Quantcast

Head Of The Class: The Complete Second Season (DVD Review)

Early in the summer, during the tough month of June, I had a bright spot and small escape in the form of a DVD of all things to review. It was the first season of one of my favorite sitcoms from the 1980s finally getting put out onto home video 34 years after it first hit the air (Paired up with another all time favorite, Perfect Strangers). Said sitcom being the Howard Hesseman-led high school set Head of the Class. When I went through it, I was happy to find that the show still held up. My hope was that Warner Archive Collection would not stop and continue to put out all five seasons of the show. Good news, we are now officially 40% of the way through the series being on DVD as the second season arrives on October 27th. Unfortunately, no bonus materials again, but its nice to have ownership of this terrific little show.

.

Season 

Howard Hesseman (WKRP in Cincinnati) returns as good-natured substitute teacher Charlie Moore for the sophomore season of this fan-favorite sitcom. Charlie is assigned to the Individualized Honors Program, a very different kind of class. The IHP students are so gifted that their teachers are expected to be glorified babysitters, but the unconventional Charlie upsets the applecart by deciding to actually teach! He guides his charges – classic nerd Arvid (Daniel Frischman), overachiever Maria (Leslie Bega), debate dynamo Darlene (Robin Givens), Indian immigrant Jawaharlal (Jory Husain), child prodigy Janice (Tannis Vallely), too-cool-for-school Eric (Brian Robbins), chemistry whiz Dennis (Dan Schneider), academic Renaissance woman Sarah (Kimberly Russell), ultra serious Alan (Tony O’Dell) and ethereal bibliophile Simone (Khrystyne Haje) – through academic challenges and real-life problems alike.

After the second season of revisiting Head of the Class, I’m even more impressed at how well this holds up and how still relevant it could be utilized today. Its sophomore year hits some key issues head on. Providing a mix of political, educational and emotional life. Perhaps its a bit of an “every generation goes through these things”, but its probably a lot of “Oh my, we really haven’t come so for” or “We’ve back tracked so much” that seeps up when watching it. And not just is the show’s heart in the right place, its head is too when it comes to these social and political climates that sweep by every episode of the show. That’s likely a reason why I find my ears perking up and myself pretty satisfied with how things wind up playing out and how they are discussed.

The cast has also sunk more into their roles in the second season and everyone gets a chance to have some exploration. No, its not deep, and very general sitcom-y stuff, but it works. Like the previous season, every student gets about 1-3 episodes of being the focus of a given story, with Hesseman taking in most of the load for the narrative. And their stories focus on some relationships, dating and such much more in this season. There are some surprisingly modern points and reflection made in it, too. Especially one in which Moore dates another teacher that is much younger than him.

Its quite interesting to see Some interesting guest stars pop up throughout the season including Nichelle Nichols playing herself. The dad from The Wonder Years makes an appearance as a dad here. Lori Petty shows up for a couple episode stint during the season. This was during the 80s where she was all over TV before breaking out and being a movie star with the likes of Cadillac and Point Break at the turn of the 1990s.

Most of the “dating” of the show come with pop culture or political references of the time when its taking place. And that’s a-okay as its set to be taking place in a modern day late 1980s. There’s an episode revolving around the release of Fatal Attraction, a Woody Allen film festival as well as plenty of Ronald Reagan references (And not in a positive light, mind you) and the like. But its all pretty fun and the humor, charm and characters of the show, really drive it. Head of the Class also succeeds at sneakily being a “lessons” sitcom that just just sit and preach or force an issue into existence, it actually makes it relatable and fair in its advise and analysis. Many sitcoms can come quite hollow, desiring just the laughs, but Head of the Class in its second season decides it wants a balance.

Episodes

Disc 1
Science Fair Weather Friends
The Write Stuff
The Big Squeeze
Child of the Sixties
Trouble in Perfectville
Coach Charlie
That’ll Be the Day
Poltergeist III
Disc 2
Psyched Out at Fillmore
Revenge of the Liberal
Play It Again, Woody
Will the Real Arvid Engen Please Stand Up
On the Road Again
Fatal Distraction
Cello Fever
Parent’s Day
Disc 3
Love is Debatable
For Better or Worse
We Love You, Mrs. Russell
Don’t Play with Matches
The Twenty-First Century News
Moore Than You Know
Radio Activity
I Am the King

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-2 NTSC

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: DVD-9 (Pressed discs, not a DVD-R)

Clarity/Detail: Head of the Class’ second season arrives with a similar, but slightly improved image from the first season. it shows offa little bit more clarity. Overall, its still a nice, polished iteration of what looks to be its broadcast quality image. Details show what they can best the closer something is to the screen, but you can see some of the scuffs on the chalk board or wood grain patterns on the desk tops from rather distant views. The image is a overall fuzzy, but does run itself nice and fluidly. If you watch it streaming, I imagine this is the same quality you will probably wind up with as well.

Depth:  While the image is flatter by nature, it does feature some decent motion, being a set sitcom and being based around more calm motions, keeping the distortions at bay as much as it can.

Black Levels:  Blacks feature on the lighter side of darkness, but some fades to black impressively keep a nice dark, natural tone with the matting bars. Some of the noise can get a bit heavier in the darker areas and there is plenty of crush present. This is a DVD after all.

Color Reproduction:  Colors don’t feature the greatest of saturation, but there are a variety of solid colors on display, with some of the more 1980s fashions able to pop with minimal bleed. The map in the background has a nice look to it with some solid, bolder colors.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and manage a consistency from start to finish. Facial features and details are a bit harder to make out aside from easy to spot dimples, wrinkles and such.

Noise/Artifacts: The release features is fair share of some issues commonly found on DVDs with noise and ghosting apparent in moments.

Audio 

Format(s): English 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics: Head of the Class’ second season again features a solid mono mix which has a nice mixture to bring it to its natural broadcast effectiveness. The vocals are a little louder in the mix, with the effects and laugh track under them having good clarity. Whenever a musical transition occurs it does take a louder and deeper prominence, with some good bumping bass.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are plenty loud to drive the mix and has a nice clarity and prominence to them.

Extras 

Head of the Class: The Complete Second Season is a 3-disc set and contains no bonus features.

Summary 

Head of the Class sees an impressive jump in quality and confidence in its second season and holds court to be a top notch 80s sitcom. This DVD set is relatively a copycat of the previous release with a slightly improved image quality from the last season. I’d love for a bonus feature or two to appear on these, but considering where we are at and that its taken so long for this show to be available, I’m not holding out much hope. As a fan of the show, this is a solid pickup, given that SD and DVD is quite possibly the best we’ll have to own for this series for a long time (if ever).

Share

Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments