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Featured TV on DVD Review: The PJs: Season One

May 1st, 2011

The PJs: Season One - Buy from Amazon

The PJs ran for a few seasons starting in 1999 and was notable for a few reasons. It starred and was produced by Eddie Murphy and was the first stop-motion animated TV series on prime time network TV. This certainly gave it some advanced buzz, but was it able to live up to it?

The Show

Eddie Murphy stars as Thurgood Orville Stubbs, a.k.a., the Super. He's in charge of a low-rent highrise in the projects and he's not happy about it. He's tired of dealing with ungrateful tenants who are always demanding repairs. He's married to Muriel, who is a loving wife, but a little passive. Also living in the building is Bebe, Muriel's sister, and her husband, Jimmy Ho, who is Korean but, "acts black". Other tenants include Mrs. Avery, an elderly lady who constantly antagonizes Thurgood. Mambo Dupris is a voodoo priestess, and another tenant who hates Thurgood. The building isn't full of people who hate Thurgood. Calvin and Juicey look up to the Super, but they are just kids and don't know better. His only real friend is Sanchez. Then there's the crackhead, Smokey, who actually seems to like Thurgood, despite all of the abuse he takes. But he doesn't really count, because he doesn't actually live in the building. Plus, he's a crackhead, so his judgment is suspect.

The show got off to a slow start, but this is quite common. The first episode has to introduce a lot of characters, which left less time for plot and jokes. It did improve during the subsequent episodes; however, for the most part, I don't think it lived up to its potential. During the show's initial run, several people, including social activists like Spike Lee, complained that it relied too heavily on negative stereotypes of blacks, and it's hard to disagree with that assessment. The jokes are rather lazy at times. Whether or not this reinforces negative stereotypes or deflates them by mocking them is up for debate, but it does hurt the entertainment value when you can guess the jokes well in advance.

On the other hand, the foamation animation is amazing. It's not traditional claymation, but a metal articulated skeleton with a foam latex covering, which gives the show a cool and unique look. There are also some shots that are very cinematic, which is even more impressive given the medium. The voice acting is very strong and Ja'net DuBois earned two Emmys for her work as Mrs. Avery. Eddie Murphy's comedic timing was great, Loretta Devine was a huge asset, etc. I just wish the writing was as strong.

The Extras

There are no extras on the two-disc set, not even the pilot episode, nor are there subtitles. Also, the episode order is messed up compared to how it aired on TV, but I don't know if this was the order in which they were produced.

The Verdict

The PJs showed a lot of promise during the shortened Season One and I look forward to seeing if it reached that potential during Season Two. As for this season, it's worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Eddie Murphy, but I can't be more enthusiastic than that till I know if it is worth getting the rest of the series.

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