Why CHiPs Isn’t CHiPs…..An Open Letter to Dax Shepard

Dear Dax,

You don’t really know me, but hear me out anyway. I saw the trailers and promotion for your CHiPs movie and I have a few things to say on behalf of CHiPs fans everywhere, and believe me, there are a lot more than you think. I know because I am Larry’s Wilcox’s personal assistant and I run his website and Facebook fan page, which has about 75,000 fans and is growing every day. I am also in charge of the CHiPs 40th Anniversary Reunion gathering, which will take place this September. Thousands of fans are interested in attending; in fact, it is a near certainty that we will sell out as we have more interest than space to accommodate. Those are my “credentials” and this is what I’d like to say:

Your movie just isn’t CHiPs. Sure, it’s about the California Highway Patrol, and has two characters named Jon and Ponch, but that’s where the similarities end. Now, I understand when you do a remake you have to freshen it up, I don’t have any problem with that. You didn’t do that though, you just eradicated everything that made CHiPs beloved with its fans (many I need to point out, just like back in the 70s and 80s, are children!) starting with the characters themselves.

You said you yourself are a fan of the show, well then I have to ask, where is Sgt. Getraer? And Grossman, Bonnie, Bariciza, Harlan, Fritz, Turner, Bruce, and the rest of the characters? Not only are they just as beloved by fans as Jon and Ponch, but they were an integral part of what made CHiPs so successful. You see, CHiPs was all about the chemistry between the characters. The banter. The friendships. It was not, as you seem to think, about dick jokes and toilet humor. I’ll grant you that the action scenes do reflect the spirit of the show, but you could have created an updated CHiPs that would have appealed to both new fans AND old. It would have been great to see Ponch navigating online dating, Grossman and Harlan getting caught up in the Pokemon Go craze, Jon loving Facebook, and poor Getraer just trying to make sense of it all-and his new cell phone.

Instead the loyal fans who have loved the show for nearly 40 years and passed that love on to their kids and in many cases, grand kids, got a mess of a movie that completely alienated them-tens of thousands of them. Why were they not important to you? I’ve gotten many messages from fans who have children upset because they can’t see the movie. How do you explain to a little one who loves Jon and Ponch what rated R means? Don’t get me wrong, no one expected a G-rated movie, but you didn’t have to fill it with crude sexual humor and nudity. In the original series, we all knew Jon and Ponch were not choirboys, but we didn’t have to see it. Letting viewers use their imaginations is not a bad thing!

I have to ask; did you actually watch any episodes? I ask because I and most CHiPs fans don’t understand why you completely disrespected the characters. Jon Baker is not an ex-gamer. He’s not a rookie. He’s not a screw up. Jon is a Vietnam vet. He’s a Marine who balances toughness with sensitivity. He’s a cowboy and a dedicated and damn good cop. He has about 5 years’ seniority on Ponch.

Oh and Ponch. Dear, dear Ponch. Ponch isn’t an FBI officer. He was streetwise guy trying to find his place in the world when he met Jon. Jon was the responding officer to a call about someone recklessly riding a dirt bike in the hills. At the time Ponch was hanging out with a bad crowd, but to quote him as he explained to Sgt. Getraer why he wanted to join the CHP: “I realized I’m not one of them so I think maybe I’m one of us.” Ponch also was not obsessed with other guys’ crotches like the one in your movie. Now if it was a parody, fine, I can see how that portrayal would work, but you yourself said your movie was not meant to be a parody at all. So why did you do this? I honestly would love to hear your view. Jon and Ponch were good cops. Cops who cared about the people they served and the humanity of those they arrested, never forgot where they came from, and while they respected the book, they weren’t afraid to bend its rules if it was the only way to solve a problem or save a life.

See, what you don’t understand is CHiPs was not just a 70’s cop show. It wasn’t Shakespeare, no, but it did and does mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people. As Larry’s assistant I have heard so many stories from people who decided to make law enforcement their life’s work because of how Jon and Ponch inspired them. Stories from people who were abused children or living in dysfunctional situations who found hope, comfort and escape in CHiPs. Stories from people who cherish that show for it’s message of friendship and acceptance. As Paul Linke, who played Grossman, so beautifully put it, “We solved problems with our brains and hearts, not with guns and violence.” Throw in some gentle humor, a little romance, great chemistry, incredible action, those gorgeous motorcycles, and the sun and fun of 70’s Southern California, and THAT’S CHiPs.

You and everyone else who remakes old shows need to realize they all come with a fan base, some larger than others, and should respect that. It’s the original fans that made those shows worth remaking after all! They are the reason networks like MeTV and Antenna TV are thriving. They should be respected, as should the cast who made the original show so beloved. CHiPs was cancelled by NBC in 1983, but it remained on the air in reruns for over 20 years. It was the highest rated show on TNT and TBS at the time. Today, 40 years later it’s one of the highest rated shows on MeTV. That’s special.

I leave you with this. Donny Osmond once told a story about how he made fun of his old songs during a concert. After the show, a couple of fans confronted him about it. “They may be corny old songs to you, but they were a part of the fabric of my childhood. How dare you make fun of them,” one said to him, “They aren’t just your songs. They belong to all of us who were inspired, comforted and cheered by them.”

Donny took that to heart. He said he had never realized how much his songs meant to so many, and he has never ridiculed them again. CHiPs is much the same way, as are many of those old shows that have and are being remade. They mean so much to so many, and should be handled with the care and respect they deserve. I hope you will take that to heart the next time you do a TV show remake. Thank you.

Sue Walsh

Sue Walsh is a freelance writer and editor living in NYC with her husband and two cats. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Hartford.  This article originally appeared at The Medium and we have published with permission from the author.

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  1. Ruffian31

    I was appalled when they did Dukes of Hazard, The A-Team, and Starsky and Hutch and I absolutely WILL NOT see this movie. I grew up watching CHiPS and happily watch re-runs whenever hey come on. As soon as I saw who the main players were, I knew it was junk. What I can’t believe is why Michael Pena can have such a great character in End of Watch and then go to this trash. I’m absolutely appalled they would make such a travesty and disrespect the original show and characters. The characters stood for something and inspired many people to become police officers. But then, Hollywood has managed to alienate me completely as I will no longer go to the movies, I can’t support people who are this stupid and ignorant. I’ve gone back to reading books, much more enjoyable and real.

  2. Michael Daenen

    Kinda goofy. Obviously this movie isn’t geared toward people who watched the original show. Why would the characters need to learn how to use phones and Facebook? They aren’t freaking time travelers. This entire article is simply someone saying that things were better in their time. Guess what? That may be true, but it may not. I imagine the writer and her husband sitting around and yelling at kids riding their new fangled “skateboards” while petting her cats. Just because you liked the original doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s different. It’s okay for things to change.

    The cell phone comment is Possibly the dumbest comment of it all. “He can learn how to use those crazy talking boxes”. Stupid

    • GirlFriday

      You totally misunderstood what I was saying.

  3. Airborne Tom

    Thank you for alerting us that this remake has been gutted of virtually everything that made CHiPs the great show that it was. As a kid in the 1970s, I grew up watching CHiPs and later spent much of my police career as a motor officer. I had planned to see this movie, but I certainly won’t now.

    I just wanted to add one little piece of information to your informative piece. Larry Wilcox didn’t just play the part of a Vietnam Veteran. Staff Sergeant Larry Wilcox joined the Marines in 1967 and served 13 months in Vietnam with the 12 Marines (including the Tet Offensive). As an 0811- Field Artillery Canoneer, he served as a member of a recon survey team which was inserted by helicopter to survey a mountain top or area for an Artillery Fire Base and upon completion would then run the FDC (Fire Direction Control) by using and computing distance, range, and azimuth via Slide Rule for 105 Howitzer, 155, 175 and 8-inch Artillery. Thank you again for calling attention to the ruination of what could have been a memorable remake of a great tv show. I hope that this movie meets with the lack of success it deserves and that it might causes future remakes to take a much closer look at what made the originals successful, although I despair that it will not.

  4. Jay Beezy

    “I’ll grant you that the action scenes do reflect the spirit of the show”

    I thought Ponch and Baker didn’t use their guns.

    • GirlFriday

      I meant the car chases.

  5. drums4life

    wasn’t this movie promoted on that Facebook page?

    • GirlFriday

      On Larry’s? No.

  6. guns2317

    Ms. Walsh, bravo! You summed up things perfectly about this upcoming film. You could not pay me to go see this thing. Just….ugh!

    My only addition to your commentary was that, of course, they had to have the typical Hollywood plot line of investigating corrupt cops. Sad to see that Hollyweird continues to propagate the idea that there are so many bad people in police work.

  7. Sterling Holobyte

    “I hope you will take that to heart the next time you do a TV show remake. ”

    Hopefully there won’t be another hollywood remake for him to do. They always mess them up.

  8. VaultDweller73

    The letter makes 100% sense however the assistant, Maybe I’m Wrong, doesn’t understand that Hollywood could give a s*** about being on the mark and only exploits the name for the money. That is all that Hollywood cares about… and you see the low brow jokes everywhere, they are in every single Will Ferrell movie every single Zach Galifianakis movie every single movie and TV show with all of the recent actors for the past 30 years it’s all dick jokes just about every f****** scene it’s b******* and f*** the chips remake. I grew up watching CHiPs and the remake movie is going to suck it… I will not see it.

    • likeyoudontalreadyknow

      You are spot on. Hollywood doesn’t give a shit. All they care about is money while pushing a “Ohhh, look at us. We’re not greedy capitalists. We’re trendy liberals who ‘care’ about things,” message.

    • GirlFriday

      I absolutely do understand. 🙂

  9. TruthHurtz

    They are following the money and trying to make another Super Troopers.

  10. likeyoudontalreadyknow

    This letter is right on the mark! I was a kid in the 70’s and CHiPs was THE show that my friends and I watched. It made me want to be a highway patrolman. I served as a highway patrolman in my state for 25 years – retiring last year. I now run my own security business. This movie is just using the CHiPs name to get people to watch it. Besides the motorcycles and the character names, it has no resemblance to the original show. It is trash.

  11. Steve Biegler

    Well Said. I will now pass on the movie and take in a couple old episodes of “CHiPs”

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