21 Jump Street TV Poster Image

21 Jump Street

Slick, somewhat dated police procedural for teens.
  • Network: Fox
  • Genre: Action
  • Release Year: 1987

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There's a clear message that crime is bad and the most appealing folks on the show are the good guys. Social issues are front and center in the show, from gang issues to AIDS awareness. Crime may occasionally appear glamorous to teens, i.e. criminals are sometimes good-looking and appealing.

Positive role models

The show's heroes are cops and thus on the side of law and order. They're also young and cool looking.


Violence, drugs, prostitution, even murder are confronted head-on from the stance of "crime doesn't pay"; criminals may brandish guns but there is no bloodshed. Violence is always followed by consequences, and the characters in danger are almost always teenagers and adults.


Some references are made to dating, love, and romance, as well as to characters (male and female) being attractive. There is no nudity or onscreen sex, but there may be mature discussions, such as one episode that features a teen who accuses an adult of impregnating her, and another where a young girl becomes a prostitute.


Characters occasionally insult each other ("dork," "spazz"), and the general tone between the officers is one of mockery. Villains on the show occasionally use words like "freaking" or "crap."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Many episodes revolve around drugs and drinking, from the perspective of these things being negative. Criminals are often shown drinking and smoking or at bars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that 21 Jump Street is basically Law & Order for teens, and much more serious than the 2012 theatrical release of the same name. Battle lines are drawn clearly: The show's police officers are on the side of good, the criminals on the side of bad. There is very little moral ambiguity; it is easily evident who viewers are supposed to root for. This is a police procedural show, so there is a "crime of the week" on each episode; parents may be concerned about some of the crimes spotlighted, such as one episode where a young baseball player is menaced by villains out to murder him, as well as one where one of the show's officers is named in a paternity suit leveled by a high-schooler. Many kids will find the dated fashions, music, and expressions hilarious; parents may find themselves explaining outdated slang.

What's the story?

A group of baby-faced city cops are recruited for a special assignment: Working undercover out of the chapel located at 21 JUMP STREET and infiltrating groups of young criminals. "Kinda like Fast Times at bust-your-buddy high," quips the soon-to-be-a-giant-star Johnny Depp, who is recruited into the titular squad in the show's pilot. Yeah, Johnny. Kinda like that. Kinda like that, crossed with any of the police procedural shows currently on television; only back in the '80s when this show premiered on the then-fledgling Fox Network, it was unique. Each week the squad tackles a crime in a different milieu (high school, a bar that serves underaged drinkers); by the end of the episode, the crime is solved.

Is it any good?


It's a little dated (oh, those '80s hairstyles and fashions!), and will probably look pretty silly to teens who have already gobbled up teen-detective fare like Veronica Mars. After all, it was created to be ultra-hip in a different era; that's always a recipe for later goofiness.

But it's also kinder and gentler than many modern shows, created in a time before school shootings and well-publicized teen gang activity and crime. The violence is muted (although deaths do occur, mostly offscreen), there is no blood, and teens are presented as mostly respectful to adults and law-abiding. Some of the themes are mature (child abuse, rape, suicide) putting this off-limits to little siblings, but this would be a good, relatively safe choice for teens who are interested in police shows, mysteries, or just getting a look at the young, stunning Johnny Depp.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the crimes that occur on the show. How likely is it that the crimes depicted on the show to affect you in real life? What are some ways your family stays safe?

  • What would you do if you witnessed a crime? Whose responsibility is it to stop crime? Are bystanders who watch criminal activity and do nothing responsible for what happens?

  • The police officers on the show pretend to be younger than they are in order to go undercover. Is it okay to pretend to be someone else for a good cause?

TV details

Premiere date:April 12, 1987
Cast:Holly Robinson Peete, Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, Richard Grieco
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of 21 Jump Street was written by

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written bymetallica July 6, 2012

awesome show

there is violence, drugs, and positive role models/messages awesome show! :D
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old April 5, 2012

No noticeable product placement!

Great show! Problem with most shows is the marketing for children viewers.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byFilmFanatic May 6, 2014

Great messages for kids with an exciting "cool" air

Being a slightly dated show, kids today may not really be interested in watching it, HOWEVER it does mark the start of Johnny Depp's acting career. Any fan of Depp and his work will NOT want to pass up this show, as he is in practically every episode in seasons 1-3 (and periodically in season 4) and does a fantastic job. Aside from the acting which is fantastic from the leads, the show has good moral, exciting story lines and not too much iffy content. As a parent of any child under the age of 11, I would screen and pick out the "cleaner" episodes as some of them deal with very heavy topics like rape and prostitution. There is SOME minor language. In season 1, Depp's character uses the word "ass" on a few occasions, but is dubbed over with the word "tail" though his mouth clearly says otherwise. From Season 2 up harsher language is introduced and not dubbed such as "b*tch" "sl*t" "ass" "fag" and "n*gger". The use of this language however is not frequent at all and usually used by criminals. As far as sex and nudity, season 1 is pretty clean with only some mild kissing. There are however references to rape. (being the main crime of the storyline at times) As the seasons progress there is more kissing, sexual tension between two of the main characters, and much more talk of rape and prostitution. The show is not gory, or extremely bloody, but there are a lot of fist fights, talk of crimes, violent arrests, chase scenes and even murder. Many are carried out with cheesy fight noises and usually result in very little (if any) blood. There are loads of drug references, with drugs being the center of many of the episodes plot lines. Teenagers are seen dealing and doing drugs, but are always arrested by the main characters, showing that crime and drugs don't pay. All of the main characters are great role model's for kids. * *Hanson (Johnny Depp) -for the first few seasons is usually the main character in the show. He shows a lot of responsibility, cares a lot about his job and is sometimes forced to make tough moral decisions. Although he can sometimes be a bit rough with the criminals, he ultimately shows to be a compassionate person with a good heart. * *Hoffs (Holly Robinson)- great character who is VERY passionate about her work. Sometimes too passionate. She lets a lot of the situations that come up in her work affect her emotionally and although that sometimes can compromise the missions, it gives her a very human element and shows its ok to be emotional about things that are close to you. Like Hanson, she really does the job as she enjoys helping people and stopping crime. * *Penhall (Peter DeLuise)- like the rest of the team he enjoys his job, but is more of the "joker" in the group. He doesn't always take things seriously, but adds a real sense of fun to the show. He's a great example of being able to act like a kid and have fun but also know when to be mature enough to handle a situation. * *Ioki (Dustin Nguyen)- The most rational of the team, he gives a great example of how being serious,professional and able to follow orders can gain you respect from your peers. He tends to go undercover as more 'stable' characters while Penhall and Hanson handle the more "badboy" style ones. Like everyone else, he really shows a passion for getting criminals off the street and keeping people safe. * In all the show is great fun while presenting good role models for kids and tackling heavy topics such as drugs, bullying, prostitution, sexual abuse, child abuse, suicide, racism, homophobia and even fear of diseases like AIDS.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking