1-31-10 product-specific update: First of all, I scanned the 3 DVDs, the covers, the insert, the container and everything else but the kitchen sink. Below are my brief comments after reviewing everything, I will update more in the coming days.
Note: Contrary to Amazon's description (what a shocker, they're wrong!!), there are NO interviews with Alex, Susan or anyone else. There is also no commentary. The ONLY special features included is the trivia game (more on that later).
"Punky Brewster", "Small Wonder" and "Mr. Belvedere" trailers come up first and these cannot be overridden (the DVD forces you to watch these) on the first DVD only.
The "Webster" main menu of disc one opens pretty cool with a clip of Catherine getting grossed out from a frog. Also included is a loop of music (that sounds like the original them, but isn't) and a continuing loop of more classic video clips from S1
The "Webster" main menu of disc 2 has the same type of theme as the first disc (but with a different intro video, again with Catherine) and more classic video with the same instrumental music (it sounds like the theme but I can assure you it isn't).
The "Webster" main menu of disc 3 opens with another full-screen video clip, this time of Jerry. Again the same corny theme music loop and more video is included in the main menu.
The trivia game is sorta cool (this is included on disc 3). If you answer it correctly, you hear audio from one of the cast members and conversely if you answer it incorrectly you also hear more stock audio from one of the cast. I thought this would be sorta foolish, and it is, but it was kind of fun to play along and it was a big surprise to hear the cast voices as well. The last question is probably the easiest, it includes a "fill in the black" for the theme song, and ends with an edited version of the sung theme song being played.
The packages of this is in a clear plastic case with an insert (this is not the bookcase type or digipack). I prefer this packaging because it's much easier to get to and everything is also neatly included. And unlike the picture Amazon is included, the case is clear (not solid black). Also included is a double-sided bonus color insert which includes descriptions of all of the eps included. Each DVD includes a color, silkscreen image. And, I took the time to scan absolutely everything for you.
If you pre-ordered this item like me please know that the price of "Webster" S2 just dropped by more than four dollars less than a day after the release date. Once it goes into ship status Amazon will adjust the price on the following day.
Note: I am preordering this and once it arrives I will update this review accordingly, so don't worry.
As a baby of the eighties, "Webster" was one of my favorite TV shows. I used to watch it every Friday night. I loved it because it always reminded me of "Diff'rent Strokes", which was the very best sitcom of the eighties (note to Sony / Shout! please release seasons 3-8 of "Diff'rent Strokes", too!!).
Where "Diff'rent Strokes" got progressively more serious over the years, "Webster" always remained a children's show for kids. That doesn't mean they didn't tackle some tough subjects. There was always a great message in each ep. It's also the type of series that's very wholesome, that your entire family will enjoy even if "Webster" is totally new to you.
The star of the show was Emmanuel Lewis, who played the title-role of Webster Long. Webster was an orphan who came to live with George and Katherine after his parents passed away. Husband-and-wife-team, Susan Clark and football legend Alex Karras played Web's new adoptive parents; George & Katherine Papadapolis. George was like a big teddy bear and Katherine, or Ma'am as Webster called her (because it sounded like "mom"), was a little more strict and stern at times. Rounding out the cast was Katherine's crotchety assistant, Jerry Silver (played wonderfully by Henry Polic II); picture Monroe from "Too Close for Comfort" but less over-the-top or even Larry from "Three's Company" but not nearly as devious.
I am not sure how the packaging for this will be but it's been my experience that in general, Shout! packages their full-season DVD sets in discs of 4 (note: the Amazon description currently states that this is a 3-disc set). These are usually in a bookcase DVD holder with 2 slim plastic cases (each containing 2 DVDs).
There are a total of 22 eps in Season 1 of "Webster." (Shout! usually includes the original, full, unedited eps but I am not certain if that is the case for this set or not.) Below are the show titles, with original air dates and show descriptions. I also took the time to cross-reference other TV shows of this period just for fun because I'm sure fans of "Webster" watched these classic '80s series, too:
Another Ballgame 9/16/1983
Web comes to live with George and "Ma'am" in their high-rise apartment.
Happy Un-Birthday 9/23/1983
Webster fibs and says it's his birthday.
Consulting Adults 9/30/1983
Webster tries out for football. (This happend on DS with Arnold, I beleive in season 2.)
Katherine's Swan Song 10/7/1983
With Webster's help, a friend runs away to stay with him.
Saying Goodbye 10/21/1983
Webster comes to understand his biological parents' passing.
Green-Eyed Monster 10/28/1983
Katherine sees the green eye of jealousy when a younger girl comes around.
Second Time Around 11/4/1983
A second wedding is arranged for his new parents, courtesy of Web. (This also happened on the season 2 finale of "Small Wonder.")
Details emerge about Travis Long (Webster's biological father) as to why he chose Katherine and George to bring up his child.
That's Entertainment 11/18/1983
Web sings and dances.
Teddy Bear Scare 12/2/1983
Webster loses his teddy bear. (You may remember, that "Diff'rent Strokes" had a similar ep when Arnold lost his in seasons 1.)
A Question of Honor 12/16/1983
Webster's friends try to rob the Tracadero.
Don't Jump, George 12/23/1983
Katherine goes on a TV game show.
George, the Patient in Spite of Himself 1/6/1984
Webster needs to get his tonsils removed. (Another plot similar to DS, first when Arnold needed to have his appendix removed and then later when Sam needed to have his tonsils taken out.)
Maybe Baby 1/6/1984
Webster wants a baby brother or sister.
Katherine and George can't find Webster.
Secrets of the Night 1/27/1984
Web starts wetting the bed. (Another topic that was also done on "Diff'rent Strokes" - twice - once with Arnold and again, years later, with Sam.)
Special Friends 2/3/1984
Webster becomes friends with a child competing in the Special Olympics. (Again, this is similar to a plot explored on "Diff'rent Strokes.")
Uncle Phillip 2/24/1984
Webster runs away to his Uncle Phillip's (played by Ben Vereen).
More Than a Memory 3/2/1984
Web starts having nightmares.
Webster Long 5/4/1984
Uncle Phil comes back into the picture and stirs up some trouble, hoping to steal Webster from George and Katherine. Note: this is a 3-part ep that continues into Season 2. (Around the same time, "Gimme a Break!" had a similar storyline, although that wasn't a cliffhanger.)
This set is being marketed and distributed by Shout Factory! although it is not an exclusive set, so you can purchase it from Amazon. I have purchased multiple Shout! sets and they are great with older shows because everything I have gotten has always included the full series, unedited. Some of the picture and/or audio quality on some of the discs is less than perfect (I never take off a star for that though because I am happy enough just to get these shows), but we have to remember that these types of obscure shows were never meant to be preserved for the home-video market. Shout! usually includes some special features with some of their series (with "Small Wonder" season 1 they included the original episode promos). I am not sure what "Webster" season 1 will include but I will be sure to update this once I receive my set.
10 reasons why you should preorder "Webster" season 1 from Amazon:
** Amazon ships for free with a minimum purchase of twenty five dollars.
** Postage for this is only two ninety eight (without the free shipping).
** Since this is a preorder your credit card will not be charged until this ships.
** Currently the price is nearly ten dollars off the MSRP.
** Amazon offers a price guarantee for preorders which mean you will lock in the very best price even if it goes down on the release date.
** Amazon allows you to cancel or modify your order at any time up until it enters the pick status.
** Amazon is currently running a promotion which will offer the buyer of this product a four dollar promo code for anything from their VOD section.
** As a customer for over 13 years I know firsthand that Amazon has the very best customer service, support, selection and pricing and has a seamless returns policy that no other e-commerce company can compare with.
** By purchasing this title you're telling the distributor that you support this release and look forward to future releases.
** You won't have to worry about this selling out or not even being offered at your local brick and mortar store.
You know how on some sitcoms the kids are nothing more than glorified props and can barely act? Well, that was never the case on "Webster." Emmanuel Lewis was such a talented child star. Watching him was like watching a real child; not an '80s TV sitcom. I also really loved the performances by Alex and Susan. For lack of a better description, they personified the perfect mother and father. They were always there for Web and always had encouragement for him. And there was such a great chemistry between Alex and Susan, they worked together so well.
"Webster" lasted for a total of 6 seasons (starting out on ABC and then winding up in first-run syndication during the last 2 seasons) and was really the dominant face of '80s children's sitcoms. What child of the '80s doesn't have fond memories of watching this sometimes corny, yet classic TV program? I am so happy that it's finally coming to DVD because it's long overdue.
Tie a red ribbon around your finger so we can all be sure to support this release so that Shout! puts out further DVD sets of "Webster" as well as the other classic TV series in their library ("The Facts of Life", "Small Wonder" and "Mr. Belvedere.")
The episodes of "Webster" are so obscure I can't even remember the last time they ran on TV in reruns (they were never shown even once on Nick at Nite or TV Land) and since the series predates YouTube by about 2 decades there's no chance of finding it online. And that's why this release is even that much more special. It is so exciting to finally be getting the entire season 1 of "Webster" for the first time. Watch it once, or watch it a hundred times and it's always the same.
Remember, you are what you watch.