Our review of Felicity: The Complete First Season, published January 24th, 2003, is also available.
The year she cut her hair…
…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:
"The Love Bug"
"Help for the Lovelorn"
"Truth and Consequences"
"Ben Was Here"
"The Aretha Theory"
"The Biggest Deal There Is"
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.
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.
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.
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Scales of Justice
• 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)
Review content copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Skipper; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.