Judge Patrick Bromley summers in Holliston.
Our review of Holliston: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray), published October 22nd, 2012, is also available.
No guts. Some gory.
I was a fan of the first season of Holliston, the first original sitcom created for FEARnet by writer/director Adam Green (Hatchet). It offered an interesting mix of familiarity and newness and gave me a chance to hang out with people I like (and who clearly like one another, which is a big deal) for a few hours. The more times I rewatched the first season—and I've gone through the entire season four or five times already—the more I liked it.
Now Season Two is out on Blu-ray, and it's a huge step forward in every way.
Facts of the Case
Here are the episodes that make up Holliston: Season Two:
• "The Holliston Christmas Special"
• "Suicidal Tendencies"
• "Halloween Girl"
• "Rock the Cradle"
• "Joe's Soda"
• "Kevin's Wedding"
• "Farm Festival"
I love Holliston.
I don't know if I love Holliston because I love Adam Green and Joe Lynch, the two stars and producers and the brain trust behind the show, or if I love Adam Green and Joe Lynch more because I love Holliston. At this point it doesn't matter. I'm totally on board for this show. I love it.
Season Two builds on everything Season One did and makes it even better. Perhaps the biggest change is that the episodes now run the standard 22-minute sitcom length, as opposed to the sometimes laggy 35-40 minutes of Season One. While Green still oversees the whole show, he has stepped back as director a bit; he still directs this season, but many of the episodes are directed by The Guild director Sean Becker. The difference in direction isn't obvious, as the show still feels like the show, but it has freed Green up a bit for his on-camera duties.
The Christmas Special (presented here in its uncut form; the version originally broadcast on FEARnet was missing the most important scene) is the real turning point. It changes the character dynamics in a new and interesting way and embracing some big emotional moments that reverberate through the rest of the season. The show has way more confidence from the outset, giving Green the opportunity to do all kinds of different things—there's a found footage episode, a holiday special, an animated show (you know, the kinds of things we all applaud Community for doing). The cast is more comfortable and even more cohesive, building a true sense of ensemble. The guest stars are a ton of fun; while Season One saw Tony Todd (Candyman) skewer his own image Larry Sanders-style, Season Two ups the ante by having Kane Hodder play a suicidal basket case, Danielle Harris play a scheming drug addict and Sid Haig play a miserable, heckling grouch.
The guest roles from these horror icons play to Holliston's reputation as the "horror sitcom," which is certainly true but possibly overstated as a marketing hook for explaining why a sitcom was airing on FEARnet. Green and Lynch and diehard horror fans, so the genre informs so much of Holliston from the casting to the throwaway references to the occasional moments of violence and gore that pop up unexpectedly (it's not uncommon for the characters to be killed off, only to reappear in the next episode with no reference to it). It's not a horror sitcom, though; it's a sitcom that has horror elements. There's enough there that horror fans will check it out and more than likely dig what they see, getting invested in the characters and sticking around for the rest of the season.
But the show is first and foremost a sitcom, and a terrific one at that. Green is clearly a fan of the sitcom format and set out to make a show that fully embraces being a sitcom, but Holliston subverts many of the conventions at the same time it revels in them. There are some people who won't be able to see past the three-walled apartment set or the constant use of laugh track, but Green understands that's part of the deal. The people who are turned off to aesthetic choices like that will completely miss the way the show undercuts sitcom tropes, like the "new girlfriend" plot where the new girlfriend is a 12-year-old girl or the "mistaken identity" plot where a character has to pretend to be someone else, so he chooses to play a total stereotype dressed like Scarface. The characters break the fourth wall all the time, but never in an obnoxious, "We know it's a sitcom and we're above it" way. Mistakes are left in. There's a roughness to it all that's completely charming. It's a scrappy show. And I am clearly an 80-year-old who calls things "scrappy."
Nearly a year after it first debuted on FEARnet, Holliston: Season Two arrives on Blu-ray (at this time, no DVD set is available because it would require putting the show on multiple discs) courtesy of RLJ and Image Entertainment. All 11 episodes are presented in 1080p HD and look very good; the show has an intentionally bright "sitcom" look, but the image is clean and free of flaws. The lossless 5.1 audio track is a little trickier; dialogue is clear and audible but the show's kickass intro/outtro songs and Bear McCreary's music cues appear to mixed louder, which could have viewers scrambling for the volume knob throughout the season.
Because Green is a fan of special features, he has once again made sure that this set has a bunch of bonus content for fans to dig deeper into the series. He, Lynch, Ortiz and director Sean Becker have recorded commentaries for 10 of the 11 episodes (there's no commentary on "Blobby"), and the conversations are like an extension of the show—a group of friends hanging out and talking and sharing a lot of behind the scenes info. As a devoted listener of Green and Lynch's podcast "The Movie Crypt," I already knew a lot of the info divulged on these commentaries, but I can't hold that against them. The conversations are still a lot of fun.
Also included are deleted scenes (only accessible on an episode-by-episode basis; there is no "play all") with introductions by Green, most of which are small extensions and extra bits of business. There's an amusing blooper reel and a few featurettes detailing Dee Snyder's makeup transformation, footage from the premiere and a more traditional "making of" piece. Rounding out the supplemental material is video from a live Holliston performance at the Rock and Shock convent and music videos for "Love It Down Your Throat" by Dyver Down, "Can You Hear Me?" by Corrie English's band Brokedown Cadillac and "The Road Behind," which is extra footage of Adam Green dancing in his bedroom from the "Blobby" episode.
This is a scary time to be a Holliston fan (I'm using the word "scary" wrong), because Season Two might be the last we ever see of the series. FEARnet hasn't announced any plans for a third season, and while Green's company ArieScope owns the show and could license it out somewhere else, there is no word right now on Season Three happening. Everyone involved wants one and Green has even started writing it, but scheduling concerns and distribution remain some major roadblocks. That means we might not ever find out what happens to Adam, Joe, Corri and Laura, and that makes me really sad.
Even sadder is the recent loss of co-star Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderous Urungus, lead singer of GWAR, cast as the alien that lives in Adam's closet and gives him terrible life advice. It's hard to imagine a Holliston without Oderous. He will be missed.
Whatever happens—and I truly hope the show finds a way to continue—I'm happy to have the first two seasons on Blu-ray. I know Holliston isn't for everyone, but it's very special to me. We're unlikely to ever get another show like it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
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