Shout! Factory // 1987 // 460 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // February 17th, 2010
Kevin: "I know how you feel! When I was your age, I had a crush on my
Wesley: "What happened...did Dad start dating her?"
Gwen Davenport's popular novel Belvedere inspired not only three movies but also an ABC series. When Mr. Belvedere premiered in 1985, it didn't break any new ground. It was simply a congenial sitcom, boasting a warm family and a hearty supply of laughs. Yet, it barely remained on the air throughout its six-season run, and was even cancelled in 1987. Fans scoffed until ABC brought back the show for its fourth season in October of that year.
In case you missed Mr. Belvedere back in the day, the show is set in Pittsburgh, where the Owens family lives. One winter day, Lynn Belvedere (Christopher Hewitt, The Producers), one-time employee of Queen Elizabeth II, shows up at their door looking for work as a domestic. Initially, there's a bit of animosity between Belvedere and father George Owens (Bob Uecker, Major League), but the polite butler soon ingratiates himself with everyone in the household. The rest of the clan includes mother Marsha (Ilene Graff, Ladybugs), who's recently passed her bar exam; college-bound son Kevin (Rob Stone, Terminal Entry); high school junior Heather (Tracy Wells, Gremlins) and mischievous middle-school student Wesley (Brice Beckham, I Hate My 30s).
I caught Mr. Belvedere in prime-time while growing up. For many reasons, the show has stuck with me all this time, cementing its status as one of my favorites from the 1980s. One of the most underrated shows of all time, it's an extremely pleasant excursion with solid doses of amusing one-liners and old-fashioned family values. Fans remain loyal after its ultimate cancellation, and numerous references to the show have been made in Saturday Night Live and Family Guy
Now, to be honest, Season Four doesn't quite match the freshness of the previous seasons. Many moments border on mawkish at times, but the realistic characters provide the antidote. As before, Mr. Belvedere isn't really the focus of attention; the family gets the lion's share of plotting. We see George get a new job as a TV news anchor; Marsha sets out to find a job after passing her bar exam; Kevin is dealing with schoolwork while also working part time at Mr. Cluck's Chicken Shack; Tracy is still thinking about boys and even invents one as an ideal sex partner. As for Wesley, he's still up to his old smart-aleck tricks, including picking on his sister and pulling practical jokes on his classmates.
Once again, the writers don't hesitate to incorporate serious themes. In one episode, Marsha gets a job at a law firm where she receives nothing but sexual harassment. A special two-part episode has Tracy helping out a crotchety old man (Henry James, Vertigo) in a retirement home. Eventually she and her best friend Angela Shostakovich (Michele Matheson, Kingpin) take him out to an Atlantic City casino to make him happy...and he ends up dying the next morning. The season finale is the darkest one of all, as Wesley meets a pedophilic counselor while at summer camp. The episode has a strong message, but it was unnecessary for Hewitt and Beckham to turn up at the end to PSA it down our throats.
There are a number of fun guest stars who pop up in Season Four, including singer Robert Goulet, making this third appearance on the show. Legendary character actress Anne Ramsey (The Goonies) is a scream as a mean old sorority mother who makes life hell for Kevin. The most memorable is Matheson, however. She constantly mispronounces Mr. Belvedere as a running gag, calling him such silly names as Mr. Budweiser or Mr. Beetlejuice instead.
Rarely seen in syndication, the entire series is finally seeing the light of day on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory. As for A/V details, all 20 episodes of Season Four are presented in full-frame and 2.0 Stereo. Colors are subdued more often than not, but the prints and tracks are generally clean. Unfortunately, no subtitles are provided, not even closed captioning. Extras are limited to only episode promos, which is disappointing considering commentaries and featurettes were offered before. Also, it should be noted that Season Four is available exclusively though Shout! Factory's website.
Review content copyright © 2010 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 460 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated