Shout! Factory // 1984 // 600 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // May 3rd, 2011
Then came you!
Webster was one of those shows that took the success of another network's program and tried to imitate it hoping to strike ratings lightning twice. It looked a lot like Diff'rent Strokes with a small black child living with a well-heeled white couple. The thing was that originally the series was only going to center around Alex Karras (Blazing Saddles) and Susan Clark (Porky's) as a couple, and it was going to be a modern reworking of 1942's Woman of the Year. Obviously that idea was scrapped when along came cherubic Emmanuel Lewis (Kickin It Old Skool) fresh from a national Burger King commercial, and the network suits decided it would be best to center the show around him and his impish antics. This troubled the adult leads at first, but they settled into the idea eventually. By the sophomore year the show was doing well and the formula was firmly in place.
Webster's second season opened up right with the custody dispute cliffhanger that was unleashed in the Season One finale. Ben Vereen (All That Jazz) shows up as Webster's estranged uncle who wants to adopt him away from his foster family, and bring him back to his roots. That lasts a couple of episodes, but of course Webster stays with his adopted family of sitcom premise. Soon after, a fire in the condo allowed the set designers to give the Papadapolis clan a real house instead of that rather small set. The 1984-1985 season trudged along without many other changes other than that of scenery. There was plenty of childhood angst on display, but no problem that could not be solved or made better in a half hour or so. There are twenty-six episodes including a couple that were not aired until the show hit syndication.
Shout! Factory simply gives fans the episodes on DVD. They do include all of the "previously ons" when appropriate, and they provide the uncut original broadcast versions. The images look exactly the same as they did in 1984, a sort of soft-looking video that was standard for the era's sitcoms. The audio is mono, but it's clear enough. There are no special features at all. No interviews, no commentaries, just the second season on DVD. It all looks very dated, but maybe that is part of the charm. It's strange to see your high definition widescreen television suddenly look like it was time warped back thirty years ago. It almost made me want a clicking dial to change the channel.
Fans will be glad to see these shows back in circulation after a few decades. Lewis is cute, Karras and Clark have great chemistry, and all of that seems to be enough to carry the whole thing. The plots are not very inventive, but it works just fine if you're in the mood for something sweet and innocent. There are a few "very special" moments of course, but that inevitably comes with the '80s. It's fun to see the flipped up collars, the huge answering machines, and a kid who is amazed at the technical marvel that is Pac-man. I don't think they make television shows like this any more, but back then seemed they made tons of this kind of simple, gentle sitcom where class and race blended in perfect harmony. Still, Webster was unique because the lead had a good sense of sweet comic timing. The shows are here if you want them, and if you want to wash any trace of high definition right out of your set.
Guilty of giving me an '80s flashback.
Review content copyright © 2011 Brett Cullum; 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: 600 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated