Let’s “Celebrate” the New “CHiPs” with Some Vintage Erik Estrada


Erik Estrada and some other doofus. 

Kevin: The new “CHiPs” is finally out, and it appears that the remake of the ‘70s “classic” TV show is … not that good apparently. We previously discussed our skepticism that the action in the big screen version could top that of an average episode of the show, which week to week depicted L.A.’s freeways as death traps filled with drivers who’d sooner try and drive through a fiery six-car wreck than ever actually apply the breaks …

I’m sure I will check out this new version at some point, and I would at least consider writer-director Dax Shephard stepping into the bland forgettable shoes of Larry Wilcox an upgrade. However, while co-star Michael Pena may be a very good actor and always a welcome presence in a film, it is hard for me to imagine anyone filling the sometimes disturbingly snug uniform of Frank “Ponch” Poncharello than Erik Estrada, who for six seasons made being a low-paid California motorcycle cop seem like the sexiest and most glamorous job in the world.


Ponch’s legendary way with the ladies, whether asking every female he pulled over for a date or holding court at his apartment complex surrounded by more models than at the Playboy Mansion, resulted in Estrada being named one of 1978’s top 10 bachelors by People:


And why not, especially with disco moves like he showed off in the Season 2 episode “Peaks and Valleys,” which ends with Ponch typically cutting it up on the dance floor with multiple ladies while partner Jon typically watches from the sidelines like a wet blanket. (Not shown: Ponch and Jon later delivering the baby of a woman who decided to go clubbing right as she was dilating apparently.)

Lest you think he was a one-trick pony, Estrada also showed he could master the art of square dance in the Season 2 episode “Rally ‘Round the Bank,” in which Ponch takes a break from trying catch some bank robbers by bringing his mom and current lady friend to whatever the hell this is …

But nothing Ponch – or Estrada for that matter – ever did could possibly top his moment in the spotlight in the Season 5 episode “Battle of the Bands,” in which Ponch not only helps take down some punks – including William “Stone Cold” Forsythe – trying to start a riot with their pro-anarchy music, but afterward he brings back the good vibes with a cover of “Celebration” so amazing that it should have forced Kool & the Gang to retire on the spot:

Sorry Michael Pena, you may be technically a better actor, but as we can see only Estrada possesses the moves needed to be the one and only Frank Poncharello.


Post Script: In the Season 3 two-parter “Roller Disco,” Ponch is having trouble getting celebrities to attend the annual CHP roller disco event, while also trying to help a troubled rock star played by Leif Garrett and apprehend roller skating bandits rather improbably played by Jim Brown and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. Just when things look bad for Ponch, he somehow  in the nick of time manages to get a cavalcade of “stars” including Dana Plato, Dan Haggerty, Vic Tayback, Cindy Williams, and Ruth Buzzi to show up, and the result is the most ‘70s thing you will see all day:

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