Lionsgate // 2001 // 270 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // October 16th, 2011
"You have no Richard Wright to treat us this way!"
Or, how a show that started off so promisingly can be slowly bled to death through neglect and controversy.
Here are the twelve episodes of The PJs: Season 3, compiled on two discs:
* "Boyz Under the Hood" -- When Thurgood (Phil Morris, Seinfeld) and his friends find and restore a junker car, Calvin (Crystal Scales, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) and Juicy (Michele Morgan, E.R.) take it for an accidental joyride.
* "Scarthroat" -- Electronic-voiced Cuban tenant Sanchez (Pepe Serna, Scarface) is put in charge of preparing the building for Y2K emergencies, but ends up becoming a tyrant.
* "Smoke Gets in Your High-Rise" -- When Thurgood gets the opportunity to buy a new air-conditioning unit for the building, he discovers that he must allow a giant cigarette billboard to hang in front of the apartment complex.
* "National Buffoon's European Vacation" -- Thurgood attempts to make up for neglecting Muriel (Loretta Devine, Grey's Anatomy) by putting together a surprise trip for her.
* "Cruising for a Bluesing" -- Thurgood and his friends attempt to recapture their past by embarking on a journey to their old blues club.
* "It Takes a Thurgood" -- Thurgood discovers Sharique (Wanda Christine, City of Angels), a rich but orphaned homeless teenager, living in the building's basement.
* "Miracle Cleaner on 134th Street" -- Thurgood creates a miracle cleaner and sells it to a large multinational corporation, but is shocked when he discovers how they use it.
* "Survival: In Tha Hood" -- A TV producer invites the residents of the building to reenact the TV series Survivor, leading to conflicts and controversies.
* "Let's Get Ready to Rumba" -- When Mrs. Avery (Ja'net DuBois, Good Times) wants to enter a dance contest, Thurgood is forced to confront his painful inability to dance.
* "A Race to His Credit" -- Thurgood is given a credit card, but ends up going overboard with spending.
* "Clip Show" -- Thurgood sits for an interview about the series and recalls some of its most notable moments.
* "Red Man's Burden" -- When Thurgood's Korean brother-in-law Jimmy (Michael Paul Chan, The Closer) discovers that he has American Indian heritage, he decides to open a casino in the neighborhood.
In its third season, the animated series The PJs went through some significant changes. Eddie Murphy (Norbit), who created the show and voiced lead character Thurgood Stubbs, was gone (though he still receives an executive producer credit). He's replaced by Phil Morris, whose voice is decent but lacks the character that Murphy brought to the series originally. Also gone are many of the writers from such shows as The Simpsons and Late Night With David Letterman, who made the show's first season so outstanding.
Consequently, this is the series' least memorable season. There are some good laughs to be found here and there but this is not the place to start watching. Some episodes are mere rehashes of earlier ones, and even the best moments pale in comparison with what the series was capable of in its earlier seasons. It's a sad decline for what was once a potentially great series. There's even, of all things, a clip show and yes, it's easily the worst episode of the series.
In retrospect, it's easy to see that the controversy over the show is what led to its decline. After The PJs was attacked for supposedly trafficking in racial stereotypes and tasteless humor, Fox, the network that aired it, essentially left it to wither with no promotion and several time slot changes. Frustrated with Fox's cowardice, Murphy, along with many of the creative talents who created and worked on the show in its earlier seasons, went elsewhere. It was understandable, but it ultimately doomed the series to cancellation. The characters are still well-developed and likable, the voice actors are still gifted, and the animation is still stunning in its detail and fluidity, but the series is creatively adrift, often content to rework past glories rather than push the envelope creatively as it had originally. Too many episodes here are just rewrites of earlier ones: Thurgood angers Muriel and comes up with an intricate scheme to win her back, Calvin and Juicy end up on a wild misadventure, Mrs. Avery relives her past thanks to Thurgood, and so on. It's painful to see, especially when compared to the creative heights the show reached in its first two seasons.
The full-screen transfer is also the weakest of all the DVD issues. Unlike with the previous DVD releases, there are video glitches in several episodes. The stereo mix is acceptable. As with the previous releases, there are no extras.
There are still some great moments in this season. There are some laugh-out-loud lines scattered about here and there. Visually, the show remains a marvel. "National Buffoon's European Vacation" contains a note-perfect parody of Koyaanisqatsi, while "Miracle Cleaner on 134th Street" has a dead-on takeoff of John Woo movies, complete with slow motion white doves. Still, the lackluster writing means that even these great scenes are scattered too irregularly to make this worth seeing for anyone who isn't already a fan of the first two seasons.
Ultimately, it's a little hard to understand Lionsgate's rationale for how they released this series. Rather than parceling out each season individually, the company should have just packaged all three seasons together in one big set. Since the company didn't spend any disc space or money on extras, one big complete series package would have been a better way to ensure that viewers would not skip this lesser season. Still, though newcomers should start with the first season before moving on to this one, fans who purchased the previous two releases should get this one as well, if only for completeness' sake.
Guilty of not measuring up to previous seasons.
Review content copyright © 2011 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 270 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated