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Case Number 20570: Small Claims Court

Buy Webster: Season One at Amazon

Webster: Season One

Shout! Factory // 1983 // 540 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 25th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum just wants stuff on TV. You know, kid's stuff.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Webster: Season Two (published May 3rd, 2011) and Webster: Season Three (published August 21st, 2011) are also available.

The Charge

Katherine, after George signs for a special delivery from the postman: "George, did we just buy a child?"

The Case

Webster started off in September of 1983 on ABC, and finished up a run in syndication six seasons later during 1989. It was often seen as as ABC's answer to NBC's Diff'rent Strokes, although it didn't start off that way. The network was courting real life married couple Alex Karras (Victor/Victoria) and Susan Clark (The Apple Dumpling Gang) to star in their own sitcom. They had proposed a show about a newlywed couple with Susan as an heiress with no domestic skills and Alex as an ex-football player. But then network executives caught young child star Emmanuel Lewis on a commercial selling Whoppers for Burger King, and they got a bright idea. The series became a white couple adopting a cute black kid in Chicago. Susan and Alex were a little bit upset about the last minute changes, but they stuck it out.

Webster was never a huge hit, but it got solid enough ratings to stay on the air. The show survived in syndication, and still pops up now and then when a station needs some safe filler programming. The twenty-two episodes featured here in the first year includes the only full year the whole family lived in the high-rise apartment (Webster had an accident in year two which moved them to a house). All the shows are centered on Webster having some issue, and then his adopted parents bumbling their way through solving it. The show is the equivalent of comfort food television—sweet natured, predictable, and adheres to formula. There's never much angst in the world that twenty minutes and a puppy dog look can't solve.

Shout! Factory seems to put out a ton of these older sitcoms and shows that wouldn't see a huge release from the major studios. This series was filmed on '80s video, so it looks soft and sometimes blurry. The transfer is fine, but the image quality is decidedly 1984 broadcast level. The sounds is just okay too, pretty much mono but clear enough. There are no extras save for a pretty lame trivia game that you learn the answers to by watching the episodes. They have supplied a nice printed episode guide which gives you air date and a plot summary as well as guest star listings.

Webster: Season One captures a show that relied on showing us an unconventional family with a cute adopted kid. It never felt original because of the similarities to another beloved series, but the leads were all fine. Emmanuel Lewis knew how to pull on your heartstrings easily, and Alex Karras had great chemistry with real life wife Susan Clark. You have to overlook the typical messages that came with kids and '80s television, but mostly it was charming and light. Webster is great if you're a fan, and it's long overdue on DVD. This is a nice complete set, but it doesn't offer much in the extras department. Still, you get the whole first year.

The Verdict

Guilty of being exactly what you'd expect. Hey, what do you expect from a kid? It's kid stuff!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 540 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Family
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Trivia Game

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