Filmed in Vancouver: 21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

Originally uploaded by Photocat62.

Over the next while I will be looking at a few of the good, not-so-good and great shows that have been filmed in Vancouver over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Title: 21 Jump Street
Stars: Johnny Depp, Richard Grieco, others
Canadian Content: Very little, the show takes place exclusively in the United States
Lasting Impact: Johnny Depp became an actual star. Producers James Wong and Glen Morgan would later return to Vancouver with a number of other shows including The Commish and The X-Files [mbv].
Good or bad: It seemed good at the time, however because it was rentlessly aimed at youth culture it ages very badly. Also so painfully earnest that it’ll make your ears bleed sadness. It was never as good as Degrassi, despite it’s attempt to be that show with guns. Also cured AIDS, ended the drug war and prevented all teen suicide.

Like The Mod Squad but with the sort of hard hitting social issues that teens in the early 90s’ had to address 21 Jump Street was one of the first hits on the Fox Network. It was edgy because it addressed things like AIDS, drugs and all the other stuff that Degrassi had already addressed but hadn’t counted because it was a Canadian show. 21 Jump Street was all American, took place in a major American city and featured American actors who graced the cover of teen magazines. Don’t let that fool you though, it was filmed in Vancouver and quite obvious about it.

From the Skytrain in the credits, complete with the provincial logo, to a bus with East Hastings destination on it, the show was easy to identify as being filmed in Vancouver to locals. New Westminster Secondary School, David Thompson Secondary School and others were key filming locations, and local teens were cast as extras or one-shot guest stars. The effect of being shot in Vancouver on the show itself is less obvious with 21 Jump Street than with shows like The X-Files where the location becomes a character, but instead it’s being filmed in Vancouver keeps the show from being pegged to a specific location, it’s Anycity USA a mix of Seattle, LA, Chicago, New York and other big cities allowing the social problems addressed to be universal in a way that being set in a specific city wouldn’t.

The show’s relationship with its biggest star Johnny Depp also set a pattern that would be repeated later with David Duchovny and the entire Vancouver Grizzlies NBA team. Depp managed to keep from slagging off the weather in Vancouver, instead focusing his attention on the sudden and uncomfortable level of fame he had achieved on the show. He wanted to be a serious actor, not a teen idol, and though clearly its a dream he’s since given up in exchange for Pirates money he proved to be one of the few to actually leap from TV to movies something that Duchovny would fail at in such an amusing fashion later on.

The show was eventually cancelled when the success of The Simpsons showed Fox that they could actually have a really popular show that competed with the three traditional networks. It’s lasting legacy was to bring shows like The X-Files to Vancouver, many of the production staff being the same on both shows and to once again demonstrate that as an urban setting Vancouver could be just as gritty as any soundstage or backlot in LA.

2 Comments so far

  1. nsimpson (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2007 @ 11:23 am

    issac was on this show in highschool.

  2. nsimpson (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2007 @ 11:23 am

    issac was on this show in highschool.

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