"SAMANTHA WHO?: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON"
The problem that Sam faces is that she doesn’t remember anything about her life. Her friends and family are reluctant to share her history with her, so she has to piece it together as the year plays out. Unfortunately, as she uncovers more about her former self, she learns that the old Samantha was not a very good person.
Upon first glance, I pegged this show as a light-hearted version of “Regarding Henry” with a chick instead of Harrison Ford. In the first couple episodes, this was exactly what the show was. However, as the short fifteen-episode series moved forward, the comedy emerged less from Sam’s ignorance of her past but rather her attacking life for new experiences regardless of what happened in her past.
The show has a bit of a rocky start, with some forced comedy that comes from her parents (Jean Smart and Kevin Dunn) as well as her childhood friend Dena (Melissa McCarthy). At the onset, all three of these characters were gimmick-oriented. Her parents didn’t know her for the past few years and want to regress to Sam’s childhood. Dena is a pathetic loser who clutches to Sam for attention.
At the mid-season mark, they adjusted the characters to have a little more depth and interact with Sam better. Dena took a huge upswing when they made her less dwelling on the past and had both Sam and her other snotty friend Andrea (Jennifer Esposito) just accept her.
Like ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” “Samantha Who?” is a feel-good comedy not out to change the world. This is a breath of fresh air for a TV block that engages too much in social engineering. Christina Applegate is entirely likeable and able to carry the whole show. She’s given a chance to stretch her comedy legs – for better or for worse – in various capacities on the show. And with the episodes running a short 22-minutes in length, the entire season is digestible over the course of a few days.
The DVD comes with some audio commentaries, deleted scenes and a blooper reel.
After a cancer scare (which makes the second episode in which Sam debates following through with a scheduled boob job a little awkward), Christina Applegate is coming back for a second season. Hopefully, the series retains its lighthearted and fun attitude.
"UGLY BETTY: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON"
What bothered me then, and what bothers me now, is that it is in danger of being a victim of its own popularity. The core character of Betty, who has plenty of unresolved issues, has become a shining hero. Keeping her fresh image and friendliness is becoming a challenge as the second season moved on.
Most noticeably, Betty suffers from the “Ross Syndrome,” named for what David Schwimmer faced on “Friends.” Ross was a great character that most guys could identify with. However, soon he got so many hot chicks that no one liked him any more. The girls thought he was a man-whore, and the guys resented that he was getting more tail than ever before.
Similarly, Betty may still have no fashion sense, a tin grin and a terrible haircut. But into the second season, she’s fighting off two guys who want to be her boyfriend. How much sympathy can we have when she’s got two cute guys after her?
This hints at the soap opera nature of the series, which is the focus of the second season. More characters are given the spotlight – like Daniel’s transgender brother/sister Alexis Meade (Rebecca Romijn) and the Betty triangle of Gio (Freddy Rodriguez) and Henry (Christopher Gorham). Sadly, my favorite characters Amanda (Becky Newton) and Marc (Michael Urie) struggle to find a piece of that spotlight.
Another storylines that piqued my interest was a more appropriate use of Christina (Ashley Jensen) as Wilhelmina Slater’s (Vanessa Williams) surrogate baby mama. In the first season, Christina was annoying and didn’t fit well into the show. Now, with her selling her soul (and body) to the devil, she’s got some interest.
“Ugly Betty” manages to be outrageous with its sexual undertones but still be something you can watch with your mother. It’s a bubbly, cotton-candy show and remains a fun, mindless escape. If it can hold down the preachy moments, of which it has many, then it will continue to be good.
The DVD comes with a nice selection of bonus features, including a set tour with Becky Newton and Michael Urie, a tour of the Suarez home, a spotlight on Wilhelmina Slater, bloopers and deleted scenes. My favorite special feature are entire episodes of the Mexican soap operas shot for the show. You can watch them with the original Spanish language or with bad English dubbing. They’re hilarious.
"GREY’S ANATOMY: SEASON FOUR, EXPANDED"
Like Marc Cherry’s development of “Desperate Housewives,” Rimes seems to not know the best route for her characters. The on-again/off-again relationship between Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Dr. McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) is getting tiresome. It’s like watching Sam and Diane on “Cheers” struggle with their each other long after they jumped the relationship shark.
In this season, there’s some new blood at Seattle Grace. My favorite character Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd (Kate Walsh) has moved to L.A. to work at a private practice. The social pariah Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) has taken her place and is gunning for Dr. Yang (Sandra Oh). I cannot fully express how much I cannot stand Hahn. I never liked her in her guest spots in previous seasons, and bringing her on as a full-timer sours the entire show.
The only decent new character is Chyler Leigh as Lexie Grey, Meredith’s younger half-sister. However, her relatively enjoyable character is hindered by Meredith’s own hang-ups about their not-so-shared father that go beyond any degree of appropriateness.
Other characters, like Izzy (Katherine Heigl) and Karev (Justin Chambers) are either reduced to weak caricatures of their former incarnations or given single-minded hang ups that threaten to destroy their likability and reason.
By the end of season four, the soap opera medical drama has placed itself as a self-proclaimed leader in social engineering. Not only do you have a budding lesbian relationship between Hahn and Callie (Sara Ramirez), but when Dr. Bailey is forced to operate on a white supremacist, she engages in mutilation by specifically sewing him up so his swastika is altered. Not to defend white supremacy in any way, but this sort of behavior treads on dangerous ground, suggesting it’s okay to mutilate someone with whom you politically disagree.
The DVD comes with a nice collection of special features, especially for a fourth season. There are extended episodes, some with audio commentaries. There’s a spotlight on the new doctors in the show and a look at the sexy male doctors on set (which doesn’t bother me, but I don’t want to hear any complaints from this crew about the objectification of women later on), favorite scenes of the cast, deleted scenes and a set of outtakes.
One of the more clever and interesting elements of this box set isn’t even the DVDs themselves. This year, the ABC shows have been released with a special fold-out insert unique to each show. “Ugly Betty” has a subway map with the show’s key moments marked. “Private Practice” has a map of L.A. “Grey’s Anatomy” has a heart monitor showing the highs and lows of the season. It’s a clever way to catch up on what’s happened in previous seasons before tearing into this one.
"PRIVATE PRACTICE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON"
Not true. What made her character so good was that she was smart, sexy and had things together more than everyone else on that show. Against the cavalcade of neurotic, dangerous folk in Seattle Grace Hospital, Addison shined. However, bring her down to L.A. and focus on all of her neuroses, and you ruin the character.
I still like Kate Walsh. I just don’t like seeing the character reduced to a giggling schoolgirl around Tim Daly.
“Private Practice” is a spin-off of “Grey’s Anatomy” that follows Addison to L.A. to start a new life. Instead of working in a high-powered, high-stress hospital, she gets a job at Oceanside Medical, an elite private practice that caters to yuppies and other wealthy idiots.
Along with the new practice comes the new cast. Tim Daly plays her main love interest, making him a handsome and educated devil but one that is utterly boring for being so nice. Naomi and Sam Bennett (Audra McDonald and Taye Diggs) are recently divorced but still working together. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman) is the psychologist who has her own closet full of baggage and Cooper (Paul Adelstein) is the sexaholic pediatrician with a heart of gold.
What “Private Practice” attempts to do is be another “Grey’s Anatomy,” only without the high-intensity emergency room drama. It’s still a medical drama, and we’re faced with medical challenges every week. However, these problems come to the doctors rather passively, and a lot of the tension and excitement is lost. We’re left with a group of neurotic individuals in the 30s and 40s who simply can’t handle the realities of life.
Bonus features for this short 10-episode season on DVD include a pretty interesting an in-depth documentary about Kate Walsh, a behind-the-scenes featurette, two extended episodes, deleted scenes, outtakes and limited commentaries.
If you’re wrapped up in the soap opera aspect of “Grey’s Anatomy,” you’ll find more of the same in “Private Practice.” However, without the hard-hitting and gritty medical drama sidestories, it is nothing more than a soap opera.
"DIRTY SEXY MONEY: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON – EXPOSED"
However, I seem to have missed “Dirty Sexy Money” when it was first broadcast. It’s not that I wasn’t aware the show was on, since it was advertised heavily in the other ABC shows. It was just that aside from a kick-ass title, the show didn’t interest me at all.
Now that I’ve had a chance to see it on DVD, I will say that it’s mildly interesting. It’s not as bad as I thought it might be, but it’s not nearly as good as the title would lead you to believe.
“Dirty Sexy Money” focuses on the uber-wealthy Darling family. Tripp (Donald Sutherland) and Letitia (Jill Clayburgh) are the parents to a group of dysfunctional, spoiled adult brats who have no idea what the real world is like. When the family’s long-time lawyer dies, his son Nick (Peter Krause) reluctantly takes over the job. Although he insists he won’t let the Darlings rule his life, he finds himself constantly sucked into their drama, but he keeps the job in hopes that he can one day discover the real reason behind his father’s death.
I understand what they’re trying to do with “Dirty Sexy Money.” We’ve seen too many trust fund kids in the news – from Kim Kardashian to Paris Hilton – to not catch the parallels. However, the show puts up its own road block by trying to give some depth and humanity to its main characters.
The truth is that the entire Darling family is a wretched bunch. However, instead of going down the road of successful shows with awful people in the lead (like “Seinfeld,” “Arrested Development” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), “Dirty Sexy Money” tries to have the characters grow.
This works with some of them, like Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) and Jeremy (Seth Gabel), who are basically just spoiled twins who need a reality check. However, other characters from Tripp on down are basically despicable characters that lose any interest if they were to change.
Nick is meant to be the hero, but he is as corrupted by the money as the Darlings are. I have no sympathy for him because he brings this terrible life on himself. Likewise, his wife Lisa (Zoe McLellan) gets no sympathy either because she allows Nick to be sucked into the life rather than putting her foot down.
The DVD comes with a making-of featurette, a tour of the set, a spotlight on the costumes (featuring a cobalt-blue-haired costume designer with no personal sense of style), a look at the transgender supporting character played by Candis Cayne, bloopers, deleted scenes and audio commentaries.
I suppose if the show comes back in its second season and actually makes the corrupted family the antagonists without softballing their characters, the show could really shine. But right now, it’s not living up to its full potential.