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The PJs - Season 1



DVD Release Date: May 3, 2011 (Lionsgate Entertainment) 
MSRP: $19.98
Packaging: Black plastic case with leaf
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 13
Running Time: 312 minutes
Audio: English: Dolby Digital Stereo
Closed Captioned
Subtitles: None
Special Features: None


“Once upon a time in the projects...” From the mind of top comedian Eddie Murphy and brilliant producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer comes this stop-motion animated show from the late 90s/early 2000s that attempts to put a humorous light on living in a Detroit housing project. The PJs (short for Projects) takes place in the Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs Housing Project (named after the Welcome Back, Kotter actor) and follows building superintendent Thurgood Stubbs (voice of Eddie Murphy), the nutty people who live with him in the building, and the crazy things that happen to him. Stubbs is short tempered, dim-witted, and has a variety of health issues. Living with Stubbs (usually called “Super”) is his wife Muriel (Loretta Devine). Also in the building: elderly neighbor Mrs. Avery (Ja’net DuBois) who hates Thurgood because of the constant problems with her apartment, and brothers Calvin and Juicy-- who are surrogate children of the Stubbs’... due to the fact that their parents are morbidly obese and cannot leave their apartment. Also appearing are Muriel’s sister and her Asian husband (who thinks he’s African-American), homeless crack head “Smokey,” and a Haitian immigrant known as “Haiti Lady” who claims to have supernatural powers.

The show’s Claymation animation technique, of clay figures which are photographed one frame at a time, is skillfully done here by the Will Vinton studios. Vinton is also responsible for such things as the California Raisins.


The fourteen episodes on this set are presented in production order, and not the order they aired on the Fox network in early 1999. Typical plots involve Thurgood dealing with the various problems of the other tenants (and sometimes the Housing and Urban Development [HUD] office, where he faces a rude clerk, whose face is hidden behind a metal screen that never wants to give Thurgood what he wants. Other stories such as in premiere (but third produced) “Hangin’ With Mr. Super,” feature more domestic problems, such as Calvin’s adoration of Thurgood, despite nearly everyone else’s objections. Other episodes: in “The Door,” Thurgood breaks down and replaces the building’s door after it’s badly abused allowing unwanted people to come in... but the new door ends up stolen by a gang who end up taking over the project in exchange for giving it back. “Rich Man, Porn Man,” Thurgood decides to save the a local movie theater, but inadvertently turns into a porno theater and gets arrested. In “A Hero Ain’t Nothing But a Super,” Thurgood becomes jealous of all the attention given to Muriel when she catches a burglar. In “Operation Gumbo Drop,” Thurgood decides to sabotage his competitor’s gumbo dishes after entering a gumbo cooking contest.

These episodes aired on Fox in the late 1990s, so episode lengths around 22-23 minutes seem about right. There was a good bit of original hip-hop tunes composed especially for the show, much by music legend Quincy Jones. I am too unfamiliar with this show to know if there have been any music fans, but in reading some other fans’ reviews, they note that there have been a few. So in this case, buyers beware.

Disc 1:
The Door (22:13)
Rich Man, Porn Man (22:28)
Hangin’ With Mr. Super (22:29)
Journal Fever (22:27)
Bougie Nights (22:29)
Haiti Sings the Blues (22:29)
Bones, Thugs, N’ Harmony (22:29)
A Hero Ain’t Nothing But a Super (22:29)

Disc 2:
He’s Gotta Have It (22:30)
Boys ‘n’ the Woods (22:29)
Operation Gumbo Drop (22:29)
U Go Kart (22:28)
House Potty (22:29)


The discs come in a standard sized Amaray case (thin plastic to be more environmentally friendly) with a leaf attached to the middle to hold the second disc. The outer artwork features the show’s manhole logo, along with all the major cast members. The back features another shot of the characters along with a blurb explaining what the show’s about and mentioning the show’s big name voice cast. The discs themselves also feature the show’s logo and some of the characters. Disc one has Thurgood and Muriel, while disc two has Mrs. Avery. There’s no indication anywhere of which episodes are on which disc. It would have been nice to have some sort of booklet or something explaining this.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The main menu is easy to use, but a bit on the boring side. The first page has a shot of the main cast with the manhole logo, along with options to choose Play All or Episode Selection. Episode selection takes you to a list of episodes (held by either Calvin or Juicy) from which you can select an episode. During all the menus, the show’s theme plays. Some animation or perhaps some more options would have been nice. Chapter stops are placed at commercial breaks. The set is closed captioned, but there are no subtitles, nor any additional audio tracks. So those who speak languages besides English are out of luck if they’re looking for such features on this set.

Video and Audio Quality:

The video quality is decent. This is a show from the last 10 years, so I would have expected very high quality video... but this tends to be a little soft at times. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the stop-motion filming techniques, but I feel like the video could be a little sharper than it is. The frame size is full-screen as it should be. The audio quality in and of itself seems to be fine. There are no noticeable defects in any of the shows I viewed. Everything sounds clear , and the hip-hop music comes through in nice stereo. The audio is fine in Dolby stereo, but the end credits mention that the show was recorded in surround sound. It would have been nice to have had the surround sound on this set as well.

Special Features:

The producers of this set really missed out by not including any bonus features at all. The set is screaming for commentary on at least some episodes. It would be fascinating to hear Eddie Murphy’s take on producing the show and finding out what his inspirations were for some of the characters and scenarios. Even an interview with him or some of the other cast members or producers would have been nice to have, but none of that is here. Even promos from FOX or a short documentary on how the stop-motion animation was achieved would have all been good bonus features. So much could have been done here. Very disappointing.

Final Comments:

Watching this DVD set was the first time I ever gave this series a try. At first glance, it may seem like a show that only people who can identify with the situations... who’ve lived in housing projects can enjoy, but I actually found myself laughing at the jokes and liking the characters. Any fan of animation or of Eddie Murphy’s work should consider giving this show a chance. It met a good bit of criticism when it debuted for what many called stereotypical depictions of life in the projects, but Murphy and others associated with the show insist that the show is a true representation of that life.

That said, the show’s representation on DVD here is hit and miss at best. Video quality is soft, there’s a lack of information on episode content, and above all, there are no special features. Lionsgate could have done so much better with this set. Season two is due in stores in July, so I hope they do much better this time around.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Overall: 2.5/5

-- Reviewed by Greg Brobeck on 05/10/11

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