Rewatching 21 Jump Street. The show’s creators are back to pushing the envelope and going to extremes in season three, episode seventeen, “Blinded by the Thousand Points of Light.”
What’s goin’ down: Homeless male teen prostitutes are being savagely beaten and left for dead by an unknown assailant driving a nice car. Now, our heroes are undercover on the streets in the bad part of town.
Here’s Hanson: Johnny Depp is barely in this episode, only in a few scenes. Some fans have speculated that his line, “I hate feeling like a piece of meat,” was some sort of sly commentary of how he wanted off the show to pursue his film career.
Penhall’s prerogatives: Penhall develops a friendship with a girl who suffers serious abuse from the other homeless teens. His “street name” is “Trump,” because he’s so good at conning cash from passersby.
Book ‘em: Booker’s “homeless” disguise has him wearing a hat. Other than that, he’s wearing pretty much what he always wears.
Undercover blues: To track down the one missing teen who can identify the suspect, Hoffs accompanies one girl back to her parents’ suburban home, for the tear-jerky reunion.
Trivia time: Bridget Fonda, one of my favorite actresses, plays one of the homeless teens. Also, there’s a rare acting appearance by writer Darin Morgan, known for his outstanding and oddball scripts he wrote for The X-Files, Millennium, and Cartoon Network’s short-lived Tower Prep.
Torn from today’s headlines: A lot of ‘80s shows did “Let’s feel bad about the homeless” episodes, and this one lays it on really thick. The episode’s title refers to U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s famous “thousand points of light” speech, about community organizations and volunteerism. I suppose the title also refers to Manfred Man’s lyrically-confusing 1976 hit song “Blinded by the Light.” (Revved up like a WHAT?!?)
Jumpin’ or not? This one checks off all the boxes — homelessness, drugs, violence, prostitution, and more. It’s dealt with in more of an even hand than other “message” episodes the show has done, though, mostly thanks to some strong character work in the script. The homeless kids come across as real people and not just stock types. It’s jumpin’!
Next week: Shock jock rocks the block.
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