Oh, I hated Johnny Depp for years because of this show. Not that I watched it or knew who he was, but he was on this show and it came on at 7pm on Fox on Sundays and it sucked. Why? I don't know... it just sucked. Boy did it suck.
And so in 1993, while working a summer job in a podunk town, I found it on when I came home for lunch one afternoon. I wasn't sure what it was at first, but I suspected it was that horrible, pathetic show. I figured I'd watch it... nothing like seeing a train wreck to cheer you up on a bad day, right? But then I realized it was time to go back to work and I couldn't go... 'cos I had to see the full wreck. And then I realized I timed my lunch hour to the same time the next day... and the next. You guessed it. I liked the show.
Really, I don't know why I hated the show... probably because, like most people who are completely firm in their negative opinions, I had had no real exposure to it. I found (after watching, mind you) that the plots were decent, the actors from passable to excellent, and the writing and dialogue better than average. Depp and Peter Deluise worked well together, particulary when they worked as the McQuaid Brothers. Stephen Williams became a favorite actor of mine with his portrayal of Captain Fuller (he was later X on the X-Files.) As much as they were used, Holly Robinson and particularly Dustin Nguyen were never used as well as they could have been, but they were still good.
Someone else mentioned that this because a star vehicle after a while. Despite the amount of future stars, I tend to disagree. Many of these faces were being seen for the first time here and no one could have guessed that they'd become famous. Brad Pitt, Pauly Shore, Sherilyn Fenn, Jason Priestly, Shannon Doherty, and several others had fleeting guest spots on the show and eventually went off to do bigger things, but there was also a long list of other actors on the show who went on to do very little or nothing at all.
Another note (heh) that should be mentioned is that the show was one of the first to push a lot of popular music of the day in the soundtrack. I remember one epsiode about an AWOL military school student featured R.E.M.'s Orange Crush (off of the just released Green album). I believe the final Johnny Depp episode had an Oingo Boingo song from the Dark at the End of the Tunnel album... and don't knock Boingo... lead singer/composer Danny Elfman has been a respected film composer for over 15 years now. I believe a soundtrack was released, but I don't think many of the good songs were released on it.
As the show went on, it became a little unbelievable that they could keep hitting the same schools without the students catching on or talking to each other to rat out the undercover officers. The writing got really bad in some episodes and Depp seemed to be giving bad performances just so he could get out of his contract. They allowed him to skip several episodes completely or limited his appearances in others as a result. After he left and the show went from FOX into general syndication for the last season, more and more shows were throwaways. The cast and guest stars suffered as well, with Robinson left to carry the show almost by herself (Peter Deluise guested on a handful of early episodes while brother Michael ended up on about half.) All in all, the last season is disappointing apart from a sparse handful of ok episodes.
Like others, I'd love to see these on DVD, but I really don't expect it. It was a great show for a while, but when you lose the good producers and writers, even the best actors are going to have a tough time with working something out.