10 Fun Facts About The Original '21 Jump Street'
As part of Hollywood's neverending pillaging of the TV landscape of my youth, the big-screen reboot of "21 Jump Street" hits theaters this Friday. Having been a huge fan of the show, I was opposed to the film from the get-go. However, after hearing that most (if not all) of the main cast members have cameos, and that the movie has very little in common with the series aside from the title and basic premise, I'm not so dead set against it. Besides, if it does well, there's a good chance that some network will start airing reruns of the original show, allowing me to rekindle my once-raging crush on Peter DeLuise.
Before Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum go undercover this weekend, let's look back at the days when Johnny Depp was the baby-faced cop by whom we all wanted to be arrested. Here are 10 fun facts about the original "21 Jump Street" series that you may or may not know...
1. "21 Jump Street" was the third primetime series to air on the newly formed FOX network, helping to round out a popular Sunday night lineup that included "Married...With Children" and "The Tracey Ullman Show."
2. Although he was the first choice to play detective Tom Hanson, Johnny Depp originally turned down the role. Having just appeared in the Academy Award-winning "Platoon," he was reluctant to sign a contract that would bind him to a TV show for six years. The producers hired actor Jeff Yagher, who was fired after his performance in the pilot failed to impress. Josh Brolin was considered as a possible replacement, but Depp eventually agreed to take the part after his agents convinced him that the show probably wouldn't last for more than a season. Yagher's scenes in the pilot were re-shot with Depp, and "21 Jump Street" was introduced to home viewers on April 12, 1987. Depp's agents couldn't have been more wrong, as the series— due in no small part to its impossibly handsome leading man—became an instant hit.
3. Casual fans of the show may remember by-the-book Captain Adam Fuller, played by Steven Williams, as head of the Jump Street program. However, Williams was actually a replacement for Frederic Forrest, who played original Captain, neo-hippie Richard Jenko. After failing to click with the audience, Forrest's Captain Jenko was killed off by the writers (via drunk driver) in Episode 6. Perhaps writers of the "21 Jump Street" movie, Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill, were fans of the forgotten Captain Jenko, as Channing Tatum's character bears the same last name.
4. One of the most popular recurring "characters" on 21 Jump Street were the McQuaid Brothers: the wise-cracking juvenile delinquent alter egos adopted by Tom Hanson and Doug Penhall (Peter DeLuise) when going undercover at a particularly rough high school. I don't know if the McQuaids were based on anyone, but for as badass as they were supposed to be, they always reminded me a little of Lenny and Squiggy!
5. Several celebrities guested on the series before they were stars, including Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughn, Bridget Fonda, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jason Priestley, Larenz Tate and Peter Berg, just to name a few.
6. Sal Jenco got his gig as "Blowfish" the janitor, thanks in part to his long-time friendship with Johnny Depp. Still one of Depp's closest pals, Jenco has played in Depp's band P and manages Depp's L.A. club, the Viper Room.
7. Knowing the principal actors also came in handy for a couple of "21 Jump Street" guest stars. Depp's then-fiancee, Sherilyn Fenn (of "Twin Peaks" fame), appeared in a first season episode, while DeLuise's then-wife, Gina Nemo, landed the recurring role of Doug Penhall's girlfriend, Dorothy.
8. By the second season, Depp was bored with playing the same character and irritated by his "teen idol" status. While he was always a "team player" in interviews, Depp expressed his dissatisfaction in other ways, like showing up to the set in crazy outfits (probably no crazier than he dresses today!), making weird character suggestions, and even vandalizing a "21 Jump Street" billboard featuring his very pretty face. Despite having signed a six-year contract, his lawyers got him out after the fourth season. Without Depp, the show really had no future. Its fifth and final season was not picked up by FOX and only aired in syndication on select affiliates.
9. While Johnny Depp was certainly the show's breakout star, Holly Robinson Peete (Judy Hoffs) could be considered the real MVP of "21 Jump Street." Not only did she sing the delightfully cheesy theme song (jump!), but she was also the only original cast member to stick with the series through its entire five-season run.
10. During the second season, producers came up with the idea for a spin-off called "City Court," which would have followed the Jump Street cases through the court system. The spin-off's pilot was to focus on Tom Hanson being tried for murder, a plot that was later recycled as a third-season episode when the "City Court" plans fell through. Unfortunately, plans for the "Booker" spin-off went full steam ahead, and we all had to wait out that embarrassing year when FOX tried to make someone—anyone—care about Richard Grieco.