Judge Victor Valdivia remains as un-PC as ever, despite his critics. Well, actually, nobody really cares about him that much.
"What on Eartha Kitt?"
In its second season, The PJs refuses to knuckle under to its critics. Attacked as racially and culturally insensitive in its first season, The PJs doesn't shy away from edgy humor and controversial topics in its second. What's more, the show does more to flesh out its characters and relationships in this season than in the previous one. If this season ends up being a little more uneven than the first, it still contains some of the series' funniest jokes and best episodes, making it a worthy companion to the first season.
Facts of the Case
Here are the eighteen episodes compiled on two discs:
• "Home School Daze": A teacher's strike leads Thurgood to attempt to teach his young neighbors at his apartment, but he learns that he needs to earn his GED first.
• "The Postman's Always Shot Twice": When Mrs. Avery (Ja'net DuBois, Good Times) mistakes the mailman for a prowler and takes a shot at him, she is threatened with being put in an old folks' home for good.
• "Haiti and the Tramp": Haiti Lady (Cheryl Francis Harrington) and pompous parole officer Mr. Burkett (Marc Wilmore) decide to become a couple, but discover that they have nothing in common except a need to argue constantly.
• "The HJs": Thurgood decides to bring back the projects' old radio station but ends up inadvertently launching neighborhood crackhead Smokey (Shawn Michael Howard, The Cable Guy) into a career in comedy.
• "The Preacher's Life": When Thurgood is accidentally electrocuted while trying to fix a church, he decides to devote himself to religion, but ends up becoming more of a showman than a preacher.
• "Smokey the Squatter": Thurgood takes pity on Smokey and allows him to take shelter from a storm in a spare apartment, but regrets it when Smokey decides to assert squatter's rights to the apartment.
• "Weaves Have A Dream": Thurgood gives Muriel (Loretta Devine, Grey's Anatomy) the building's basement to use as a beauty salon, but it leads to a feud between Muriel and her bossy sister Bebe (Jenifer Lewis, Juwanna Mann.
• "Ghetto Superstar": When a superstar rapper (Snoop Dogg) does community service at the projects, he inspires Calvin (Crystal Scales, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius) and Juicy (Michele Morgan, ER) to launch careers as rappers.
• "Who Da Boss": When Thurgood's supervisor dies, he expects to get a pushover for a replacement but is shocked when Muriel decides to apply instead.
• "Fear of a Black Rat": The building's tenants ask Thurgood to exterminate a rat, but he ends up adopting it as a pet.
• "Last Affirmative Action Hero": When a Hollywood superstar shoots a movie in the projects, Thurgood manages to get himself hired as the movie's technical advisor.
• "What's Eating Juicy Hudson?": Juicy grows tired of helping his massively overweight father (Kevin Michael Richardson, The Cleveland Show) and asks Thurgood to help him gain his independence.
• "Robbin' HUD": When HUD turns down Thurgood's request for a water filter for the building, he enlists the project's tenants into launching an elaborate plan to steal the filter.
• "Parole Officer and a Gentleman": Mr. Burkett convinces Thurgood to take part in a phony arrest scheme to get free dental care, but ends up having to take him in as a parolee.
• "Let's Get Ready to Crumble": A former superstar wrestler and current politician proposes a plan to save the residents of the project, but Thurgood still holds a grudge from his wrestling days and refuses to listen to him.
• "Cliffhangin' with Mr. Super": A series of soap-style cliffhangers involving all of the show's major characters end up being resolved, except the biggest one of all.
Anyone expecting that The PJs would back down in the face of some of the withering criticism it received in its first season need only look at the list of episodes that make up its second season. The show still explores life in the projects with unabashed honesty and cutting wit, it still makes hilariously crude and edgy humor, and it makes no apologies for any of it. The PJs remains a clever, funny, and entertaining show that tries to expand its characterization this season, to generally positive results.
Consider "Robbin' HUD," possibly the season's best episode. Structured as a takeoff on A Simple Plan, it contains some of the show's most incisive swipes at the bureaucracy and shortsightedness of HUD. It also has some hilarious slapstick, some wonderfully off-color jokes, and a resolution that, typically, resolves nothing but shows that HUD is truly thoughtless (and Thurgood is really not smart). Best of all, the supporting characters are all used perfectly—Mrs. Avery's crankiness, Mr. Burkett's self-regard, and Muriel's gentleness all add to the episode's humor. It's not the only good episode this season, but it represents how good The PJs can be at its best.
This season has many other great episodes like that one, ones that are not only funny but also serve to flesh out the characters. "How the Super Stoled Christmas" doesn't just work as a parody of How the Grinch Stole Christmas but as a story about how Thurgood, for all his complaining, genuinely cares about his tenants. Similarly, "The Preacher's Life" doesn't just have some brilliantly conceived sequences in which Thurgood imitates Evel Knievel but also gets some cute scenes of the characters explaining their faith. Some of the supporting characters (Juicy in particular) are not strong enough to sustain the weight of an entire episode, resulting in some weaker episodes, but even these have some great jokes and scenes that make them worth seeing. These additional scenes of characterization certainly don't change the characters themselves: Smokey is still a thieving crackhead, Mr. Burkett is still a corrupt parole officer, and so on. So yes, the characters are still every bit as un-P.C. as ever—they're just more complex now. If that's not a welcome rebuke to the show's critics, nothing else could be.
The full-screen transfer looks good, even given the number of episodes crammed into each disc. There's no compression or artefacting and the colors are appropriately vivid. The stereo mix is easy to understand. Unfortunately, as with the first volume, there are no extras, even though this is a series that deserves more consideration than it's gotten.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are two reasons why this season isn't quite as stellar as the first. For one thing, some of the all-star writers (such as Simpsons vets Al Jean and Mike Reiss) who were involved with the first season are absent from this one, resulting in some more uneven writing. Second, there are some episodes this season where Murphy, for whatever reason, did not do the voice of Thurgood. You can hear the difference in episodes like "Ghetto Superstars." While replacement Thurgood Mark Moseley (Father of the Pride) tries, his voice is just too noticeable and detracts from the humor.
This isn't quite the place to start watching The PJs; the first season is more consistent and inventive. Still, this season is only a half-step below the first one and remains a worthy companion. The PJs remains a sadly underrated series and Lionsgate deserves credit for finally letting fans get to see it again after many years, even without extras. Recommended.
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