In 1977, Rick Rosner helped welcome a new era of television entertainment when he created ChiPs. Unlike most other crime dramas, ChiPs focussed on two officers from the California Highway Patrol. The main characters were Officer Francis “Ponch” Poncherello and Officer Johnathan “Jon” Andrew Baker. Jon was the more level-headed of the pair and tended to keep Ponch and his antics out of trouble. The pair were under the command of Sergeant Joseph Getaer.
ChiPs began airing on NBC on September 15, 1977. It remained strong until it concluded on May 1, 1983. Over the six seasons, it aired 139 48-minute-long episodes. There was also a special reunion film that aired on October 1998.
Similar to most television series at the time, multiple episodes featured many popular activities from the west coast. While many of the episodes remained focused on law enforcement, there were multiple that presented side stories. So, the pair would participate in various activities similar to roller skating and hang gliding.
By the 4th season, ChiPs almost fell apart with Ponch’s star, Erik Estrada, stepping away from the series for a bit. So, season 5 had two episodes that attempted to launch different spin-offs. Neither of these pilot attempts succeeded. Though, one of them, Force 7, was memorable for featuring cops that relied on ninjitsu.
By the time the sixth season aired, the series had fully lost one of its stars. Larry Wilcox, who played Jon, completely left the show. In response to the departure, the show gained Tom Riely as Officer Bobby “Hot Dog” Nelson to act as Ponch’s new partner. Still, the dynamic was not the same as it once one. So, it was no surprise that this was the final season of the show.
At the height of ChiPs’ popularity, Mego entered the market with a selection of action figures and vehicles. Unsurprisingly, these characters showed up in Mego’s signature 8” scale action figures. There were figures of Jon, Ponch, and Sarge in this scale. Each of these toys came with a blue and gold helmet, a billy club, a utility belt with a holster, a pistol, sunglasses, a watch, and boots. There were even a special set of stickers that were present with the figures of Jon and Ponch.
Since the show centered on two motorcycle-riding patrol officers, Mego made certain to include a vehicle at the 8” scale. So, it was fully possible to pose these action figures on their iconic motorcycles.
Mego also created some 3 ¾” action figures. This scale featured toys of Jon, Ponch, and Sarge. There were also figures of Wheels Willy and Jimmy Squeaks. Similar to the 8” scale, Mego released a free-wheeling motorcycle for the 3 ¾” action figures.
For those who wanted a complete set, there was the rare 2+2 set. This set included 2 motorcycles and action figures of both Jon and Ponch. Otherwise, there was a Ponch with a motorcycle set.
Mego was not the only company producing ChiPs toys and vehicles. For instance, Imperial toys released several vehicles, including a Patrol Car. They even produced a complete 5-piece die-cast vehicle set for the franchise.
LJN also made a small set of ChiPs toys in 1983. Their toys included 3 ¾” action figures of Jon and Ponch. They also produced motorcycles that these figures could ride on. There was a small playset that mostly featured a launcher for the motorcycles. Finally, they produced a 2 + 2 gift set with both figures and two motorcycles.
Along with LJN’s toys, companies like GiGi licensed and brought over these toys to European countries, such as Italy.
In 2017, the franchise was briefly revived as a full-length motion picture. Produced by Warner Bros., this movie debuted in theaters on March 24, 2017. This time around, Jon was a former motocross racer that joined the force on a probationary status. The FBI teamed him up with Ponch to help take down a gang of bike riders who had been robbing armored vehicles.
Despite the movie, there have been no signs of any companies creating new toys or action figures for CHiPs. Still, collectors can continue to love the collectibles and merchandise that were produced during the series run.
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