Another chance to prove why “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose”

Originally published on 7/5/2009

There are so many things about “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” that I want to talk about.But first, I have to point out why I finally get to talk about him: As of last week, the 1990s teen comedy has finally arrived on DVD.

Parker Lewis Can't LoseFrankly, it’s hard to believe that it’s taken this long for a DVD collection to surface, since it was one of the key shows in the Fox network’s early lineup and it’s been a cult favorite since its debut.

Clearly patterned after the likable “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the show follows the affable title character through high school as he outsmarts all his opponents, dodges any trap and aces every class.

But that description simply doesn’t do the show justice. There’s so much more to “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” than that. It’s a clever show, and it captures the early 1990s better than “90210” and “Melrose Place” combined.

How has it earned such affection? Well, I’m glad you asked — because after viewing this DVD set, I’ve assembled a list:


1) The sound effects: Just one step above as characters in “Parker Lewis” arrive from stage left with a “whoosh” and stop with a “screech.” Blinks are accentuated with a “plink-plink,” and some can switch to a Darth Vader voice at whim. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming, but most of the time it’s used to squeeze just a little bit more “funny” into every scene.

2) The cast: Led by Corin Nemec (who went on to “Stargate SG-1”) as Parker, the show was brilliantly cast from top to bottom, including the main cast, recurring characters and minor players.

Nemec, who also serves as the show’s narrator, provides insight to goings-on in each episode, which further cements the fact that Parker’s in control of the situation no matter how desperate things look.

Parker is supported by his two wingmen, Mikey and Jerry. Mikey is a bad-boy rocker
wannabe who’s nearly Parker’s equal. Jerry, on the other hand, is a subservient nerd who addresses his associates as “sirs” and can pluck a never-ending string of goodies from the bottomless pockets of his trenchcoat.

3) The 3.5 villains: In “Parker Lewis” there are precisely 31/2 villains, and they’re so brilliantly cast they deserve their own description.

Most prominent is Ms. Musso, the principal at Santo Domingo High. She’s so tough she can shatter glass with a dirty look. And watch out for her “get-in-my-office thumb,” which ought to be considered a weapon of mass destruction.
She’s assisted by chief obedience monitor Frank Lemmer, who’s half vampire, half Richard Nixon. Think of him as the anti-Parker: He’s the student who’s crossed the line and sided with the administration.

Shelly is Parker’s pint-sized little sister and is determined to end Parker’s reign as the school’s coolest kid. Her hatred for her perfect brother leads her to sabotage his efforts again and again.

The “half” in the “three-and-a-half” villain count is Kubiac, the super-sized bully who sometimes helps and sometimes hurts his fellow students. Parker does his best to keep on Kubiac’s good side by keeping him satisfied with a strict “feeding schedule” that keeps the bear-like ruffian content.

4) The camera: Film fans are also sure to pick up on the show’s innovative use of camera angles, false walls and mounted shots. As one person describes in a bonus feature, comedies were normally shot in a static format. The people moved in the scene. In “Parker Lewis,” the camera, which is practically a character in the show, is sometimes more active than the actors.

5) The jokes: From memorable one-liners about Flintstones vitamins to digs at competing shows, “Parker Lewis” manages to avoid being too smarmy for its own good. At the same time, it’s never a venomous or bitter show; instead it’s decidedly upbeat, but somehow manages to steer clear of “Blossom”-level sweetness.

6) The time capsule: Set in the then present day of 1990, the show provides a snapshot of fashion trends and entertainment fads. Parker wears some of the ugliest shirts this side of Cliff Huxtable, plays Sega Genesis and plasters his walls with posters from “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.”

Further proof: His parents run a mom-and-pop video rental store where laser disc movies are the hot new thing.

Not for everyone: Despite all this praise, it’s important to note that “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” is still a product of “Generation Sitcom.” All the plots are entirely PG-rated,
everything is back to the status quo at the end of each episode, and “very special episodes” are sure to crop up.
For some people, that’s a deal-killer. But others can appreciate how well “Parker Lewis” works within those boundaries.


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