Poked fun at on at least a couple of occasions by "Family Guy", this 80's sitcom mainstay (running from 1984-1990) starred Scott Baio as Charles, a housekeeper who moved into the Pembroke house (in later seasons, he was with different families) and became "part of the family", looking after the kids and offering up nuggets of wisdom.
Each week in the first season, Charles found himself looking after Lila (April Lerman), Douglas (Jonathan Ward) and Jason (Michael Pearlman), while trying to have a life of his own, which includes Gwendolyn (Jennifer Runyon) and best buddy...Buddy (Willie Ames).
The second season saw the series move to syndication, at which point the Pembrokes moved out, leaving Charles in the house with a new family: Mr. Walter Powell (James T. Callahan), mother Ellen Powell (Sandra Kerns) and kids Adam Powell, Sarah Powell and Jamie Powell (Alexander Polinsky, Josie Davis and "Baywatch" star Nicole Eggert.) The first episode of the season has Charles going on a camping trip with Buddy, only to come home to find that the Powells are moving in and the Pembrokes are moving to Seattle. While Charles ponders moving out to an off-campus house, he decides to stick around to help out with another family.
The second season - which aired a year after the first season ended - sees the show refreshed, both physically and with a new cast that is an improvement over the first season's family. While the cast is better - Callahan is terrifically funny, and the kids have better chemistry with Baio - the stories are largely the same old thing, but there are a few highlights, such as
As one might expect, "Charles in Charge" appears pretty dated at this point, but it does actually hold up better than some similar sitcoms from the 80's. The writing is "wholesome" and not exactly inspired, but I do admit that the episodes did have the occasional one-liners that got a good chuckle. The show's ability to be corny and yet not go over-the-top into sappiness also works in its favor - the series seems to know what it is, and that can't be said for some of the other shows produced around the same time. While the series brought in some considerable guest stars in the first season (Meg Ryan and others), the extent of the guest stars in the second season is Ellen Travolta, John's sister.
23. 2- 1 78009 Amityville
- Charles goes on a camping trip with buddy, only to come back to find the Pembrokes moving out. Charles thinks about moving out, but makes the decision to stay and help the new family.
24. 2- 2 78002 The Naked Truth
- Charles meets Rebecca Stansbury (Signy Coleman), an art student who he tries to impress. When he brings Adam (Alexander Polinsky) along to his class, Adam gets an unexpected education when Rebecca turns out to be a nude model, which makes Adam's mother upset as well as Rebecca.
25. 2- 3 78026 Feud for Thought
- Charles is taking a philosophy class and has to put his lessons to work when the Powells have their problems.
26. 2- 4 78017 The Egg and Us
- Jamie (Nicole Eggert) and Sarah (Josie Davis) have a school project to raise an egg as if it was a child.
27. 2- 5 78024 The Loan Arranger
- When Charles goofs off and his grades drop, so do his loans. So, he has to visit the local bank, where the loan officer (Ben Stein) isn't going to make things easy.
28. 2- 6 78019 American Teen
- Charles is too shy to ask out refined French exchange student Louise (Nikolette Scorsese).
29. 2- 7 78025 Buddy Comes to Dinner
- When Buddy (Willie Aames) injures himself at dinner, he stays with Charles for a few days and ends up getting in the way, especially when Charles tries to have a date with a girl who hates Buddy.
30. 2- 8 78012 A Fox in the Henhouse
- Comander Powell's shipmate, Lieutenant Matty Whiteford (Stephen Parr), visits the family and tries to get Ellen's attention.
31. 2- 9 78018 Pizza Parlor Protest
- Charles protests when his favorite hang-out is going to be turned into a parking lot by the school.
32. 2-10 78021 Trade Off
- Charles has just completed a term paper on bartering and puts his studies to use when the system will work out perfectly for what each Powell needs.
33. 2-11 78005 Dating
- Everyone in the house has or wants to go out on a date, but when everyone wants to go on a different date, Charles uses reverse psychology.
34. 2-12 78029 Music, Music, Mayhem
- Charles is mad at Buddy because the tape player he sold him doesn't work, and Walter is mad at Charles because the player ate his new tape. (In other words, a mega crisis for Charles.)
35. 2-13 78033 Buddy in Charge
- Charles has to visit with his parents who've come to town, so Buddy is placed in charge of the Powell kids for the weekend. Wackiness is sure to ensue.
36. 2-14 78020 The Case of the Mock Turtle Mystery
- When Sarah (Josie Davis) goes on a field trip, she leaves Adam in charge of her turtle. When she gets back and the turtle is missing, Adam goes on trial, with Charles acting as judge.
37. 2-15 78036 Mama Mia
- Charles finds that his mom (Ellen Travolta)'s about to visit, and she takes the kids for a night to let him to go a party. However, Charles takes the blame when Walter is upset that she took the kids to an R-rated movie.
38. 2-16 78031 Weekend Weary
- Charles is given the weekend off, despite the family's yard sale. However, when Jamie (Eggert) sells some expensive family artifacts, Charles has to come to the rescue.
39. 2-17 78030 The Heart Burglar
- Sarah starts falling for study pal Sean (Jason Cahler), while Buddy finds that his girlfriend is falling for Charles.
40. 2-17 78035 Dear Charles
- Charles fills in for a "Dear Abby"-like newspaper column and finds himself answering a letter from what sounds like Sarah.
41. 2-18 78013 Getting In
- Charles and Buddy join a frat and put up with a week of humiliation. When Charles is accepted and Buddy isn't, it's up to Charles whether he wants to side with his friend.
42. 2-19 78032 Isn't That What's Her Face?
- A famous young movie star, Darby Peterson (Dawn Merrick) asks for help from Charles to get into college without everyone noticing her.
43. 2-20 78023 A Date From Heck
- Charles goes out with the beautiful Anna Grundov (Diane Franklin), only to find out that her parents and brother also go with her on dates.
44. 2-21 78027 A Job From Heck
- Jamie gets a job at Sid's and Charles' mother seems as if she's staying for a while when she comes to town.
45 The Undergraduate
- Ellen's married friend, Joan Robinson (Kay Lenz) comes to town and sets her sights on Charles.
46 Her Brother's Keeper
- The stunning Joyce (Michelle Johnson) will be awfully grateful if Charles can teach her brother to be better socially, while her brother can teach Charles physics.
47 Lillian Putts a Round
- Lillian (Ellen Travolta) comes to town and ends up meeting a new man at the golf club. She also finds a new apartment a block from Charles.
48 U.F. Oh No
- Adam thinks he's seen a UFO and the girls think they've seen an alien in the kitchen. (The show should have done an "Alf" crossover.)
VIDEO: "Charles in Charge" is presented by Arts Alliance America in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Image quality is surprisingly good for an 80's comedy, although the presentation is not without a couple of minor concerns. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory, as while the image appeared a bit soft at times, it mostly seemed at least adequately crisp and clear.
As for faults, the picture did show some minor shimmering and the occasional artifact. No edge enhancement was seen, nor were any issues with the source elements seen. Colors appeared bright and nicely saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The mono soundtrack is perfectly acceptable for a sitcom, providing clear dialogue and (unfortunately) a crisp laugh track.
Final Thoughts: "Charles" isn't going to stand as one of the best shows of the 80's, but it offers some decent laughs and the second season improves as it offers a new family that works a tad better with Baio. It's certainly not a timeless classic, but it holds up better than some of the other shows from the era. The DVD set offers fine audio/video quality and a couple of minor supplements. Recommended for fans.