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Case Number 03729

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My Big Fat Greek Life: The Complete Series

Sony // 2003 // 152 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // December 17th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

Now that the honeymoon's over, the real fun begins!

Opening Statement

After the surprise box office success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, some kind of follow-up was a certainty. Would it take the form of a big screen sequel or a weekly sitcom? The latter was the route chosen and My Big Fat Greek Life was born. Unfortunately, Columbia TriStar has now taken the obvious step of releasing the entire brief series on DVD. Is it a victim of fate or is it just a dud?

Facts of the Case

Nia and Thomas Miller (Nia Vardalos and Steven Eckholdt) return from their honeymoon in Greece to her large Greek family. They can be an overbearing bunch, but their hearts are in the right place. They haven't changed much since the movie. Gus (Michael Constantine) still brags that the Greeks invented everything. Maria (Lainie Kazan) is still smothering her family with motherly affection. Nick (Louis Mandylor) is just as dumb and macho as ever.

Throw in Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), her ditzy daughter Nikki (Gia Carides) and cameos from Yanni, Joey Fatone, and John Aniston (Jennifer's father, just in case you were wondering out there), My Big Fat Greek Life is a big fat blast!

The Evidence

The phenomenal success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding surprised everyone. An even bigger surprise was the failure of the spin-off series. I don't think another series was ever more eagerly anticipated than My Big Fat Greek Life (well, maybe the second season of Survivor). I remember the ads, both televised and print, and the wave of publicity surrounding it. What went wrong?

First, John Corbett, who played Ian Miller in the film, could not reprise his role for the series. Fox refused to let him out of his contract for the series Lucky and as a result, he dropped out. His replacement was Steven Eckholdt, who was miscast in that role.

Second, CBS insisted on a laugh track for each episode. Ms. Vardalos did not want the laugh track, since she thought that the laughs could be found on their own and that a laugh track would be a distraction. CBS won in the end and a very awkward laugh track is in each and every episode.

Lastly, after a highly successful Monday night outing, CBS inexplicably moved the show to Sunday nights at 8 PM (Eastern time, that is). Head to head with The Simpsons, it's obvious what most viewers' choice was. After five episodes, My Big Fat Greek Life went to that big fat Greek cloud in the sky.

So there you have it. Three factors may not seem like much, but combined they were more than enough to contribute to the show's downfall.

To be fair, the show isn't as good as the film that inspired it. But it is not the disaster the sudden cancellation implies it is. It is actually a wonderful show that happened to debut at the wrong time.

Now, that last remark may sound like the oldest cliché in the book. However, it is also a very apt description. Let's face it, folks. Television isn't what it used to be. With the successes of every Survivor and The Bachelor, there is now a glut of reality TV programming clogging the airwaves. That is one strike against our subject. Next, My Big Fat Greek Life is a wholesome, old-fashioned comedy. Well, as wonderful as I think it is, there are three people who will find it dull, sappy, and old-school. Strike Two. Finally, the successful comedies are either overly sexual in nature (Friends) or have a name star in the lead. Despite the innuendos and recognizable cast, My Big Fat Greek Life just didn't connect. That, coupled with CBS' time slot switch, killed the show.

Which is a shame. My Big Fat Greek Life retains the same ingredients that made the movie so good. Nia Vardalos has a good ear for dialogue and a firm grasp of the little quirks that make life the way it is. She is also an engaging actress, holding our attention for the entire time. Michael Constantine (Thinner) and Lainie Kazan (My Favorite Year) are hilarious as her parents and often steal the show. In fact, the whole cast is pretty good. The lone exception is Steven Eckholdt. He and Vardalos lack chemistry together, especially after the fireworks she had with John Corbett in the film. Eckholdt often comes across as very stiff and dull. He looks uncomfortable in every scene he is in. But since the rest of the cast is so good, one can overlook this considerable weakness. I did, but then again, I am by no means normal.

Only seven episodes were produced before CBS pulled the plug. They all easily fit onto one disc. Rated on a scale of zero to five dancing Zorbas:

"The House Gift"
Nia and Thomas return from their honeymoon to find that her parents have bought them the house across the street from Dancing Zorba's.
Rating: ****1/2

"The Empire Strikes Back"
Gus and Maria draw up their will and guess who inherits the restaurant? And no, there's no revelation that Darth Vader is Nia's father.
Rating: ****

"The Free Lunch"
Nia refuses to allow the local cop to eat for free, resulting in the loss of certain "privileges."
Rating: **

"Ariana"
Nia's cousin Ariana (Rita Wilson) comes to visit after the end of her marriage. Gus and Maria proceed to fix her up with Spiro (Frank Stallone), the local Greek bachelor. Guess who decides to meddle?
Rating: ***1/2

"Big Night"
Thomas brags to Gus that he knows Pete Sampras personally, which ends up causing a big problem.
Rating: ****

"Nick Moves Out"
Nick moves out of the family home. His absence gives Maria spare time, which she uses to drive Nia, Thomas, and Gus crazy.
Rating: ***

"A Greek Easter"
Nia is preparing the Easter Feast and as a special surprise flies in Gus' former friend, who is now his enemy (unbeknownst to her, that is).
Rating: ***1/2

Columbia TriStar usually does good work with television shows on DVD. My Big Fat Greek Life is no exception. A nice, clean full frame transfer is given to us and it's quite pleasing to watch. There are some recent shows that look surprisingly bad when transferred to disc and it's nice to see that Columbia TriStar made sure it looked the best it possibly could be. There is some grain, but nothing that will be a major distraction or bother.

Another pleasant surprise is the audio. Usually mono mixes are used for television programs, but this series was recorded in Dolby Digital stereo. Columbia TriStar recreates the original television experience, which was very, very good. Some music cues sounded a bit too loud (the same problem plagued the original telecasts). The dialogue sounds crisp and clear, which is very important since this is a dialogue-heavy program. The sound is also free of hiss and crackling sounds, but that's to be expected from a recent series.

Columbia TriStar gives us the usual barebones release they're accustomed to when it comes to television. Not a single extra is to be found. Even though this was a very brief series, I'm sure some good, juicy stories are out there as well as the people to tell them.

Closing Statement

It's reasonably priced ($24.95) and it's worth investing as a blind buy. For those who don't want to take the risk, then a rental would be your best bet. As long as you are willing to suspend some disbelief, there is much to enjoy here.

The Verdict

Nia Vardalos is acquitted of all charges. In fact, she deserves a medal for putting up with the asinine mandates of CBS.

CBS is once again found guilty to taking a show with great potential and not lending its' full support to the series. They allowed Brooklyn South to die and they did it again here.

Columbia TriStar is acquitted of all charges but is asked by this court to reevaluate their policy in regards to extra content.

Case dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 94
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 84
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• Greek
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 152 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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