Of all the things that had not been released on DVD, "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" has always remained one of the biggest surprises. Finally, the series is being released by Shout Factory (next request: someone release "It's Like...You Know" on DVD) and it's remarkable to see the '90's show again after all these years. "Parker Lewis" was a moderately successful (cult) series that felt a great deal like a TV version of "Ferris Bueller", and while a comparison to "Ferris" is saying a lot, the series still managed to feel like its own creation and not a copy of the John Hughes film.
The series focused on Lewis, a bright high school student who hangs out with Mikey Randall (Billy Jayne) and the nerdy Jerry Steiner (Troy Slaten). The three of them always managed to come up with a plan to get out of trouble, often thanks to a plan from Jerry or an item from within Jerry's coat.
Still, they have a force against them, including Principal Grace Musso (Melanie Chartoff), who has made it her mission to finally catch Lewis in the act. There's also Parker's kid sister, Shelly (Maia Brewton), whose smarts are largely put to use trying to get her older brother in trouble. Finally, the three have a reason to fear Larry Kubiac (Abraham Benrubi), a giant fellow student with an fearsome past and a more-than-intimidating presence.
While the show's loud shirts now look more than a little dated, I was pleasantly shocked to find that I actually appreciated the show even more as an adult than I did as a teenager. The writing of the series is clever and witty in a way that shows targeted towards this age group certainly haven't been in years.
The series does see some mild changes in the second season - mainly, the addition of a girlfriend for Parker in the form of Sloan (Jennifer Guthrie), who appears around the halfway point of the season. With Parker being preoccupied by a significant other, the dynamic of the series is changed up a bit. However, Guthrie is a nice choice, and manages to fit in with the show's surreal brand of humor reasonably well. Actress Mary Ellen Trainor was also brought in as a replacement for Parker's mother.
The second season also offers some definite highlights, including some of the show's best episodes that came out of the trilogy of seasons. Some of the best episodes include: "Obscene and Not Heard" (Dr. Pankow pushes to ban the sale of certain music from Mondo Video), "Boy Meets Girl II" (Parker and Annie explore the future of their relationship as it grows more serious), "When Jerry Met Shelly" (Parker finds out that Jerry's date turns out to be his sister), "Geek Tragegy" (which guest stars the cast of "90210"), "Diner '75" (a train spills toxic waste nearby and the gang is trapped in a diner), "A Walk on the Dark Side" (Shelly joins the Dark Siders), "Raging Kube" (Kubiac's new girlfriend makes him promise to stop fighting) and "Full Mental Jacket" (Jerry is forced to go without his Jacket for a week.)
The plots are smart and often richly funny, and the series manages to be a bit more creative with its visual style (and overall surreal feel) than most shows of the time frame - it's clear that the series likely provided at least some inspiration to a few recent shows. Above it all, the performances are also superb, as the ensemble is perfectly cast - both with the leads and the supporting players (Chartoff makes for a fantastic villain.) Overall, it's truly a treat to have this wonderful show finally available on DVD.
27. 2- 1 Aug 91 Father Knows Less
28. 2- 2 18 Aug 91 A Walk on the Dark Side
29. 2- 3 1 Sep 91 Full Mental Jacket
30. 2- 4 8 Sep 91 Future Shock
31. 2- 5 15 Sep 91 The Undergraduate
32. 2- 6 22 Sep 91 Stormy Mikey
33. 2- 7 29 Sep 91 Fat Boy and Little Man
34. 2- 8 6 Oct 91 Aging Gracefully
35. 2- 9 13 Oct 91 The Parker Chronicles
36. 2-10 27 Oct 91 Rock 'n' Roles
37. 2-11 3 Nov 91 Loves Handles
38. 2-12 10 Nov 91 Boy Meets Girl 39. 2-13 24 Nov 91 Raging Kube
40. 2-14 15 Dec 91 Tower of Power
41. 2-15 22 Dec 91 Obscene and Not Heard
42. 2-16 5 Jan 92 Goodbye Mr. Rips
43. 2-17 19 Jan 92 Civil Wars
44. 2-18 9 Feb 92 Glory Daze
45. 2-19 16 Feb 92 Boy Meets Girl II
46. 2-20 1 Mar 92 Dance of Romance
47. 2-21 22 Mar 92 When Jerry Met Shelly
48. 2-22 12 Apr 92 Geek Tragedy
49. 2-23 26 Apr 92 Money Talks
50. 2-24 3 May 92 Home Alone with Annie
51. 2-25 17 May 92 Diner '75
VIDEO: "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" is presented by Shout Factory in 1.33:1 full-frame. The series still looks a bit uneven in this second round of episodes, although this is likely more an issue with the original source material than anything else. Sharpness and detail vary, as while there are definitely stretches that look soft, some episodes do look mildly crisper. While no edge enhancement or pixelation is noticed, some mild wear on the elements is occasionally seen, as is some light-to-moderate grain. Colors generally looked bright and well-saturated, but on a few occasions could appear a tad smeary. While there were certainly a few issues with the presentation of the nearly 20-year-old series, the overall impression was pretty good.
SOUND:The show's stereo audio sounded great, with clear dialogue and full, crisp music.
EXTRAS: Commentaries are included on a number of episodes with cast and/or crew: "Father Knows Less" has commentary from director Rob Bowman and Lon Diamond, "Aging Gracefully" has commentary by Lon Diamond, Robert Lloyd Lewis and Clyde Phillips, "Diner 75" has commentary by Troy Slaten, Robert Lloyd Lewis, Billy Jayne, Lon Diamond and "Civil Wars" has a commentary from Maia Brewton, Taj Johnson, Corin Nemec and Mary Ellen Trainor.
Final Thoughts: Still standing up very well over the years, in some ways I appreciate "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" more now than I did nearly 20 years ago. The DVD set for the terrific second season offers nice (considering the age and budget of the material) video quality, fine audio quality and very nice extras. Recommended.