, he runs into the girl's brother, a tough guy mechanic who had threatened to enact street justice on his sister's killers. The mechanic shoots Rolator, leaving him with a fate much worse than the jail time his school friends and drug dealer are facing.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: "Whose Choice is it anyway?": A teenage boy is infuriated that his girlfriend is considering abortion, and egged on by a local pro-life spokesman he firebombs the local planned parenthood-style clinic late at night. After he's arrested, he's full of self-righteous fulfilment, even after being informed that the clinic wasn't empty; that's when Ioki tells him that his girlfriend was at the clinic for an after-hours counselling session (and she was at the clinic at that time because the boyfriend and the pro-lifers were harassing everyone in the vicinity during business hours). The girlfriend will be okay eventually, but she's miscarried the baby.
  • Last-Name Basis: The cops almost always call each other by their last names. Averted for Sal Banducci, who's always either called by his nickname "Blowfish" or his first name Sal.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Jackie wants to make up to Hanson for having scoffed at him earlier; he rebuffs the first two offers, but the last one's... different, and so is his reaction to it.
    Jackie: Why don't you drive us to a coffee shop, I'll buy you some waffles.
    Hanson: [Defiant]I don't want any waffles.
    Jackie: Then drive us to a florist, I'll buy you some flowers.
    Hanson: [Irritated] I don't want any flowers.
    Jackie: Then drive me to my apartment, and I'll let you make love to me.
    Hanson: I don't want... [Shuts up and immediately and hastily starts his car's engine and drives away]
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Judy and Doug almost have sex with each other and afterwards (mostly on insistence of Judy, who seems to feel very awkward about it) swear to each other to act as if that never happened, and to never speak of it again (least of all to other people, Judy insists; and it is telling that, as far as is shown on the show, Doug never tells even his best friend Tom).
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Hanson gets his butt hit hard with a wooden plank, as part of a hazing ritual when he's undercover in a fraternity, in "Hell Week".
MAD: "21 Junk Heap."
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Penhall falls head over heels with, and marries, an El Salvadorian woman within four days of meeting her. She's an illegal immigrant and he is soon being accused of marrying her only to get her into the U.S.; a judge annuls their marriage and sends her back to El Salvador, upon which we don't hear anything about her again for half a season. It does not end well: Penhall and Hanson finally go looking for her in El Salvador but find out she's been murdered by the corrupt military.
  • 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.
    • Played with for Tony 'Mac' McCann, Hanson's Suspiciously Similar Substitute; in his case, it's more Manic Pixie Nightmare Girl, as she turns out to be the leader of a Satanic coven, which among other nasty things practices human sacrifices of homeless people.
  • Mood Whiplash: Season 4 featured two episodes that took place out of state: the first (ep. 18) took place in Florida during Spring Break and featured partying college students and lots of girls in bikinis; then in ep. 19, the tone turned very grim and Played for Drama when Doug and Tom went to El Salvador, which had a civil war at the time, and found out Doug's wife had been murdered.
  • Multi-Part Episode: The Season 3 finale consist of two episodes ("Loc'd Out", a.k.a. "Partners") that technically are one storyline.
  • My God, What Have I Done?
    • "Fathers and Sons": Hanson confides in his D.A. girlfriend Jackie, that the mayor's son is the biggest suspect in a big drug case. In reaction, out of worry that the case will ruin Hanson's career, Jackie tells the mayor, and the Jump Street team is told by higher-ups to abandon the case. The teen son of the mayor then promptly dies of a cocaine overdose. Hanson, angry about Jackie violating his trust, points out to Jackie that had Jump Street not been removed from the case because of her meddling, the teen would have been arrested but not dead. She looks completely guilt-stricken about it and later begs Hanson for forgiveness.
    • "Whose Choice Is It Anyway?": A teenage boy, whose pregnant girlfriend is seriously considering an abortion while he wants to get married and keep the baby, bombs the counseling/abortion clinic—but the girlfriend is there at the time, leading to her miscarrying the baby and her being severely wounded. Upon finding that out, he has this reaction. Also see Laser-Guided Karma above.
    • Ioki goes through this at the end of "Things we said today", when he learns that a teenage boy's life took a turn for the disastrous mostly due to Ioki's unwitting influence: see Woobie of the Week below for details.

  • Nerd Glasses: Invoked. Hanson wears glasses whenever his undercover identity is more nerdy, to accentuate that trait. In Gotta Finish the Riff where he "is" a geek and in Research and Destroy where he goes undercover as a chemistry student. Since Hanson never wears glasses otherwise, they must be "fake" (non-corrective) glasses.
  • Never Learned to Read: The relevantly-titled "Afterschool Special": An illiterate boy in a disadvantaged-neighborhood high school.
  • New Old Flame: Hanson meets an ex-girlfriend of his, Linda, again, which makes him realise she's the love of his life, in the aptly-named episode "Eternal Flame".
  • New Transfer Student: Happens in about every episode (at least during the earlier seasons, when the episodes more consistently take place at schools), due to the premise: the show is about young-looking cops going undercover in high schools. Every time they go undercover into a school, they pose as a high school student that just transferred. Discussed explicitly in a.o. Season 4's Out of Control when Tom Hanson is filling out a transfer student form, and in Research and Destroy when Tom says he transferred to the college from M.I.T.
  • Non-Indicative Title: Though many episodes were named Exactly What It Says on the Tin, there also were some with puzzling names. Say It Ain't So, Pete is about gambling college students. There isn't any Pete character in the episode, and that phrase isn't uttered or referenced in any way in the episode.
  • Office Romance: Downplayed with Hanson and Jackie. He's a cop and she's a D.A., so they don't literally share the same office, but they often work on the same cases, thus knowing each other from work. Indirectly, they meet because their work overlaps (Penhall works with her, and is the one who sets them up); they also bicker about their common work environment (ep. Blue Flue), and work eventually is what breaks their relationship (Hanson confidentially tells her something about a police case, but she tells the mayor, whom she works with as a D.A., leading to the case being dismissed; Hanson can't forgive her for that).
  • Oh, Crap!: The reaction when one of the Jump Street officers says "I'm a cop!", or when the young offenders discover the ruse for themselves. ("You're a cop!")
  • 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.
    • acknowledged somewhat in later seasons; see Real Life Writes the Plot
  • One-Night-Stand Pregnancy: Subverted. At the beginning of "Higher Education", Ioki allegedly has gotten a girl pregnant after (she claims) having had a fling with her at a school dance. However, it turns out the girl has made up that claim—the (grim) real way she got pregnant was PregnancyByRape.
  • Orphaned Punchline: The Season 3 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. Later in Season 4, an entire episode took place in El Salvador, and didn't feature any police work at all and no characters but Doug and Tom.
    • 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.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: While early seasons almost exclusively revolved around the Jump Street cops posing undercover in high schools, later seasons saw more episodes where the main plot didn't focus on a student, or students.
    • Shirts and Skins: Penhall investigates the murder of a neo-Nazi leader with an adult son who is eventually revealed as the killer, while Hoffs and Ioki blend in with anti-racism vigilantes whose leader, a middle-aged man, has his own sets of stereotypes about Asians.
    • Numerous later-season episodes which focus on the officers' personal lives, as opposed to campus or youth crimes.
    • Stand by your Man: Starts as a standard episode where the team investigates drug abuse. But that case itself is solved within 15 minutes and the episode turns out to be about Judy's rape, making her the victim here instead of the police officer. It's much more dramatic and less crime/action oriented than most of the series (see also "Break the Cutie" above).
    • The biggest digression happens with two episodes in Season 4, which respectively center around: first going to Florida on Spring Break, and then going to war-ridden El Salvador and discovering Penhall's wife has been murdered by the corrupt military.
    • Peter Deluise's final episode, Number One with a Bullet opens with Penhall in uniform, as part of a security detail for a political candidate. He is shot during an assassination attempt, and the episode as a whole deals with his possible survival. Penhall lives, and is expected to make a full recovery; but his adopted son Clavo is so traumatized by nearly losing Doug that he quits the force for a less dangerous line of work.
    • Film at eleven plays with this; Mac is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, but he does so openly as a police officer; he doesn't go undercover, or anywhere near the girl's school.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Hanson's mother breaks up with her boyfriend, and Hanson asks why the relationship suddenly ended. She, after asking "Can I be frank with you?" tells Hanson that the sex was bad—to which Hanson has a "Squick, I don't want to know!" reaction. She reacts with "I didn't think you'd be so sqeamish!". It's actually pretty funny.
  • The Place: The title of the series itself, and of the team of cops: "21 Jump Street" is the address the team resides, and "Jump Street" is how they call their team.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • The opinion of the Street Rangers from Season 3.
    • 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.
    • This is character's Tom Hanson's sentiment during much of Season 4. Following his having experienced what it's like being in a Juvenile Prison in Season 3; having been wrongfully sentenced for a murder he didn't commit; and watching someone he arrested get capital punishment, Tom gets extremely cynical about police work. During Season 4 he keeps mentioning wanting to quit being a cop, and at the end of Season 4, he seems to have finally done that, since he disappears.
  • Popular History: The show stands as a good example of what the 80's were actually like.
  • Prison Episode
    • Swallowed Alive: Hanson goes undercover in a youth prison.
    • Draw the Line: Tom Hanson is in prison after being wrongfully convicted for murder. He manages, with help from Booker, to prove his innocence and is released at the end.
  • Prom Wrecker: In 'The Worst Night of Your Life', this becomes the school of the week's prom theme, after Judy Hoffs talks about the idealized image of prom that everyone is fed, in contrast to it usually being 'The worst night of your life!'. Which implies that this happened to Judy in her original stint in high school. In-episode, an outcast student succeeds in setting the prom decorations on fire in the middle of the dance.
  • The Quincy Punk: "Mean Streets and Pastel Houses" is about a group of 80's punk teenagers.
  • Rape as Drama:
    • Judy becomes a rape victim in Season 4's Stand by your man; several episodes later mention Judy's later trauma over it, even near the end of the show.
    • Season 3's Hell Week: a college student is raped at a fraternity party, in front of many onlooking other students. It traumatizes her so much that she quits college, and it also affects the life of her brother, who also is in that college.
    • Unfinished Business is about a serial rapist who fixates on disabled women.
    • The main plot of The Education of Terry Carver in season 5; more than the other episodes, this focused on how rape trials can target the victim and their previous sex life, and how in some cases a rape survivor can be even more traumatized by the trial than the rape itself (studies have shown that this is one of the main reasons victims don't report rapes in real life).
  • "Rashomon"-Style: In "How I Saved the Senator", a Senator was saved from a bomb explosion targeted at him during a speech. A journalist interrogates all Jump Street members, and gets vastly different and contradictory stories from everyone. They are all shown as films in different styles: Hanson's is a silent, black-and-white movie note , Ioki's a martial arts movie, Penhall's a James Bond-style movie, etc. In the end, it turns out none of the stories was true and a student used a slingshot to shoot the Senator with a water balloon as a prank.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot : In-series. The actors aged so much in Real Life, that after a few seasons they couldn't realistically pass for high school students anymore. Therefore, as of Season 3, episodes start to deviate from the, previously standard, High School setting as where the Jump Street crew goes undercover—and start to cover different, more adult, environments they go undercover in. E.g. Hell Week takes place at a college / university; Blinded by the Thousand Points of Light is about homeless young adults; A.W.O.L. is about a soldier on the run. This was played up even more in Season 4, which had even more episodes set at college / university instead of high school (Say It Ain't So, Pete, Stand By Your Man, Research and Destroy), and was when a Jump Street crew member, Penhall, first went undercover as a staff member instead of as a student (Blackout / Business as Usual). By Season 5, Penhall and Hoffs have visibly aged enough that they have not only been on 'regular' duties more than once, but in Season 5 they're both sent undercover as staff more than students. E.g. in Diplomas for Sale, Doug, Judy and new guy Mac are college, not high school students. Poison, Judy is a guidance counsellor, and Penhall is off-site support for the guest star undercover agent; in Just say no! high, Judy is a student, but Doug is an assistant sports coach.
    • one of the reasons (besides Johnny Depp leaving) that Mac McCann and Joey Penhall joined the cast season 5; they still looked young enough to pass as high school students, even if only as seniors. You can really tell the difference, when Doug and Michael DeLuise are in a scene together.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Hanson feels this way about his (forced) transfer to Jump Street in the Pilot: he is transferred there because some incidents happened because he's too young looking to be a uniformed cop. When he hears it from the Chief, he originally is strongly opposed to it, saying he wants to be a real cop (meaning patrol/uniformed), "like [his] father was". The Chief makes it clear he must go to Jump Street, he does, he eventually likes it and we get the rest of the series.
    • After Booker has violated many rules in order to get the falsely convicted Hanson out of prison, he is disciplined by being reassigned to a paper work job in the basement of the police library. Upon hearing that he immediately resigns from his job (and then becomes a private detective in his own spin-off series).
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: "Wheels And Deals: Part 2":note  After Booker left the Jump Street team (In Universe) and got his own spin-off show (in Real Life), he returned a few episodes later to work with the team to catch the criminal ultimately responsible for the events that happened to Hanson and Ioki at the end of Season 3.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The DVDs had a lot of the music replaced with generic tracks. 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.
  • Road Trip Plot: "A.W.O.L." starts out as this, as Hanson and Penhall have to transport an Army Private who dodged service. About halfway through though, the Army member escapes and Hanson and Penhall are lost and stuck in the wilderness and the cold.
    • "Cory and Dean Get Married" is about Penhall and Hoffs transporting a juvenile offender back to her home state, and the boyfriend/escaped accomplice who is trying to rescue her from them.
  • 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.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!:
    • Penhall sets up Hanson for a double date with his [Penhall's] girlfriend, and his co-worker Jackie, whom he wants to set up Hanson with. The Double Date very quickly turns sour with Hanson and Jackie bickering over work issues, upon which Hanson simply announces "I'm gonna go", and leaves, leaving a confused Penhall and Dorothy behind with a half-finished dinner.
  • Sequel Episode:
    • In the pilot, Hanson arrests a young teenage boy for drug possession; in season 2's I'm okay, you need work his sister contacts Hanson to investigate the rehab clinic her brother has been placed in for patient abuse.
    • Also in the pilot episode was a criminal character who Hanson arrested—Reggie. This guy suddenly shows up again in a Season 2 episode to take revenge on Hanson.
    • In "Wheels and Deals", the whole team goes after the man who ultimately was responsible for Hanson getting wrongfully convicted for murder and Harry nearly dying nine episodes earlier in Draw the Line.
    • Played with for Things we said today; the episode deals with the long-term consequences of a past case of Ioki's, but the previous case is detailed in flashbacks.
  • Series Continuity Error: "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.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Penhall, in an awkward twist, is caught flirting with his co-worker Jackie by his girlfriend Dorothy. Penhall then, in an effort to control the damage, sets up a double-date in order to hook up Jackie with his best friend and partner Hanson. Almost ironically, Penhall and Dorothy break up soon afterwards while Hanson and Jackie get together and stay together during almost the whole rest of the season.
  • Shot in the Ass: Happens to Hanson in The Dragon and the Angel. Even worse, it turns out to be Penhall's fault.
  • Shout-Out: A lot of episodes are named after, or based on '50s to '70s classic songs — Things We Said Today (The Beatles), Chapel Of Love (The Dixie Cups), School's Out (Alice Cooper), Woolly Bull(ies) (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs), Stand By Your Man (Tammy Wynette), (Re)search and Destroy (Iggy and the Stooges), Awomp-Bomb-Aloobomb, Aloop Bamboom (Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti"). There are also several examples of 1980s songs being used as inspiration for episode titles — Tunnel of Love (Bruce Springsteen), What About Love (Heart), In the Name of Love (U2) and (My) Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades (Timbuk 3). Although the song came out a few years after the episode, Loc'd Out ("Locked Out") was one of the first international hits for legendary Australian music group Crowded House.
  • Shower of Angst: Officer Judy Hoffs plays this trope straight after one of the characters in the case she was working on rapes her. Despite knowing intellectually, as a detective, that this would destroy much of the evidence, she is too traumatised by the event to plan out her actions.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: Hanson distracts himself with eating grapes when Judy finds him sitting at Fuller's desk and, understandably, asks him why he's there and where everybody else is. Hanson puts a grape in his mouth and answers with his mouth full. He's trying to brush her off to prevent her from knowing where the other cops are (unsuccesfully).
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Don't Pet the Teacher": A female, pretty young and attractive, teacher at a high school is stalked by continuously getting love notes and unwanted presents by an unknown admirer. At first she and the police suspect it's one of her high school students but turns out it's the school's janitor.
  • Starter Villain: Tyrell "Waxer" Thompson, a drug dealer harassing a client to pay overdue fees. He never returns after his arrest, but his Dragon Reggie does.
  • Strike Episode: In the "Blu Flu" episode, the whole cast of police officers is on a strike, sans Captain Fuller, as Police Captains apparently are considered "administrative personnel" and as such have no right to be unionized. Hanson even is an active participant of his trade union, and as such takes part in official negotiations between the trade union and the municipality.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: David Barry Gray's Dean Garrett replacing Johnny Depp's Tom Hanson. However, he never got beyond recurring character and he was later killed off in Season 5; Season 5's Tony McCann did somewhat better in fact, he's the one who brings Garrett's killer to justice.

  • A Tankard of Moose Urine: Hanson must drink a few glasses of a bright green alcoholic drink when undercover at a fraternity. From the expression he has when doing this, it's clear that it tastes terrible. He also immediately throws up after the last shot, and afterwards Fuller remarks that he looks "green".
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Played with with Johnny Depp's character, who is in his mid-twenties and not actually a student, but met and flirted with a woman just before he was actually assigned to her school and discovered she was now his teacher. For bonus points, this happens in an episode that frequently mentions Van Halen.
  • Teen Pregnancy:
    • "Don't Stretch the Rainbow" was mainly about racial tensions at a high school and a relationship between a black girl and a white boy there (that they had to keep secret to avoid escalation of the racial tensions). The girl turns out to be pregnant, and she and the boy together tell the whole school not only about their relationship, but that they are also going to raise this baby together, no matter what, and that the other students should take this as an inspiration to stop the racial hate. Their message does seem to make an impact.
    • "Whose Choice Is It Anyway" featured this prominently, since it was about pregnant teenagers considering whether they should get an abortion, against the backdrop story of violence against abortion clinics. There was one pregnant girl in particular that Judy befriended.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Judy and Doug, both acting impulsively, make out and even almost have sex. Afterwards, Judy feels awkward about it and then accuses Doug of deliberately having tried to seduce her—her reasoning being "you had a condom with you"—which might make her a hypocrite note , but Doug's answer to that doesn't help his case: he blurts out that he always has condoms with him "just like you always have a spare tire in your car in case your car breaks down". Causing Judy to answer "O great, so I am a road accident?!"
  • Token Romance:
    • Hanson has a girlfriend, Amy, during Season 2; she only briefly shows up in three episodes note , doesn't have any relevance to the plot note , and they don't have chemistry or anything in common and Hanson isn't even attracted to her. It's telling that when she dies, Hanson mostly feels guilty about that he as a cop failed to overmaster the robber who shot her, rather than missing her as a person.
    • Averted for Hanson's next girlfriend, Jackie, who was written in as a colleague of Penhall's, and who worked as a D.A., thus her work partially overlapped with Hanson's.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: "A Big Disease With a Little Name"
  • Truth in Television: Whether or not it was deliberately inspired by the show, using young-looking police officers undercover as high school students has actually been done. Read about the real-life example of Alex Salinas here.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: In just about every episode, due to the show entirely revolving about undercover cops, at the end the cops show their badges and reveal themselves to be cops. Most of the times this happens when they arrest the suspect, though sometimes they reveal themselves before the arrest, to someone who isn't a suspect but they think can help solve their case. The reaction of the people they reveal themselves to varies from contempt, to shock, to hurt for feeling betrayed.
  • 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. Most notable examples:
    • "Whose Choice Is It Anyway?" is about abortion, and violence against abortion clinics.
    • "The Girl Next Door" revisited the topic of HIV. This example is particularly interesting, because it also showed how treatment (see Science Marches On on Trivia Page) and some attitudes towards HIV had advanced, even during the 2 or 3 years between the episodes.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Hanson drinks many strong alcoholic drinks as part of a hazing ritual at a fraternity, and promptly vomits on his tormentor's shoes. We only see his backside but not any vomit during this.
  • Wham Episode: Season 4 ep. 4 "Come From The Shadows": Doug, who previously in the series had only had a serious relationship with Dorothy but otherwise was always pretty much a flirt with all women note , falls seriously in love with and marries an El Salvadorian woman. She is extradited out of the U.S. by the end of the episode and in a What Happened to the Mouse? manner, isn't mentioned in any way for 14 episodes; then ep. 18 "La Bizca", another Wham Episode, shows Doug and Tom going to war-ridden El Salvador to look for her spoiler  For the remainder of the season, her entire existance is again ignored (though Doug adopts and cares for her nefew Clavo).
  • Whole Episode Flashback:
    • "Wooly Bullies" had all characters tell about being bullied in their childhood, and featured flashbacks for all of them.
    • "Things We Said Today": A teenager who Ioki befriended during an investigation three years earlier, shows up, and tells Ioki in flashbacks how that event shaped his and his family's life.
  • Woobie of the Week: In many episodes. Some of the most prominent:
    • A family Officer Judy coincidentally finds out physically abuses their teenage children (her Captain Fuller wants her to stay out of it, but she insists on helping the teenage children who are battered).
    • Mike from the Season 4 episode "Mike's P.O.V.": A teenage boy who murders the wife of his teacher for money; the episode explains his back story, which is that he has a major crush on one of his class mates, and it's implied he only did it to impress her.
    • Kyle, the antagonist of "Things We Said Today": His life wasn't all that great when he met Ioki; but Ioki's friendship directly influenced him into making a decision whose consequences sent his life straight to rock bottom. after finding out the whole story, Ioki agrees; when Kyle is charged over his holding Ioki at gunpoint, Ioki tries to speak on Kyle's behalf in court, but the judge throws out Ioki's offer of testimony. Ioki pleads with Kyle to speak up on his own behalf, but Kyle silently refuses; it's a testimony to Keith Coogan's performance that he gets across without words that he's had more than enough of Harry Ioki's 'help'.
    • Then there's Lisa Burbank, in "In The Name of Love"; she's an outcast at school because of her uncool image, plus rumors that her father's a criminal—which she fiercely denies. But when she's visiting her father at his business warehouse, it's raided by the FBI & police—and she recognises one of the officers in the raid as the new kid at school... the cute guy who became her first friend in years, and who she even asked to have sex with her! Then undeniable proof is found that the father she's so loyally defended is a drug smuggler, and very likely guilty of everything he's been accused of (and the viewer knows that he's guilty of at least one murder)... and the only person willing to comfort her is said undercover cop, who pulls her into a tear-stained Cool-Down Hug as her father is led away in handcuffs.
      • and Mac borders on Woobie territory in this ep, himself. 'Persuaded' by the FBI into taking this particular undercover assignment, at the same time he's trying very hard to reconcile with his visiting ex-lover, Samantha. Mac feels uneasy about targeting Lisa to get to her father right from the start, and becomes even more so as the ep progresses, because Lisa really is a nice girl who he honestly likes. But Lisa runs into Mac attending a business function with Samantha as her date. Lisa throws a fit, which not only blows his cover, but brings down criticism from the FBI. While he manages a last-ditch idea to justify a raid of Burbank's warehouse, he has to watch Lisa, who he's genuinely grown fond of, becoming more and more upset. After Burbank is arrested, he comes home to find his ex packing her bags; she's decided that she can't deal with his career.