TITLE: PARKER LEWIS CAN'T LOSE - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
DVD Release Date: June 30, 2009 (Shout! Factory)
Color / 1990-1991
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 26
Running Time: 598 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: 30 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English
Special Features: Commentary by Cast and Crew (7 episodes); “The History of Coolness: A Look Back at Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” featurette
High school can be rough and tough, and throughout those four years, you don’t always come out on top. But if your name is Parker Lewis, then you can’t lose... and now, for the very first time, the early ‘90s sitcom Parker Lewis Can’t Lose is available on DVD in a four disc set!
Parker Lewis Can’t Lose premiered in September 1990 on the relatively new network at the time, Fox. It stars Corin Nemec (who would later go on to Stargate SG-1) as the title character that is the type of guy that has it all, and achieves that simply by being original. He gets by at Santo Domingo High School with a little help from his friends, Mikey (Billy Jayne) and Jerry (Troy Slaten). But Parker had a few people that always stood in his way, particularly his principal, Grace Musso (Melanie Chartoff).
The series has some similarities to the cult-favorite film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, although they are not connected to each other in any real way. Ironically, the same season that this series premiered on Fox, NBC premiered a TV series version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which ended up being canceled quickly due to low-ratings. But Parker Lewis survived the airwaves (with even lower ratings, actually, but it WAS early ‘90s Fox) for three seasons, and while never exactly a hit on television, gained a respectful and loyal audience that still enjoy seeing the guy that could never lose.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
In the “Pilot” episode, Parker’s geeky friend Mikey has found a girlfriend and needs a little help getting her, but will asking Parker for help backfire on him? Parker Lewis decides that he must lose the election for class president in “Parker Lewis Must Loose” after he discovers that there is a better candidate than himself, but can he succeed at trying to fail? Ziggy Marley, Rodney Allen Ripper, and Kool Moe Dee guest star in “Close, But No Guitar,” where Parkr has to convince Mikey to come back to school after he drops out. In “G.A.G. Dance,” Santo Domingo is having a “Girls Ask Guys” dance, and Parker wants a girl that is too shy to ask him out. How will he be able to get her to ask him out?
Ms. Musso is evaluated as a principal (and subsequently demoted to home economics teacher) in “Saving Grace,” but is this really what Santo Domingo wants? David Faustino makes a brief cameo (even wearing a Polk High School t-shirt) in “Musso & Frank.” Parker is recruited by Ms. Musso to find the jerk that dumped JELL-O on her twenty years ago when it is time for a Class of 1970 reunion in “Deja Dudes,” but Parker quickly finds out that disdain for Grace Musso is a family trait. Parker causes one of his favorite teachers to quit after a practical joke in “Teacher, Teacher.”
Ozzy Osbourne makes an appearance in “Rent-a-Kube,” where Parker’s parents hire Kubiak as security for the video store. Parker and Mikey try to crush (literally) the video game addiction of a friend in “Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie;” meanwhile, Ms. Musso becomes a real softy as her warm and pleasant mother (played by Barbara Billingsley) comes to Santo Domingo High School to show her how to run things. Jerry Mathers even makes a brief cameo, as Ms. Musso’s brother. April Lerman plays Parker’s girlfriend in “Splendor in Class,” where the Buds are seeing themselves split apart by a girl. In Publishers Clearing House, you too can become a millionaire, as Kubiak discovers in “Citizen Kube.” But is it too good to be true?
Donny Osmond makes an appearance on the episode “King Kube,” where Kubiak is elected Junior Prom King (as a joke). The guys (and Ms. Musso) spend an adventurous day at the mall in “Teens From a Mall.” The season ends with “Parker Lewis Can’t Win,” where Parker may face a sudden reversal from the successes he had in the previous 25 episodes. Look for Ray Walston in this episode.
The packaging style on this set is the standard double slim case style, which I prefer most of all (but it appears to be fading in popularity these days). The cover art has a picture of Parker, Mikey, Jerry, and Kubiak on it, and the two slim cases inside have the exact same artwork. On the back of each slim case, there is a listing of each episode on each disc, along with a description, but if that isn’t enough, they also included a booklet. And it is certainly a very nice booklet, which contains original airdates, highly detailed descriptions, guest stars, and trivia. There is no disc artwork (just the series logo on a plain background). Disc 1 contains episodes 1-7, Disc 2 contains episodes 8-13, Disc 3 contains episodes 14-20, and Disc 4 contains episodes 21-26, as well as the special features.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set are VERY nicely designed and very creative--this is something where Shout! Factory often shines. The main menu has the theme music playing with a refrigerator constantly opening and closing, showing different scenes each time it is opened up. The main menu gives options of Play All and Episodes, as well as Bonus Features on Disc 4. Selecting Episodes will take you to a list of episodes on the disc, and if the episode has a commentary track, it is listed underneath the episode title. Once you select an episode, it plays right away without any chapter menus. However, chapters are placed at all of the typical places within each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio on the set is generally fine considering the age of the series, but it could stand a little bit of improvement. The picture has a tendency to be a little fuzzy at times, the video is a bit soft, and the series doesn’t exactly blow up very well on a big screen TV, but it is really what you’d expect for a series that is 19 years old (it hardly seems that old). The audio quality also shows some age as well, but it mostly sounds fine, being presented in Dolby Digital stereo sound. As is the case far too often with Shout! Factory releases, the episodes are (unfortunately) not closed-captioned.
The episodes themselves mostly seem to be unedited, but there are a few episodes that I somewhat question, due to shorter running times. For example, “Parker Lewis Must Lose” runs about a minute shorter than the other episodes, and what concerns me even more is that it is clearly not a copy from the original airing, as it has a more recent Columbia Pictures Television logo on the end of the episode. This is the only episode that has that particular logo. However, I can not say with certainty that this is an edited episode, and for the sake of this review, I’ll give Shout! Factory the benefit of the doubt. As far as music contained within the episodes, I found a few songs within the episodes that are certainly well-known copyrighted works, so it seems that any music clearance issues were handled appropriately.
Update: I wanted to follow up on the Parker Lewis episode "Parker Lewis Must Lose." I found a version of this episode from Fox, and the DVD version is not edited but it IS slightly time-compressed (VERY slightly, the time compression cuts out about 30 seconds). So basically, the set is pretty much unedited.
Runtimes for each episode are as follows:
Operation Kubiak (22:48)
Power Play (23:14)
Parker Lewis Must Lose (22:14)
Close, But No Guitar (23:14)
G.A.G. Dance (23:16)
Love’s a Beast (23:13)
Saving Grace (22:53)
Musso & Frank (22:47)
Deja Dudes (22:47)
Radio Free Flamingo (22:51)
Science Fair (22:48)
Teacher, Teacher (22:48)
Heather, the Class (22:46)
Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie (22:47)
Splendor in the Class (22:47)
The Human Grace (22:51)
Citizen Kube (22:47)
Randall Without a Cause (22:46)
Jerry’s First Date (22:47)
Against the Norm (22:51)
King Kube (22:36)
Teens From a Mall (22:35)
My Fair Shelly (22:35)
Parker Lewis Can’t Win (22:51)
This set has some very nice special features, mostly in the form of commentaries, although I do have one slight complaint about the commentaries: they seem to focus too much on technical aspects of the series, such as camera techniques, digital editing, and even down to the details of selecting screen freezes from each episode on the set. The better commentaries can be found on the ones that are with the actors rather than the producers. Still, they all give some very useful and insightful information as well. Episodes and commentators are as follows:
“Pilot” – Lon Diamond, Robert Lloyd Lewis, Dennis McCarthy, Clyde Phillips
“Close, But No Guitar” - Lon Diamond, Robert Lloyd Lewis, Clyde Phillips, Bryan Spicer
“Saving Grace” – Lon Diamond, Robert Lloyd Lewis, Clyde Phillips, Troy Slaten, Bryan Spicer
“Deja Dudes” – Ann Bloom, Taj Johnson, Troy Slaten, and Timothy Stack
“Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie” – Lon Diamond, Robert Lloyd Lewis, Clyde Phillips
“The Human Grace” – Lon Diamond, William Jayne, Robert Lloyd Lewis, Troy Slaten
“My Fair Shelley” – Anne Bloom, Maia Brewston, Corin Nemec, Timothy Stack
On Disc 4, we have a very nice and lengthy featurette about the series entitled “The History of Coolness: A Look Back at Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” (30:00). This is one of the best featurettes that Shout! Factory has produced for a DVD set. It begins with a thorough introduction of how the series began. The featurette talks about the “coolness” of the series and who Parker Lewis really was. This is much more enjoyable to watch than the commentaries. Participants in his featurette include Clyde Phillips, Lon Diamond, Robert Lloyd Lewis, Bryan Spicer, Rob Bowman, Larry Shaw, Dennis McCarthy, Corin Nemec, William Jayne, Troy Slaten, Maia Brewton, Timothy Stack, Anne Bloom, Mary Ellen Trainor, Abraham Benrubi, and Taj Johnson. What an impressive list!
The only thing that I think would be nice to have on future releases would be outtakes and maybe some original promos for the series. Those are always nice to see.
This is the first time that I have watched this series, ever. I remember it airing on Fox, as well as reruns on USA, but for some reason, I always passed it up. Now, I wish I had not. It is a very creative and different kind of show that is a change from the standard sitcoms before it. In a way, it almost seems like a precursor for the typical TV sitcom of these days, as it is a quirky single-camera sitcom without a laugh track. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to the series Scrubs, just with a completely different setting.
Fans of the series are obviously going to appreciate this long overdue DVD release, but I also feel like anybody that grew up in the “Saved by the Bell generation” (that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to like Saved by the Bell, as this series is almost the anti-Saved by the Bell) will enjoy the series and be able to relate to it. It may not so broadly appeal to people older than that, but there may be some cases where it very well does. To conclude, there is only one thing I can say about this set: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, and this DVD set proves that once again.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 06/18/09
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