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PARKER LEWIS CAN'T LOSE
The Complete First Season

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Corin Nemec, William Jayne, Troy Slaten, Maia Brewton, Abraham Benrubi, Timothy Stack, Anne Bloom, Taj Johnson, Melanie Chartoff
Creators: Clyde Phillips, Lon Diamond
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Shout Factory
Features: See Review
Length: 598 Minutes
Release Date: June 30, 2009

“Gentlemen, synchronize Swatches!”

Shows ***1/2

September, 1990. I was now in middle school and because the homework increased by quite a lot, my limited TV allowance only granted me a couple of shows to watch per week. One of those shows was Parker Lewis Can’t Lose which, if I remember correctly, aired right before my other weekly series favorite, The Simpsons.

At the time, I found myself laughing at the show’s extreme wacky quality and wanting to be just like its title character, even though he was in high school and I was three years behind. With just about every possible cult TV series hitting DVD, I was waiting for the day when Park and his buds would finally arrive. That day has come, and after revisiting it for the first time in years, my appreciation has only grown stronger.

It turns out this high school comedy series was ahead of its time. It might be a bit dated in this day and age, but that’s one of the joys of revisiting this show. Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, for me, is a true symbol of 90s culture.

Talk about pure irony. This show felt like a small screen version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which ended up spawning a dreadful TV show that debuted in the exact same season. It was cancelled after only a few episodes, while Parker Lewis prospered for three seasons (which at the time wasn’t bad at all for a show on Fox).

The show basically follows the daily high school life of Parker Lewis (Corin Nemec). He sees school as a place not so different from prison, and his goal is to have as much fun with it as he can. Alongside his two best friends, the cool but very sensitive Mikey Randall (William Jayne) and the geeky but extremely resourceful Jerry Steiner (Troy Slaten), Parker challenges authority at Santo Domingo High on a daily basis.

He’s got his list of enemies, starting with Principal Musso (Melanie Chartoff) and her snooty student assistant Frank Lemmer (Taj Johnson). Whenever she appears to have Parker on the verge of suspension, he always manages to have an alibi (in ways you’ll have to see to believe), thus enraging her even more. One of the best running gags in the series involves Ms. Musso’s office door, and fans of the show know exactly what I mean.

Parker also has his devilish younger sister, Shelly (Maia Brewton), to deal with. This goes way beyond the traditional home fighting between big brother and little sister. Shelly actually goes out of her way, on many occasions, to foil whatever plan/scheme Parker has cooked up. She’s basically the perfect little sister Satan never had.

Then, of course, there’s the human incarnation of King Kong known as Larry Kubiac (Abraham Benrubi). He’s not so much a bully as he is a guy dedicated to protecting his larger than life sized bag lunch. Whenever it gets demolished by someone, which is quite frequently, Kubiac pretty much goes into murder mode.

The comedic approach to the series has to be applauded, as creators Clyde Phillips and Lon Diamond were truly onto something. It was the first comedy series I’d seen that completely threw out the laugh track, which is always a true sign of effort from the creators. And in noticing the wacky level of random and irreverent humor, it’s possible that it served as an inspiration for the likes of Scrubs and Arrested Development to a certain extent.

In addition, it was a show that looked and sounded like nothing that was on television at the time. The innovative camera work, used to give the show an intentionally cartoonish vibe, along with the many unique sound effects were elements that added so much to the hilarity. The sound used in Ms. Musso raising her thumb to direct a student to her office is the best example.

The arrival of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose on DVD has been long overdue, and it is finally here! As far as teen comedy series go, nothing surpasses it. Fans like me can finally revisit the hilarious 26 episodes in the groundbreaking first season.

DISC ONE:

Pilot
Operation Kubiac
Power Play
Parker Lewis Must Lose
Close, But No Cigar
G.A.G. Dance
Love’s a Beast

 

DISC TWO:

Saving Grace
Musso & Frank
Déjŕ Dudes (My personal favorite episode)
Radio Free Flamingo
Science Fair
Teacher, Teacher

DISC THREE:

Rent-a-Kube
Heather the Class
Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie
Splendor in the Class
The Human Grace
Citizen Kube
Randall Without a Cause

 

DISC FOUR:

Jerry’s First Date
Against the Norm
King Kube
Teens From a Mall
My Fair Shelly
Parker Lewis Can’t Win

Bonus: Look for several familiar faces throughout this first season. Guest appearances include Milla Jovovich, Gerrit Graham, David Faustino, Penny Johnson (President Palmer’s wife from 24), Ozzy Osbourne, Barbara Billingsley, Jerry Mathers, Ryan Stiles, Josh Lucas, Donny Osmond, Ray Walston and Weird Al Yankovic.

Video **

“I’m going to the videotape!”

This is one of the few shows from the early 90s I’ve caught on DVD. It’s presented in its original full screen presentation. Overall, the video quality is acceptable but nothing close to spectacular. Then again, that’s to be expected when dealing with a show from nearly 20 years ago (can’t believe it’s been THAT long). Image ranges from clear to a bit fuzzy and grainy. Not sure if any big digital remastering was applied, but whatever the case, the results could’ve been much worse.

Audio **1/2

“Not a problem.”

The 2.0 mix is, for the most part, as good as it can get. Just being able to hear the show’s catchy theme music for the first time in years was deeply thrilling. Dialogue delivery is handled decently and the many eccentric sound effects used in the series sound just as funny as they did when the show aired. Overall, very much what I was expecting.

Features **1/2

“Coolness.”

First off, Shout Factory should be applauded immensely for getting this show to DVD after such a long wait. This 4-Disc set features commentaries on selected episodes from various cast and crew members. There’s also a half hour retrospective featurette titled “The History of Coolness: A Look Back at Parker Lewis Can’t Lose”, which includes interviews numerous cast members, as well as the creators and numerous directors who graced the show during its three year run.

Summary:

Now that Parker Lewis Can’t Lose has finally come to DVD, I now have a title to list in the “I’m Glad This Finally Made It to DVD” category in this year’s DMC Awards. Revisiting the show provided a great trip down memory lane, and I think it would make a great series to pass down to younger generations.

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