I have been waiting for season 3 of 21 Jump Street for a very long time - this is by far the best season in the entire series. I was surprised to see another reviewer belittle this season to nothing at all. I would like to present several counter-arguments why this is the best season and not the worst:
First, while Johnny Depp is the lead actor on 21 Jump Street and he usually finds himself most often in the best episodes, he does not necessarily carry the show entirely by himself. Jump Street also consists of 3 other important cops: Penhall, Hoffs, and Ioki, plus captain Fuller. Additionally, the 3rd season adds a 4th cop, Booker, and makes Sal the custodian a more recurring role. You can see throughout seasons 1, 2, and more importantly season 3, that all the characters are part of the show and it's not just about Johnny Depp. In 'The Blue Flu', each character has a very small role independent of the other as the city's police force goes on strike in a failed bargaining attempt. On the other hand, there are several episodes in which one character carries the entire episode. For example, in 'The Dragon And The Angel', Ioki is the star as he infiltrates a Vietnamese gang. In 'The Currency We Trade' Penhall takes the lead role as he arrests an innocent journalist and ruins his career - both excellent episodes that do not rely on Johnny Depp. However, there is one episode, 'Swallowed Alive', where the 4 guy cops on Jump Street go undercover in a juvenile prison/school facility. At first, Ioki and Booker (as the 'Samurai Twins') and Penhall and Hanson (as the famous 'McQuaid Brothers') are all part of the episode. Suddenly, in the middle of the episode, you find everyone gone except for Hanson (Johnny Depp) who puts on a solo performance in what I would call one of the best episodes in the entire series. So I do not agree that Depp hated the show and wanted out. If he did want off the show, he would not have been able to put out such a stellar performance in 'Swallowed Alive'.
Second, Booker arrives in season 3 as the 5th Jump Street cop. I wouldn't say he was a replacement for Hanson, as they have nothing in common. Booker is a totally off-the-hook character, much like a modern James Dean. Hanson, on the other hand is the handsome and polite guy who can become a rebel at times, but sticks to his soft-hearted personality more often than not. I think Booker was brought on to add diversity to the storyline and more importantly, to prepare for the spin-off show with the same title. Why else was he not featured in the opening credits?
Third, the writing for each episode is *NOT* downright terrible! A new writer(s) took over the show in season 3 through the end of the series. While I was skeptical at first, I could hardly tell the difference in storyline quality. If anything, I would say that season 3 had more swearing and violence, but overall, more mature and intelligent themes. Just take the episode 'Hell Week' for example. This is probably my favorite episode in the series. Here we find the Jump Street investigating a rape in a prestigious college full of rich-boy frats. The entire segment featuring the actual "hell week" where initiations take place is so funny, intense, and exciting that I could watch it over and over a thousand times and still not be bored. The whole fork, spoon, knife test involving Ioki and Hanson is deserving of an award in my opinion.
One last comment on this season: 'High High' is another awesome episode that features all of the characters independently of one another. This time, we find Jump Street infiltrating a liberal arts school where everyone is unique, creative, and... into drugs! This episode feels more like a movie full of elaborate storylines and plot building throughout. It doesn't let go until the final credits roll.
With that said, I definately feel season 3 is one that isn't hurt by Depp's lesser role, but actually strenghtened by the overall excellent performance of all 7 characters.