Why Did Larry Wilcox Leave ‘CHiPs’?

Like many other classic TV show leads, CHiPs stars Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox were always in the limelight during the run of their hit series. Even some now as fans enjoy the recent reunion of the two California patrolmen. With the topic of CHiPs resurfacing, long-time fans are growing more interested in behind-the-scene details. In particular, fans wonder what the real reason was behind Wilcox leaving the show before its finale since there appeared to be more to the story than Officer Jon moving back to Wyoming. 

Larry Wilcox as Officer Jon Baker looking off camera in front of a blue background
Larry Wilcox as Officer Jon Baker | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

‘CHiPs’ was a major hit in the ’70s and ’80s

Before fans were watching all the crime TV shows airing today, there was a hit TV series called CHiPs that captured the personal lives and on-the-job struggles of motorcycle patrolmen Ponch and Jon. Ponch was more of a hot-headed, take action before you think type cop, while Jon was more level-headed and thought-out before moving forward. Some would say the two officers mellowed each other out in a way that benefited them both.

The hit crime drama TV series aired from ’77 to ’83, debuting a lot of action-packed car chases, insanely exaggerated car pileups that were somehow still entertaining to see after the 100th time they made their way into the show, and enough bad guys to fill up the California jailhouse. There was hardly a boring minute, and viewers couldn’t get enough of the two leading officers.

Estrada and Wilcox’s roles on the show

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Estrada played one of the two leading officers, Officer Francis (or Frank) Poncherello. Due to his out-of-line behavior and irrational decisions, the officer was on probation for most of the series. By the time he actually gets himself out of the ‘dog house,’ he finds himself right back in it when he says the wrong things to a woman with a lot of power in the police force.

Wilcox played the other leading officer role of Officer Jonathon (or Jon) Baker. He was assigned the task of field training officer, which essentially meant he was to watch over Ponch while they patrolled California highways together. This was because he was much more responsible and level-headed when it came to making mature decisions on the go.

Although the two stars played best friends on screens, they were far from friendly off-screen. People reported that when Wilcox got married in the 1980s, Estrada was nowhere to be seen. “I gave it a lot of thought and decided not to invite him,” the CHiPs star said. “There’s no point going around telling people Erik is my best chum because he’s not and never will be.”

The reason Larry Wilcox left the show

According to People, the two stars often squabbled with each other, even in interviews with the media. “It was hard for Larry to see Erik gobble up the spotlight,” Robert Pine, CHiPs’ Sgt. Joe Getraer said. Then Wilcox left the show before the series ended in 1983 with a sour and contempt attitude. “Producers could have cast anybody who could say ’10-4′ and ‘Pull over!'” Wilcox reportedly said. “‘What did they need me for?'”

Larry Wilcox had a similar problem as many co-stars in the film and TV industry. Sometimes personalities clash behind the scenes of characters that seem like best friends on the small-screen. Fortunately, it seems like the two CHiPs stars have moved past their differences from the past and have genuinely become good friends now.