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DVD Review: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose – The Complete First Season

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Parker Lewis Can’t Lose was a series that aired from 1990 through 1993 on the FOX network. The series followed Parker Lewis (Corin Nemic) and his “buds,” fellow classmate Mikey Randall (Billy Jayne) and freshman Jerry Steiner (Troy W. Slaten) whose various plots and money-making opportunities have made them the guys to know throughout the school. The buds' nemeses are school principal Grace Musso (Melanie Chartoff) and her student underlings, Frank Lemmer (Taj Johnson) and Parker’s little sister Shelly (Maia Brewton), who are trying to get Parker in detention or expelled. Throw in 6'7" giant Larry Kubiac (Abraham Benrubi) who would as soon as kill you for touching his lunch as helping the buds out for a Kubie-snack and has the catchphrase “Eat now?” and it’s no wonder this show achieved cult status very quickly.

Speaking of catchphrases the series has added “coolness,” “not a problem,” and “trey" to the lexicon as well as being known for the phrase “Gentlemen, synchronize Swatches!”

The show was loosely based on the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — in fact in one episode Parker, during his many voice-overs, says “time to pull a Ferris Bueller.” Parker Lewis can best be described as a cartoon brought to life, with many sound effects, plots, and camera angles (which were created for the show and are still used to this day).

The series was a snapshot of early 1990s culture, phrases, and fashion. It’s fun to also see the many guest stars throughout the episodes,including Milla Jovovich, Kool Moe Dee, Ziggy Marley, Robin Lively, David Faustino, Ozzy Osbourne, Barbara Billingsley, Jerry Mathers, and more.

There are seven commentaries peppered throughout the first season’s 26-episode set, and include the producers, music composer Denis McCarthy and director Bryan Spicer, and most of the main cast who reminisce about the series, talk about casting, the fun they had and how they were able to change the entire tone of episodes during the voice-over portions of the show (if something needed to be added or removed the easiest, quickest, and cheapest way was to just have it as part of the voice-over). The only nitpick is that there are some gaps of silence when the commentators get caught watching the show instead of speaking. The best commentary has to be when the entire Lewis clan — Corin Nemec, Tim Stack, Maia Brewton and Anne Bloom — do a commentary together and talk about their memories of the show.

The other extra is "The History of Coolness: A Look Back at Parker Lewis Can't Lose," a retrospective about the series that has interviews with almost the entire main cast. Like the commentaries, they talk about their experiences during the series and everyone had a fun time working on the show. The only notable absence is that of Melanie Chartoff (Ms. Musso); she’s referred to in multiple commentaries and during the retrospective, but it’s never said why she’s missing. It’s a shame she’s not a part of the extras as her character shaped the series as much as anyone else did.

It’s ironic that a series that took its cues from Ferris Bueller, and debuted at the same time as an actual Ferris Bueller series. Parker Lewis would last three seasons and 73 episodes, while the Bueller series lasted a mere 13 episodes.

Parker Lewis Can’t Lose is a fun look back at the fashion and pop culture of the early 1990s as well as a good show that is truly an ensemble effort. It never got the following it deserved while on the air, but hopefully now on DVD it will get the recognition it deserves.

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