TITLE: GROUNDED FOR LIFE - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (MILL CREEK)
DVD Release Date: September 13, 2011 (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Packaging: Two-disc keepcase
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 15
Running Time: 336 minutes
Audio: English: Dolby Stereo 2.0
Special Features: Meet the Finnertys (interview with Donal Logue), Claudia – Not the Sitcom Mom (Interview with Megyn Price), Life With Lily (Interview With Lynsey Bartilson), Interview with Creators Mike Schiff and Bill Martin, Bloopers, and Season One Highlights
In yet another Mill Creek re-release of a Carsey-Werner sitcom that’s already been released in its entirety, Grounded for Life is a witty and irreverent comedy surrounding a Staten Island, New York Irish-American family, in which even the adults are really still kids. Sean and Claudia Finnerty (Donal Logue and Megyn Price) had gotten married and had their first child (now a teenage daughter) by the time they were 18, so even though their family has now grown to include two young boys, the parents are only in their early 30s and are still a bit wild and crazy themselves. They also have to deal with Sean’s constantly meddling father Walt (Richard Riehle), and Sean’s younger brother Eddie (Kevin Corrigan) who seems to always be getting into some kind of trouble. Plots deal mainly with problems with the kids, ranging from craziness from the boys (Jake Burbage, Griffen Frazen) to relationship issues concerning teen Lily (Lynsey Bartilson) and almost always involve blame or guilt.
Though the show debuted mid-season on FOX in 2001, this set is my first experience with Grounded for Life. I was only able to watch a couple of episodes, but I thought it was funny. Most of the comedy comes from how really immature the parents can be at times, and some of the humor falls kind of flat for me at times, but it is definitely a show I can take in small doses. One of the trademark storytelling devices of the show is that the episode will often begin either somewhere in the middle of the story, or sometimes even near its end, and will then tell what happened in flashbacks. Sometimes this can be confusing, or even frustrating, but most of the time it is just a very interesting and funny way to tell a story.
This season ran 15 episodes, premiering mid-season in 2001 on FOX. As mentioned earlier, plots typically revolve around the craziness in the Finnerty household, and how the problems are ultimately resolved. All fifteen episodes are equally enjoyable, but here are a few standouts: In the premiere episode (though it was not produced first,) Sean discovers Lily making out with the next-door neighbor in a car, and initially becomes angry (throwing a bucket of chicken at the car), but later realizes that those feelings were misguided. In “Action Mountain High,” Lily goes to an amusement park with her friends and gets high. She then calls her dad Sean to come pick her up, thinking he’s less likely to get mad at them... but upon discovering her plot, proceeds to call all of her friends’ parents and get them in trouble anyway. In “Devil’s Haircut,” Sean is supposed to take his son Henry to the barber for a haircut, but when the barber ends up being closed, tries to do the haircut himself with disastrous results. And in “Love Child,” in the show’s trademark flashback form of storytelling, Claudia and Sean tell the story of how Lily was born... leading Lily to the shocking discovery that they were not married at the time.
As the show is from 2001, the episodes’ running times of about 22:30 seems about right. Nothing seems to be edited from the episodes.
Lily B. Goode (22:25)
In My Room (22:25)
I Wanna Be Suspended (22:16)
Devil With a Plaid Skirt (21:55)
Action Mountain High (22:25)
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (22:26)
Like a Virgin (22:25)
Devil’s Haircut (22:26)
Eddie’s Dead (22:25)
Catch Us If You Can (22:25)
Jimmy’s Got a Gun (22:25)
Jimmy Was Kung-Fu Fighting (22:25)
Mrs. Finnerty, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (22:25)
Love Child (22:25)
The set comes in a standard sized plastic case, which holds two discs, one on each side. The plastic is a bit thinner to both be cheaper and more environmentally friendly, but also causes some problems in shipping. The case for my review set was simply obliterated when I took it out of the envelope--tiny plastic pieces went everywhere, and the discs were slightly scratched (though they still played). So be aware when purchasing this set for yourself, especially if you order it by mail.
The outer package is somewhat similar to the original 2006 release from Anchor Bay, showing the show’s logo, a shot of the cast, and the quote “Raucous, funny and irreverent” from TV Guide. The same quote is on Anchor Bay’s first season set. The photo chosen, however, seems to be from a later season of the show as the kids are much older. The back cover features another shot of the cast, ostensibly from the same photo shoot, with Donal Logue pointing a garden hose at the rest of the family.
The discs themselves have the same photo as the cover with the show’s logo and a list of which episode is on that particular disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menu is fine and serves its purpose. The fence/house design used on the front cover animates onto the screen, as does the show’s logo and the photo of the cast. The show’s upbeat theme song plays in the background. Menu choices are Play All and Episodes (and Bonus on disc 2). The episodes menu starts the theme music over again, with a picture of the Statue of Liberty with Donal Logue standing in front of it with his mouth open on disc one, and a photo of Sean and Claudia fighting in the bathroom on disc two. One chapter stop is in each episode at about the halfway point. This is a tad more useful than the Anchor Bay set which placed a single chapter stop after the opening credits, but only a tad.
Video and Audio Quality:
Mill Creek’s Carsey-Werner releases have followed a trend of cramming as many episodes as possible onto the discs in order to keep the cost down and this set continues that, at a cost to quality. The 2.0 stereo audio sounds fine, but the video quality leaves a bit to be desired. There are frequent compression artifacts and the video at times appears just plain soft. The Anchor Bay release (which also included 5 episodes from season 2 for some reason) spread them out onto four discs instead of two. There must be a way costs can be kept down but quality maintained.
Some of the special features from the 2006 Anchor Bay release are carried over, but others are not. All of the special features are found on disc 2.
The bulk of the special features are a series of interviews with cast members. In “Meet the Finnertys,” (8:10), Donal Logue discusses the series, as well as his views on the show and its cast members. In “Not the Sitcom Mom,” (7:04) Megyn Price discusses her character, Claudia Finnerty, and how much she differs from the typical sitcom mom. “Life with Lily” (7:15) is an interview with Lynsey Bartilson, in which she reflects on the character of Lily, how much fun she had playing Lily, and Lily’s trademark screeches. “A Callaboration is Born” is an interview with Mike Schiff and Bill Martin in which they discuss how they came up with the idea of the show. This is probably the most interesting of the interviews, though all of them seem like they are more clips than actual interviews.
There’s also a Blooper Reel (1:29) which is very, very short, but funny also and seems hard to believe with as wacky of a cast as this is, that there was only a minute and a half of bloopers. And finally, “Parents in Training” (7:39) is a short reel of some of the best moments of the show. This is actually a highlight of the set, showcasing some of the funniest moments of a show that isn’t always that funny.
The original Anchor Bay release included commentary on 9 of the 15 episodes contained here, mainly by the creators but also by some of the stars. Unfortunately, none of those commentaries were carried over to this set.
Grounded for Life is a quirky and funny show, but I don’t think I could ever become a die-hard fan. It’s tolerable in small doses, but its hard to watch several episodes in a row. The stories of a young couple raising young children, with everyone teaching lessons to everyone else is endearing and easy to relate to, but the stories can get a little tiresome at times.
There’s also the fact that this is a re-release of a set that was originally released on DVD over 5 years ago. The original release is far superior in that the episodes were not as compressed, and more bonus features were included (9 commentaries). If you already own that set, there is absolutely no reason to buy this one in addition. And I’d honestly recommend seeking out that set if you are a fan of the show that has not yet begun collecting it on DVD. However, if you are a casual fan on a budget, the cheap price of this set could be a good reason to pick up a copy. I would not really recommend buying the set without watching a few reruns on cable first to make sure it’s a show you want to have in your personal library.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Greg Brobeck on 09/23/11
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