Case Number 03989


Miramax // 1999 // 990 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Elizabeth Skipper (Retired) // March 1st, 2004

The Charge

The year she cut her hair...

Opening Statement

...and the ratings in one fell swoop. At least that's how the story goes. It turns out, according to the commentaries, that Felicity's haircut was not a rash decision by Keri Russell but rather a choice made by the show. And, they claim, the ratings went down because of time slot changes and other factors, not the haircut.

Still, it seems awfully coincidental, don't you think?

Facts of the Case

Presented on this set are the 23 episodes from the second season of the show:

You just announced my sexual history to a group of strangers.
Is one a history?

Last season's cliffhanger is resolved when we learn that Felicity chose Ben over Noel. But their new relationship is already called into question when Ben listens to Felicity's tape to Sally and hears her say she might love him. Elena and Noel become roommates, and she reveals her affair with Dr. McGrath to him.

"The List"
That tape, my friend, it's like a monkey in the room. I mean, you guys can have the greatest time in the world, but the fact is that monkey's always gonna be there.
It's an elephant, right? An elephant in the room?
It's not normal to have a monkey in the room either.

Elena gives Noel advice on picking up women, which he puts into practice at Julie's party. Ben believes he and Felicity can never have a casual relationship, so he breaks up with her; in response, she gets a radical haircut.

"Ancient History"
Wow good or wow bad?
Definitely wow bad.

To match her new haircut, Felicity changes her major from pre-med to art; she and Noel end up in the same art class and he is forced to end his silent treatment while she must deal with her jealousy of his new crush. Julie decides to make her temporary stay with Ben and Sean a permanent arrangement.

"The Depths"
You can't get a best friend. Best friends become. They don't happen in a meeting or a year or two. It's a package deal, friendship. Only as valuable as what you put in, comes through...I don't think you two were best friends to begin with.
Julie writes a slanderous song about Felicity and the two must confront each other when trapped in the same subway car. Noel and Ruby, one of Felicity's advisees, make a connection. Ben deals with a rude, but cute, female customer who then asks him out.

What does he look like?
Nothing that makes up for his behavior.

Felicity's professor sets her up with her son, David, who takes her on a horrible date. Noel and Elena become addicted to his new PlayStation. Ben begins dating an older woman, Maggie.

"The Love Bug"
We both have mono, so we had sex.
Is that what that was?

Ruby is asked to audition for a movie. Noel says Felicity's name while kissing Ruby so must reveal their past relationship. Felicity and David's relationship burgeons, despite Meghan giving her mono. Ben discovers that Maggie is married.

"Getting Lucky"
I have a date...guy named Seven.
Seven? Seven's his name?
I know.
What is he, a Borg?

Felicity finds a stray dog, tries to find him a home, and ends up using him as an excuse not to sleep with David. Ben continues his affair with Maggie.

"Family Affairs"
Oh my God, I'm the Ben of this situation.
Felicity's parents pay her a surprise visit and are shocked by her new haircut, new major, and new boyfriend. Felicity, drunk and fearing David is moving too fast, kisses Noel. With Ben as a server at her Thanksgiving party, Maggie tells her husband she's having an affair.

I am a metaphor for your sexual ambivalence and confusion.
Noel and Felicity pair up for a class project, and she wishes she had chosen him over Ben. Julie is approached by a record producer, Erik, about her music.

"Great Expectations"
I got taken away by the campus police and the guard said I might even get expelled.
That's cool, maybe now your life will get interesting.

Felicity learns her parents are separating and Ben loses his swimming scholarship, so they wallow by drinking at the university pool. Julie's record deal progresses.

"Help for the Lovelorn"
I've gone to college for three years and have basically no friends?
In this homage to The Twilight Zone, Felicity seeks treatment for her broken heart and we learn the true contents of Meghan's box.

"The Slump"
I just feel so lost here.
You know the thing about being lost? You can be lost anywhere.

As part of their punishment, Ben and Felicity are assigned to alcohol abuse counseling, which helps Felicity deal with her mother's visit and ensuing discussion of the separation. Ruby tells Noel she might be pregnant.

"Truth and Consequences"
My dad has this three-year cycle theory. He says that once every three years, you go through a total crisis. It's like a rollercoaster, and every three years, you dip, and then you come up, and then you dip.
I feel like I've been dipping forever.

Ben and Felicity are assigned to community service as part of their punishment. Ruby finds out she's pregnant and, after nearly having an abortion, decides to keep the baby. Julie's potential record deal falls through when she won't sleep with Erik.

"True Colors"
Personally, I think anyone with a massively screwed up past shouldn't be allowed to be in relationships. I mean, legally.
Ruby learns the baby isn't Noel's. Julie continues to stew over the incident with the record producer. Elena throws a painting party. Felicity reevaluates her opinion of her new boss, Greg.

"Things Change"
Samuel, that's my guy, has started calling me 'Javier, has no hair, have another chocolate éclair.'
Felicity, worried about her dad, asks him to volunteer at the health clinic where she's doing community service. Soon after, she discovers that he's left his job at the hospital. Noel tells Ruby he can't be with her but wants to remain friends. Ben tries to tell Felicity he has feelings for her again, but finds her with Greg.

We sort of got in a fight last night.
Who won?
I really don't think it was you.

Felicity stages a sit-in when the health clinic refuses to prescribe the morning-after pill and, when it is successful, kisses Greg. Ben and Noel study together and end up drunk and fighting.

"Docuventary II"
Now, last year you were straddling art and medicine.
Yeah, you were also straddling Noel.

Sean films more footage for the documentary he started last year. Greg offers Felicity a job at the health clinic after her community service is over, but it turns out he only did so because of his feelings for her. Ben looks in Greg's university files and finds out he was arrested for cocaine possession three years ago.

"Party Lines"
For someone who likes me so much, I sure am getting kicked out of this apartment a lot.
Greg decides to run for student-body president and asks Felicity to be his campaign manager. She takes the job but realizes she disagrees with him on every issue and ends up running herself. Ben tries to determine his career goals.

"Running Mates"
You're overthinking this.
Oh god, I'm starting to act like Felicity all of a sudden.

Campaign mudslinging begins when Felicity's posters are vandalized with "Chia Head" and escalates until Ben reveals Greg's drug history to the entire campus.

"Ben Was Here"
Forgive Meghan, she hasn't learned yet that being rude and being darling aren't the same thing.
Ben follows Felicity and Greg on their weekend vacation and ends up breaking them up. A water pipe explodes in the dorm at the same time Tracy takes over Noel and Elena's apartment in an attempt to paint it, and everyone ends up staying at the loft. Sean kisses Julie and then reveals how much he loves her. Wade, the father of Ruby's baby, comes to visit.

"The Aretha Theory"
When we don't need a man is exactly when we should get together with them.
After leaving a drunken message for Ben while out with the girls, Felicity fears she's ruined any chance they had. But Ben takes her words to heart and tries to make amends for his past mistakes. Noel and Ruby complicate their relationship even further by sleeping together.

"Final Answer"
Guys have enough problems with sex as it is. You throw God into the picture, they get mental...You sleep with a religious virgin, it's like he's breaking up with God to date you...You do not want to be the Yoko in a man's relationship with the Lord.
Ben and Felicity decide to spend the summer together in Palo Alto, until she is offered an internship in New York. Wade asks Ruby to marry him and she considers it but ultimately decides to move back home. Julie agrees to go on a date with Sean despite growing feelings for Noel, but after Sean walks in on Julie and Noel kissing, he decides they should just remain friends. Tracy reconsiders his decision to remain a virgin until marriage.

"The Biggest Deal There Is"
Don't throw away the opportunity to become a more interesting person out of fear.
Felicity makes her decision about the internship. Julie finds out her birth dad is sick and needs a kidney. Noel runs off with a woman he meets at Javier and Samuel's wedding. Meghan invites Sean to spend the summer with her in Italy.

The Evidence

I used to love Felicity. I especially loved the first season, but even during season two, I distinctly remember racing home from a weekend away to catch the Sunday night airing. Why? What could I possibly have seen in it? Were the choices that bad that I couldn't find anything more redeeming to watch? Was Ben really that cute that he was worth every yawn-inducing minute? I guess I loved it because I was in college too and I felt the show spoke to me in a way that the high school kids of Dawson's Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the adults of every other show could not. In other words, I guess I was young and stupid -- hey, we all experiment in college, right?

Now I know better. Now I know that the real world, the world after college, involves problems much bigger than choosing between two cute boys and being late for finals. And, knowing better, I find it difficult to watch 23 episodes worth of such "problems" without having the urge to begin every sentence with "In my day..." and end it with "uphill both ways." I suppose I could view Felicity as an opportunity to reminisce about the good old days, but I've got bills to pay, you young whippersnappers.

But, you might argue, the show involves more life-altering problems than the ones I've mentioned. There's unmarried pregnancy and an undergrad running a health clinic and your birth father whom you've never met needing one of your kidneys -- you know, realistic problems. So one minute we've got a show about choosing majors and running for campus office and the next we've got a show about a birth father needing a kidney (it bore repeating, in case you didn't get the eye roll right the first time). I'm not sure which is better: a show about problems that aren't really problems or a soap opera. That's okay, I don't need to choose -- we get both!

It's not all bad, though. The acting is top notch, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the character development is realistic and purposeful. And, while I'm speaking positively, there's Meghan. Felicity's roommate of two years is a breath of fresh air in this low-talking, over-dramatic bunch. She's loud, she's crass, she's kind of creepy, and I love her. She says what needs to be said and reminds us that the writers must have some sense of humor after all. She is joined in her quest this season by Felicity's therapist, Dr. Pavone, who, thankfully for us all, was able to slap a little sense into our spineless doormat of a title character.

Also good are the transfers. The 1.33:1 video is crisp and clear with deep blacks, accurate colors, and no errors that I could see. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix follows the video's lead with a good balance between easily audible dialogue (even in the scenes with Ben "Can't-Speak-Above-a-Whisper" Covington) and full and rich music. I did hear one error in the last episode, when the volume suddenly increased dramatically and then slowly lessened back to normal, but it was the only problem I encountered...or at least it was the only problem, until I glanced at the outside of the box and read "Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound." Excuse me? A little research confirms my confusion -- the box advertises 5.1 but the discs contain only 2.0. Some attribute the discrepancy to a misprint, others to a last-minute decision. Either way, it's unacceptable; therefore, despite the fact that I was quite pleased with the audio, I find it necessary to knock some points off the score in protest.

But I must complain in this review, as I did in my review of Dawson's Creek, about the lack of music credits. I know without a doubt that every episode of this season of Felicity included the now-standard-on-the-WB "Tonight's episode of Felicity included music by..." but it's not included on the DVDs. If we can have "Previously on Felicity...," why can't we have music credits? Or, if that would take up too much space, why couldn't they give us a text listing of the music included in each episode?

While I'm at it, I must also complain about the complete lack of chapter stops. None at all. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I can't imagine that they take up much space or are very difficult to include, so why do most TV shows have none? If I could at least skip past the theme song, I'd be satisfied, but Felicity doesn't even allow for that.

Included in this DVD set are five audio commentaries, the original pilot presentation, "Finding Felicity" featurette, and a parody that originally aired as part of the Emmys. The commentaries should have been included for more episodes. Five out of 23 is just not enough. But what we do hear is witty, informative, and entertaining, especially when we get to hear Scott Speedman tell Keri Russell her new haircut was "pubic-like."

The pilot presentation (which is supposedly a shorter version of a pilot) is, from what I can remember of the first season, almost identical to the pilot we've all seen. I'm not sure why it's included at all or at least why it wasn't included in the first season set instead. It's out of place here.

Finally, the parody. I remember watching this when it aired and finding it hilarious, and it still is. It's very short, but it's sweet, and, if you are or were a fan of the show, it's almost worth buying this set just for this segment.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

It's possible I've become a jaded old woman who needs sex, violence, or reality TV in order to be entertained. It's possible Felicity is still quality programming that doesn't need to rely on sensationalism (well, not much, anyway) to be successful, that can portray the life of a girl and her friends and have that be enough. Then again, it's possible Felicity just sucks and always has and I've finally had my blinders removed.

Closing Statement

If you're a fan of the show, and of this season, then by all means buy this set. The transfers are great, the commentaries are amusing, and the Emmy parody is side-splitting. If you've never seen the show, don't start now; there are plenty of other shows out there (ahem, Buffy) much more worth your while. Finally, if you've seen the first season and enjoyed it, buy this set with caution. The first season was breakthrough television, while the second season was, at best, mildly compelling.

The Verdict

For cutting that beautiful hair and turning a beautiful girl into a "Chia Head," Felicity is found guilty and sentenced to a year in cosmetology school, which will hopefully be more exciting than sophomore year at the University of New York.

Case adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Skipper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 97
Audio: 80
Extras: 65
Acting: 98
Story: 70
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: Miramax
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

* English

Running Time: 990 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Audio Commentaries on "Sophomoric" (with Greg Grunberg, Amanda Foreman, Tangi Miller, and Amy Jo Johnson), "The List" (with Keri Russell and Scott Speedman), "Ancient History" (with Keri Russell and Scott Foley), "Help for the Lovelorn" (with J.J. Abrams, Matt Reeves, and Lamont Johnson from The Twilight Zone), and "The Slump" (with J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves)
* Original Pilot Presentation
* "Finding Felicity"
* Felicity Emmy Parody

* IMDb