The Show: Webster
Ran for: 6 seasons. 150 episodes aired from 1983 to 1989.
What it’s about: Webster was one of 23 sitcoms from the 1980s about a young black child (being played by a grown black man) who for one reason or another is adopted by an old white person or couple.
My relationship with it: My first inclination is to say, “are you kidding? I’ve seen every episode of Webster! Come on.” But really, I know that’s not true. I’m guessing I’ve seen like, 20 episodes. But I haven’t seen one in a long time.
This Episode: Season 1, Episode 17— “Secrets of the Night”
We open with Webster in Karate class. Boy, is he one cute sonofabitch. No wonder everyone loved this show and Michael Jackson tried to adopt him! Anyway, class gets dismissed, and another boy says, “Web,” which is SUPES caj, by the way, “Web, we really need to practice our moves. It’s a good thing I’m staying the night,” to which “Web” says, “actually, I’ve gotta study for a spelling test.” But um, tomorrow is Saturday, so I feel like Web is being deceptive. The other boy says, “look, Wanda Bibbick could beat you up,” and then Wanda, who is two Websters long, threatens him.
Back at the Webster’s parents’ pad, George is telling Katherine that karate is NOT dangerous, but then she reads the definition from the dictionary for some reason and everyone in the audience laughs. According to the dictionary, it sounds like karate IS dangerous.
George asks Katherine where “Web” is (apparently nobody used his full name), and she says that he’s still asleep. George goes upstairs and knocks on his door instead of, you know, going into his 7-year-old son’s room like a normal parent might. Webster jumps out of bed and takes his pants off. I’m guessing he peed in them, and that’s probably the plot of this episode. The next few minutes consist of George trying to guess the password to get in, and Webster hiding his soiled clothing and bed linen. Everyone is laughing, but peeing the bed isn’t all that funny.
At the breakfast table, Katherine announces that she is going to gather clothes for laundry pickup (?) and wonders if Webster has anything he needs washed. He runs to his room saying “I said don’t go in my room!” which is suspicious. He brings back his karate uniform and then they coax him into taking a bath (a morning bath, the weirdest kind) which is all a front so they can search his room. (Well, Katherine wants to; George thinks it is being invasive, but again, Webster is in grade school. How much privacy does a 2nd grader need?)
In his room, they play with a viewfinder thing and Katherine finds a dead moth under his bed and finally she realizes that his sheets are AWOL. She looks around and then finds where he hid his pee sheets and very solemnly says, “Webster’s wetting his bed.” Webster is in the doorway, but they don’t know it. He looks betrayed, but also like he ate bad seafood.
After the commercial break, Webby is on the couch reading a newspaper but it’s upside down so that’s funny. George and Katherine are trying to talk to him, but he’s wearing giant headphones. Where’d he get those? Anyway, he’s mad because they found the sheets. He hollers “leave me alone!” and flees to his urine-soaked sanctuary. Once there, he barricades the door with toys. Totally normal behavior. Then his karate friend, Curtis, shows up. He’s having a sleepover and he wants Webster to attend, but for reasons known to us, Webster does not want to. He blames his inability to attend on George and “Ma’am.” Curtis says, “man, you’ve been acting WEIRD!” and Webster says “I am weird, wanna make something of it?” and Curtis is like, “I’m out, you crazy mf’er,” and he leaves.
Now Webster has no friends and a bed-wetting problem. What a mess.
Later, Katherine and George have a solid 5-minute conversation about the problem— how it’s normal, who in history may or may not have wet their bed(s), what may be causing Webster’s problem— and it is seriously a bizarrely long and unnecessary scene. Katherine proposes a gold star reward system and the whole thing sounds like it was written as a “how to be a parent” guide of some sort.
Curtis shows up and asks Webster to be friends again. Then he sees the calendar and stickers and here’s where things get incredibly strange. Curtis says, “oh, look, a puppy calendar and stickers. That’s neat! My little brother got the same thing, except his calendar had bunnies. But Webster, aren’t you an only child?” Webster says, “yep, no brothers or sisters,” to which Curtis says, “then I guess YOU’RE the bed-wetter.” (!?!?!?)
So, just to clarify: for some unbelievably peculiar reason, owning a regular wall calendar and a pack of stickers in Webster’s universe automatically means that someone in that household is pissing the bed.
Anyway, Webster gets mad at Ma’am and accuses her of telling Curtis. He runs off to the park.
Now Webster is in the sandbox sucking his thumb and George jogs up and climbs in. Then Katherine shows up. They start talking about what’s going on in his life. He mentions a math test, a spelling test, his karate tournament. You know, an average amount of things. Katherine says, “you know, Webster, I used to be like you,” and he says “you were BLACK?” and, 18-minutes in, we have our first legitimately kind-of funny line. Anyway, she explains that sometimes life makes you nervous. They explain that they will still love him even if he gets beat by a girl in karate, fails his test, and continues to wet his bed with reckless abandon. Everyone gets happy and they toss sand on one another.
After the commercial, we’re back where we started— karate class. George and Katherine are there, wearing karate robes. I’m not sure what is happening. Webster makes George pretend to be a mugger, and Katherine is supposed to be a lady bent over, tying her shoes. Then Katherine throws George to the mat and Webster does a weird giggle and it’s over. What a strange, unsatisfying ending.
Would I Watch Another Episode? Not on purpose. Webster was not a good show. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t smart. I’m honestly not sure who the target audience was. Orphans? Maybe orphans love Webster.