Lost & Found: ‘CHiPs” Punk Episode Was the Best, Most Clueless Thing Ever
When you go back and watch a lot of ’80s television — especially shows about teens that moralize against drugs, dangerous music and delinquent behavior — the more tone deaf they are the better. A lot of old series and TV movies from this era are especially funny to watch today, including one of our all-time favorites, the punk episode of ‘CHiPs.’ You can watch a totally punk moment from it above.
‘CHiPs’ was a cheesy NBC series about the California Highway Patrol starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox. With punk becoming a growing concern among parents, ‘CHiPs’ and ‘Quincy’ both made punks laughable villains on episodes that still live on in infamy decades later. (The ‘Quincy’ episode, ‘Last Stop Nowhere,’ is especially clueless, and back in the day posers were often nicknamed “Quincy punks.”)
William Forsythe, who you’ve probably seen in ‘American Me’ and ‘The Devil’s Rejects’, plays Trasher, the lead singer and guitarist of the pseudo punk band Pain. They’re competing in a Battle of the Bands against a New Wave singer with pink hair (“The rock world already has Blondie,” she explains). The band performs the song ‘Pain,’ which is a typically bad mainstream interpretation of a punk song, but after a few listens, you can’t get it out of your head. (The band Jughead’s Revenge even did a cover of it.)
In the end, the punks are thwarted by the forces of good, Snow Pink wins the Battle of the Bands and Estrada treats us to an off-key rendition of Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration.’ (Talk about out of touch: The guy is singing a disco song in 1982!) It’s also interesting to note that the club where Pain plays is the Starwood, where Van Halen and Quiet Riot made their bones back in the ‘70s.
The ‘Battle of the Bands’ episode is a funny time capsule to look back on today, because it was made during a time when punk music was genuinely dangerous, and the world couldn’t get past the usual safety-pin and mohawk cartoon stereotypes. About a decade later, punk became fun for the whole family, and society quit being afraid of it.
So have fun with this little pop culture gem, which will show you how a terrified society looked at the punk scene through the prism of a silly ’80s TV series.