Sometimes I miss the days of my youth. Huddled in front of a thirteen inch color television set with the knobs you had to turn but not too quickly (or else you were forced to break out the pliers) to your desired channel. It seems like I watched so many sitcoms back then. Silver Spoons, Different Strokes, Facts of Life, etc. But I do seem to remember a show about a small child named Emmanuel Lewis who would play Webster. It was awfully cute back in the mid eighties, I wonder if it holds up today.
If you missed the first season of Webster, well all came to know Emmanuel Lewis as the little boy with a big heart that everybody loves. His original parents get killed in a car accident and then he is taken in by the Papadapolis’. The new parents are made up of George (played by Alex Karras), an ex-football player and Katherine (played by Susan Clark) who is just your average high maintenance socialite.
We also came to know Henry Polic II also known as Jerry Silver. He is Katherine’s personal secretary and confidant. I’m sure if the role were re-cast today Jerry would be an effeminate gay man with a penchant for fashion and Starbucks. As we close the first, we are also introduced to Webster’s uncle Phillip (played by Ben Vereen) who wants custody of Webster. Unfortunately, the Papadapolis’ don’t think Phillip would make a very good parent and they decide to fight in court about it.
Except when they get to court, they find out that the judge (played by James Avery) and Phillip are old school chums. However, the judge swears he can be impartial. George and Katherine believe him and continue to fight the good fight. But on an impulse, Phillip decides that a weekend trip is going to go a lot longer than a couple of days and kidnaps Webster. They go off to Atlanta, Georgia with the two parents hot on their heels.
Eventually things work out for the best and Papadapolis’ retain overall custody. The rest of the season would feature many different and difficult topics. Topics include the apartment being set on fire (which prompt the family to move into a new and much more interesting home), molestation, running away, abortion and even the topic of Webster’s own height. The show was always after an edgier Different Strokes like show and they often succeeded.
However, the show doesn’t exactly hold up. Despite the topics, there almost seems too much levity and lack of seriousness at crucial moments. Some of the jokes aren’t as funny in today’s society either and actually might make a few uncomfortable even (it was really alarming how Webster was able to slip out all the time and then he would reappear with nothing happened to him). But for those who did appreciate the show might enjoy this trip back down memory lane.
The video is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen. I was actually a little surprised at the very decent quality of the presentation. Colors aren’t muted and it does not feel like a twenty five year old program. Sure, there are some problems at times and it is far from perfect, but they did an excellent job here considering the source material. Not too much grain, just stay away from some of the outside scenes.
The audio is presented in 2.0 English Dolby Digital Stereo. The audio suffers a bit and does feel a bit dated. Dialog is clear on a little bit higher volume but you can hear a tiny bit of audio hiss at times during the various episodes. There are not very many special effects to be had but they do decent with what they can. This is eighties television, so you can’t really expect much.
- Automatic Trailers: Punky Brewster, Small Wonder, and Mr. Belvedere
Season two of Webster also debuted two new cast members, Cassie and Bill Parker (played by Cathryn Damon and Eugene Roche) who become the family’s new let’s say housemates. They represent an interesting pair and I will admit that the second season takes on a tighter shape. The difficult topics do give the show some edge but the jokes kept it from getting too serious.
The discs are a decent effort in the video and audio department but unfortunately lack extras. I would however imagine that it would be hard to get the stars back to talk about the show in any great detail. Fans will appreciate this set and it will certainly take you back to a time where shows were fairly basic and heavy on the canned laughter. Chances are if you enjoyed Season one, season two is certainly better and will keep you glued to the set for twenty six more episodes.
Webster Long: Part 2
Webster Long: Part 3
The Great Walnutto
You Can’t Go Home Again
God Bless the Child
Too Much Class
To Tell the Truth
Katherine Fights City Hall
It’s a Dog’s Life
Keep on Truckin’ Papa
The Uh-Oh Feeling
Strike Up the Band
In the Family Way: Part 1
In the Family Way: Part 2
What is Art?
Best of Friends
Be It Ever So Humble
The Best Thing I Can Be
Blast From the Past: Part 1
Blast From the Past: Part 2