A chemical truck spilled all over Judge Adam Arseneau, which gave him the superpower of dirty clothes.
Just your average teen…with super-powers!
Running for four seasons on Nickelodeon's SNICK, The Secret World of Alex Mack married the pre-teenage comedy with action and adventure, a clever concept back in the early â90s. Fans should be thrilled to see this show on DVD, but a mediocre technical presentation keeps this set from being a true superhero.
Facts of the Case
Alex Mack (Larisa Oleynik, 10 Things I Hate About You) is your everyday normal kid on her way to junior high. Her older sister is a super-genius, which means all of her teachers expect great things from her, but Alex is no star student. In fact, she is ordinary in every way, and she hates it.
Suddenly, a freak accident changes her life forever. The local chemical plant, at work on a top-secret chemical, accidentally crashes a delivery truck right outside the school, spilling a mysterious yellow substance all over Alex. She rushes home to wash it off, only to discover the substance makes her skin glow with an eerie translucence. If that wasn't the worst of her problems, Alex finds she has developed superpowers of a kind—she can electrically charge items, move things with her mind, and dissolve into a liquid!
The Secret World of Alex Mack: Season One contains all thirteen episodes from the inaugural season, including the pilot:
"The Accident" (pilot)
"Alex and Mom"
"Cold Day in Paradise Valley"
While not the best-acted show, or even the best-written, The Secret World of Alex Mack has an undeniable charm. There is decent entertainment value to be had for pre-teeny types—you've got secret mysterious organizations chasing after kids in a bumbling, yet always vaguely threatening, fashion, a girl with bizarre superpowers that turn her into liquid and let her zap things with electricity, and your standard mix of Disney Channel-style boy crushes, friend in-fighting, jealousy, and math tests. These days, entire cable channels are devoted to programming like this, but back in 1994, The Secret World of Alex Mack was fairly novel. Right around this time, Nickelodeon made its move into SNICK, its preteen-focused programming block on Saturday nights, which broke ground on an entirely new genre of programming devoted squarely to juniors.
You had shows like Salute Your Shorts, The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Clarissa Explains It All hitting the airwaves. Of course, none of those kids could use powers to move objects around, so Alex wins there. After that, cable television would never be the same. You can't give Alex Mack all the credit, but it certainly has its place in the nostalgic remembrance of many a twentysomething today. Young kids loved the show with a passion, and most of them graduated from junior high with Alex right into high school with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other shows of the like.
Egregiously painful fashion stylings and lame dialogue cement Alex and her peers smack in the middle of California during the early 1990s, an embarrassing place to be, still rooted so firmly in the 1980s fascination with high pants, bad hats, and pastel colors. If you can get over the tackiness, the show is fairly charming in its own pubescent sort of way. You've gotta love Vince, the icy Germanic villain tasked with tracking Alex down and subjecting her to scientific experimentation, an adversary that looks straight out of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from the â80s. The special effects are pretty dire, no doubt, but you can tell the creators did the best they could with a limited operation budget. All things considered, they pull a lot of impressive illusions with some primitive visual effects. Plus, big points for chic retro styling—you gotta love the corniness.
Alex Mack, alas, should have used some of her superpowers on the DVD transfer. Presented in full frame (native), the picture looks pretty lousy even for a moderate-budget kid's television show. The colors are washed, the black levels are muddy, and the picture suffers from a total lack of cohesion and detail. Edges break down incoherently into edge-enhanced compression artifacts at every turn. Scary stuff.
The only sound option comes in the form of a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround presentation, which is pretty superfluous—all the action comes squarely from the center channel, basically without exception. The rear channels go virtually unused. Bass response is virtually nonexistent.
As for extras, you can forget about it. Genius Products didn't even bother including subtitles, let alone supplements. This is as bare-bones as a TV series can get on DVD.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite only appearing in a whopping three episodes, Jessica Alba is hilariously given equal billing on the DVD packaging with the show's star, Larisa Oleynik.
Oh, man, I should totally buy this DVD! Jessica Alba's in it! And she's hot! Oh sure, she's like, twelve years old, and she has like thirty seconds of screen time, but…it's Jessica Alba! Am I right, or am I right? Dude! She's hot! Heck, I'm going to buy two copies!
Ah, the inexorable decisions of marketing folk. As a society, we should autopsy a few of their brains to decipher their complex inner workings, before they destroy our society from the inside out. Be afraid.
Though hardly targeted to my particular demographic, The Secret World of Alex Mack: Season One is cute for young teens and kids, and kind of glorious in its utter embrace of all things 1990s. Alas, a murky DVD presentation keeps this set from being anything but campy retro enjoyment for those who caught it first time around and want to replace their VHS copies.
Any show featuring kids getting superpowers is all right in my books, if only on principle.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
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