It’s hard to describe how much I loved the show CHiPs as a kid, but I’ll give it a shot: I FUCKING LOVED CHiPS! A LOT!! If you’re unfamiliar with the show and why a young boy in the 1980s would be super into it, all you need to know is that it was about two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers who got into approximately 300 high-speed chases per episode, resulting in every car in the entire state of California smashing into each other on the 405 freeway in a giant pileup.
For all the car-on-car smash-em-up action, CHiPs was actually pretty tame. In fact, the two main characters— Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and Officer Jon Baker — never drew their guns once during the ENTIRE SERIES. Police officers in Los Angeles fighting gangs of car thieves and going on high-speed chases, and they never drew their guns? Pretty realistic! One minor character did draw his gun a few times during the show… to give you an idea of how absurd this show was, here’s the description from Wikipedia of one of those times: “The last was in Season 4’s “Karate,” in which a karate-trained car burglar (Danny Bonaduce) attacked him with a bo staff, but wisely retreated to a getaway van when Baricza drew his gun.” So, yeah. That’s what this show was like.
Erik Estrada, who played Ponch, became a huge star in the late 70s / early 80s because of the success of CHiPs. He had everything a leading man in an action movie needs: good looks, a charmingly cocky demeanor, the ability to jump a motorcycle over a bunch of crashed cars. So why was he unable to capitalize on his TV stardom and make the leap to the silver screen? My guess is that people saw Lightblast.