Timothy Stack, Anne Bloom
The Complete First Season
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
n 1990, the Fox Network may have been celebrating its fourth birthday, but it was still very much a child in the grand scheme of things. The other networks might not have taken them as seriously as they perhaps should have, but as a result of their position at the bottom of the food chain, they were able to experiment a bit more in their programming. As a result, viewers were provided with such interesting series as Chris Elliott’s “Get a Life,” the sketch comedy of the Wayans Brothers’ “In Living Color,” and a funny little teen sitcom called “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.”
At the time, “Parker Lewis” was viewed as Fox’s attempt to create their own version of Ferris Bueller – and rightfully so, since NBC was busy with its own small-screen adaptation of the character at the exact same time. Those who know their ‘80s teen movies inside and out, however, will see that “Parker Lewis” comes far closer to capturing the spirit of Phil Joanou’s “Three O’Clock High,” a 1987 film which starred Casey Siemaszko as a high school journalist who spends his day dreading his 3 PM fight with the school bully – a fight for which he is ill-prepared. It’s a very stylized film, and if you’ve ever seen it, you can tell how much “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” was influenced by its feel.
Here’s the deal on Parker Lewis (Corin Nemic): he’s the coolest guy in all of Santo Domingo High. With his best bud, Mikey Randall (Billy Jayne), and his nebbish of an assistant, Jerry Steiner (Troy W. Slaten), Parker rules the school. This rarely sits well with his younger sister, Shelly (Maia Brewton), who’s always trying to confound him in some way or other; she rarely gets the upper hand on her sibling, but it doesn’t stop her from trying on a regular basis. There’s not much that Parker can’t get away with. His truce with the school’s hulk of a bully, Larry Kubiac (Abraham Benrubi), falters on occasion, but the only real problem comes via the watchful (evil) eye of Principal Grace Russo (Melanie Chartoff) and her sniveling sidekick, Frank Lemmer (Taj Johnson). Still, for all of their desperate attempts to bring down their nemesis, the title of the series always holds true: Parker Lewis can’t lose.
The series may not have been groundbreaking, per se, but it was definitely different from anything else that was going on at the time. It was a single-camera sitcom when single-camera sitcoms weren’t cool. Now that they’re pretty much the industry standard, however, it’s the perfect time to hop into the Wayback Machine and check out “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” and its unique comic sensibilities. The quality of the film isn’t consistent from episode to episode, but the writing certainly is, and the look of the show is unlike any other teen comedy of its era. There’s just one very important thing to remember before watching the series: if you weren’t paying a great deal of attention during the early ‘90s, then there’ll be a plethora of pop culture references which will be completely lost on you.
Special Features: Shout Factory comes through with another loving package for fans of ‘90s TV. In addition to several audio commentaries from cast members and the show’s creators (which tend to be filled with lots of enjoyable anecdotes from their time on the show), the big thing that “Parker Lewis” fanboys will dig is the featurette. “The History of Coolness: A Look Back at ‘Parker Lewis Can’t Lose’ with the Cast and Creators” is exactly what it says it is, and it’s nice to see the old gang and how they look today. There’s one glaring absence, however: Melanie Chartoff. Where, pray tell, was Ms. Russo?