6 gonzo things you never knew about 'Nash Bridges'

By: H&I Staff    Posted: May 23, 2018, 11:07AM

Don Johnson will forever be known as Sonny Crockett, the stylish star of Miami Vice. But that was not his most successful television series, if you're going by episode count. In 1996, the actor and singer of the No. 5 pop smash "Heartbeat" struck small-screen gold again with Nash Bridges.

This lighthearted buddy-cop show paired him with Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame — who played the straight man — and ran for six seasons. Miami Vice only lasted five.

He traded in former Italian sportscar for American muscle and hit the streets of San Francisco to stomp crime.

Let's take a closer look at this beloved Nineties staple, starting with its most fascinating fact…

1

Hunter S. Thompson and Don Johnson came up with the idea.

Yep, that Hunter S. Thompson. The pioneer of gonzo journalism that both Bill Murray and Johnny Depp portrayed on the big screen. Thompson and Don Johnson were neighbors. "My neighbor and friend, God rest his soul, Hunter Thompson and I were sitting around talking about television," Johnson later explained. "Hunter and I came up with one idea and out of that idea it evolved and underwent a metamorphosis." Initially, that idea, as you might suspect, was a touch darker. The germ of the Nash character was a drug-addicted cop dating a mob daughter. The tone lightened by the time it hit network television.

Image: The Everett Collection

2

It features a 'Miami Vice' reunion and a Cheech & Chong reunion.

In the same episode, no less. In season two's "Wild Card," lovers of '70s and '80s pop culture were treated to a double reunion, as both Philip Michael Thomas and Tommy Chong turned up. (Oh, and Meat Loaf is in there, too, as a bonus.) A speedboat chase is tossed in for good measure, for full Miami Vice flashbacks. Cheech and Chong, naturally, have a back-and-forth about marijuana. "Totally legal under prop 215 as long as you have a valid medical excuse," Chong's character notes. His excuse? "I get really depressed when I'm not getting stoned."

Image: The Everett Collection

3

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin turned down a spin-off.

In seasons four and five, professional wrestling superstar "Stone Cold" Steve Austin guest-stars a handful of times as Det. Jake Cage. (Notably in an episode titled "Get Bananas," where Cage must go undercover in the Simian Liberation Group, a group of radical animals rights activists looking to kidnap a celebrity chimp.) When Jake Cage first appears, Stone Cold's in-ring wrestling theme music is played. It was reported that Austin was offered a spin-off, but turned it down to focus on wrestling. "It might lead to something and there's been talk of [a spin-off]," he said on Regis & Kathie Lee, "But I've been around this thing long enough that I never believe anything really 'til I see it or 'til it happens."

Image: The Everett Collection

4

The show was shot on location in San Francisco.

Bridges made great use of the scenic Bay Area (including its bridges). Locations like the Embarcadero and Piers 30 through 32 serve as a backdrop, and much of the show was shot on Treasure Island, the artificial island in San Francisco Bay. 

Image: The Everett Collection

5

The '71 Plymouth Barracuda was not really a '71 Plymouth Barracuda.

How could we overlook the non-human star of the series, the "Curious Yellow" Plymouth Barracuda driven by Nash? He loving calls it his 'Cuda. On the show, it is said the car is a '71, but the production actually modified four 1970 Barracudas to look like 1971 Barracudas. That's television, Bubba!

Image: The Everett Collection

6

There were three different theme songs in six seasons.

In six seasons, Nash Bridges cycled through three different theme tunes. The first and final seasons went with two different instrumentals. Seasons two through five used the more familiar song, singing, "I got a friend in you to lead me out of the cold."

Image: The Everett Collection

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