Whoa! Judge Christopher Kulik actually thought this very special show was kind of cool.
Our review of Blossom: 10 Very Special Episodes, published November 10th, 2010, is also available.
"In my opinionation, the sun is goin' to surely shine!"—Theme song by Dr. John
Premiering after the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air in 1991, Blossom seemed like another family sitcom with a cast of wacky characters. It was quite successful, lasting five seasons and making stars out of a trio of teens. Eighteen years later, the show's first two seasons are being released by the Shout! Factory, and the question which must be raised is does the show retain its lovability, or is it now as stale as year-old bread?
Facts of the Case
Aptly-named Blossom Russo (Mayim Bialik, Curb Your Enthusiasm) is a smart teenage girl dealing with her parent's divorce, resulting in her living in a male-dominated household. Her handsome, overly protective dad, Nick (Ted Wass, Soap), is a travelling musician who does gigs all over the country and gets paid reasonably well. She also has two older brothers: Anthony (Michael Stoyanov, The Dark Knight), a recovering alcohol and drug addict; and Joey (Joey Lawrence, Gimme A Break!), a lunkhead with big hair who loves chicks but can't talk to them because he's got the brains of a melon. This clashing of eccentricities causes confusion and chaos as our heroine "blossoms" into a woman.
Shout! Factory brings this early '90s boob tube capsule into the 21st century with the first two seasons, totaling a whopping 37 episodes.
Having never watched Blossom in primetime, I had my fears. I was expecting a cloying, juvenile situation comedy which kept its topics light and inoffensive. After all, this show shot an actor into a major heartthrob by saying "Whoa!," in moronic surfer lingo, followed by endless covers of Tiger Beat and CosmoGirl. Then there was the infamous marketing campaign where, every Monday, NBC ads would proclaim "Tonight, on a very special episode of Blossom…" Come to think of it, these two reasons alone no doubt turned me off, along with the impossibility of identifying with a show told from a young girl's point-of-view. So, I usually picked up the channel changer and went over to watch The Wonder Years or Boy Meets World. If Blossom couldn't hook me back then, then how does it expect to net me now?
Errr…How do I admit this without it sounding embarrassing?
Oh hell, I liked Blossom.
I dug the characters and found the humor not only effective but honest. Yes, the show did have its moments of unapologetic sappiness and saccharine, but at least they weren't accompanied by Kenny G music or the Olson twins. Blossom, like its lead character, had a maturity other sitcoms then (and now) simply didn't have. There are the usual teenage growing pains, as well as life lessons involving boys, lying, and peer pressure. However, little miss Russo had more spunk and smarts than most of her fellow students. She had intelligence in place of beauty, but that doesn't mean she was unattractive. Plus, her fashion sense was hip without being square, and colorful without being coordinated. When most girls her age would dress in a way which was a slight step above streetwalkers (did I mention this show was set in L.A.?), Blossom was refreshingly demure, and yet would still consider letting a date get to second base.
The show was created by Don Reo, who had previously written episodes of MASH and The Golden Girls. Originally, Blossom was supposed to be about a female Holden Caulfield of sorts, but the pilot episode (broadcast in July 1990), introduced a down-to-earth tween girl who wasn't a rebel but already thinking beyond her years. Blossom's parents (played by Barrie Youngfellow and Richard Masur) were dropped in favor of a single dad dealing with the painful divorce. Six's name came from the number of beers which her father drank before her conception. The modifications worked for the better, as serious themes were employed rather than cookie-cutter comic situations which had already been played to death. For example, in the first episode, we meet Blossom as she is boldly preparing to buy tampons…until she discovers a school friend behind the counter.
The First Season was more about Blossom coming to grips with having no mother, but the Second Season would get into such daring topics as puberty, sex, pregnancy, and drugs, when you'd think it would only be concerned with acne, pimples, and Valentine cards. Blossom may never have crossed the line, but I'm sure some parents must have questioned its subject matter, which was more realistic than, say, the vomit-inducing Full House. What also worked in the show's favor was not talking down to its core audience, but infusing each episode with some adult sensibilities which kids would get instantly. Possibly the best episode in this set is "Blossom…A Rockumentary," which is really a dead-on, hilarious spoof of Madonna's 1991 film Truth Or Dare. When you have Joey doing an imitation of Mark Wahlberg rapping about fat girls, you know this is not your average family sitcom relying on sugar rushes to garner laughs.
While the show centered around Blossom as a "video blogger" (who would document her day-to-day activities via video camera, even though we rarely see it), the supporting characters were given almost equal attention. My favorite, believe it or not, was Blossom's motormouth best friend Six LeMeure, delightfully played by Jenna von Oy (The Parkers). A combination of snappy wit, incessant gossip, and Vicky Pollard's vocal ticks, Jenna sells this character all the way, particularly in the First Season, back when she was billed as a "guest star." The chemistry between Mayim and Jenna is remarkably natural, so much so it reminded me of the conversations between Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby in Juno. (I wonder if Diablo Cody grew up watching Blossom?) I also liked Ted Wass' turn as father Russo, projecting responsibility while being laid-back at the same time. Wass' comic chops come almost purely through facial reactions, as well as occasional sarcasm and snarkiness, and he plays it all with spades. Unfortunately, the likable Stoyanov feels almost like an outsider, crowded out because of his siblings' shenanigans. His character borders on dramatic so many times he's even somewhat out of place. As for Joey, well, the guy surprisingly grew on me after awhile, even though he makes Ernest P. Worrell look like Bill Gates. I'd be lying if I didn't say Lawrence had charm to burn and smiles to widen, even if the "Whoas" are done to the point of overkill. Lawrence himself admits in the bonus features it was amazingly ridiculous.
Another eyebrow-raising aspect of Blossom was its slew of guest stars. Sure, all older shows has its fair share of stars-to-be, but there was almost one per episode here. In the first episode alone, we have Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show), Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Private Ryan), and Eileen Brennan (Private Benjamin). For the remainder of the first two seasons, there's a virtual who's-who of rising and lost talent including Will Smith, Stephen Dorff, Estelle Getty, Jonathan Brandis, Sonny Bono, Phil Donahue, Don King, ALF, Parker Stevenson, and Leah Remini. In Season Two, there are welcome recurring characters in grandfather Buzz (the late Barnard Hughes, Doc Hollywood) and Toni, Anthony's AA partner (played by Tisha Campbell, House Party). However, you really have to look sharp for Tobey Maguire, who has a walk-on bit in Episode 5, "Sex, Lies, and Teenagers."
Like other TV shows which have been neglected DVD releases by their respective copyright owners, along comes Shout! Factory to the rescue. Blossom is given a superb release, with the first two seasons split into six discs (two each in slim pack cases) enclosed in a nice cardboard box. All of the episodes may not look much better than seen in syndication, complete with occasional fuzziness and scratches, but the 1.33:1, full frame prints are as good as can be expected. The pilot episode (included as an extra) is obviously taken from an aged source, as the elements are drab and the print even bends at times. Regardless, the show's colors are vibrant more often than not. The music is presented well with the DD 2.0 stereo tracks. As with all of Shout!'s releases, there are no subtitles but there is closed captioning.
Best of all are the extras, which include three featurettes, the pilot, and three commentaries. Don Reo, Mayim Bialik, Joey Lawrence, Jenna von Oy, and Ted Wass (on the primary featurette only) are all interviewed and recount many fond memories while also giving behind-the-scenes info. It's clear they all had a fun time watching the shows again. Shout! has also included a snazzy booklet listing all the episodes with plot synopses, airdates, and production photographs. Good stuff!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Blossom's wardrobe may be oddly contemporary, but the show itself has its fair share of dated elements. Seeing Nick work with a bunch of cassette tapes should give you an idea of how much this show has aged, even when the '90s seem like only yesterday. Sure there is also the endless parade of Guess jeans (didn't teenagers shop anywhere else but the friggin' Gap?), mini-skirts, fanny-packs, and Nike pump-up shoes; hell, all that's missing are L.A. Gear and snap bracelets. Still, this isn't a real fault of the show but viewers might be put off nonetheless.
What I can't forgive the show for—even though it was standard at the time—is the inclusion of a laugh track. Lawrence is correct in that Blossom isn't regurgitating in its characters and comedy, but it's really borderline when it comes to the "woos" and "awws" coming from a damn machine. In some instances, it literally kills whatever humor the jokes had, and taints the more dramatic aspects in which the characters learn and grow. It may not be nearly as bad as the tracks utilized on Saved By The Bell and Full House but it's still cringe-worthy and altogether nauseating.
Oh yeah, one more thing: If you're going to have an episode which addresses sexual harassment, don't have it involve Joey being asked to be the boyfriend of a girl played by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Guys would welcome being pinched in the butt by her any day of the week. Any objections?
Blossom may have its detractors, but I must say I was quite entertained. If anything, fans will be overjoyed by Shout! Factory's first-class DVD treatment, making it highly recommended to said fans and even newcomers.
Whoa, not guilty!
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Studio: Shout! Factory
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