Judge David Johnson is here to take good care of you.
New boy in the neighborhood, lives downstairs and it's understood, he unbuttons his shirts and talks at the top of his lungs.
Following the release of the first season of the popular syndicated sitcom a year and a half ago, the fate of Charles in Charge appeared to hang in limbo. But now the sophomore outing for Scott Baio, Willie Aames and a pre-op Nicole Eggert sails onto DVD.
Facts of the Case
The second season radically changed the formula and game plan of the first. When Charles first kicked off he was an uptight preppie nerd watching over the three annoying children of Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke, parents who apparently were too busy to rear their own offspring so brought in college freshman to do nature's work for them. The producers wisely decided to shelf this non-starter of a premise and promptly cleaned house, retaining only Aames and Baio for the second go-round.
The season opener has Charles returning from a vacation to find the house sold and cleared out and now occupied by the Powell family, featuring matriarch Ellen Powell (Sandra Kernes), old fart Walter Powell (James Callahan), sensitive nerd girl Sarah (Josie Davis), perky blond of questionable moral character Jamie (Eggert) and plucky runt boy Adam (Alexander Polinsky). The faces may have changed but Charles still has some taking care to take care of.
I can objectively say that Charles in Charge is corny and not very funny. Yet I find it profoundly watchable. It's the same bizarre dynamic that attracts me to Saved by the Bell. What wasn't watchable was the first season, which too was corny and not very funny, but made that much more tedious with the flock of uninteresting character the creators surrounded their lead with. They get back on track with this season, introducing a cast that would largely stay put through the show's tenure (Ellen eventually took a hike, thankfully).
But it's obvious the stride still isn't there. What made Charles in Charge fun is still being developed: the outlandish plots (my favorite plot device in the series—Chaz, Charles's evil alter-ego), Walter Powell's increased crankiness and Buddy Lembeck's slow descent into complete idiocy.
The storylines for Season 2 are fairly milquetoast, par-for-the-course narratives that are usually found in the myriad of '80s sitcoms. You've got the obligatory "date from hell" episode, the obligatory "my mom is impeding on my life" episode, the obligatory "save our favorite hangout spot" episode, the obligatory "UFO" episode, the obligatory "a stupid disagreement threatens to destroy the friendship" episode and so on. Nope, no evil twins. Yet. But there are some memorable moments, like young Adam's trip to see a nude model, Charles's encounter with a horny older woman and the infamous two-part episode dealing with the return of Gwendolyn Pierce, the love of Charles's life. Granted even that doesn't sound spectacular.
What I missed the most in this season was Buddy's stupidity. This become a major selling point for the series down the road and is responsible for generating most of the cheap laughs. In forthcoming season, Aames turns up the juice and cements his status as one of the all-time great TV buffoons. Seriously, it's amazing how moronic this character gets, as if his brain synapses slowly deteriorate from season to season. Buddy starts flirting with dementia here, but is still more or less the able-minded counterpart for Charles.
So we've got three discs with all 26 episodes packed on. As you could probably imagine, the video quality (full frame) isn't that remarkable and you'd be right. The shows aren't terrible-looking, but certainly look aged and soft. Audio is 2.0 stereo. No extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I was looking over the scores I gave to the first season when I reviewed it. I must have been stricken with nostalgia because it was about 20 points north of what it should have been. Just trying to wrong a right. That's what Charles has taught me.
I'll confess I have a soft spot for this dorky sitcom. But this batch of episodes doesn't activate it. Looming seasons, probably, but for now, Charles can stay downstairs for all I care.
I'm to trust you to be in charge of my days and my nights?! @#$% that.
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