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Case Number 05194

Buy Significant Others: The Complete Series at Amazon

Significant Others: The Complete Series

Sony // 1998 // 274 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // September 16th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Joel Pierce learns—the hard way—that not every cancelled television series released on DVD is a diamond in the rough. Even when it stars Jennifer Garner.

Editor's Note

Our review of Significant Others: The Complete Series, published September 6th, 2006, is also available.

The Charge

…three twentysomething best friends living in Los Angeles and having the best—and worst!—times of their lives. (Back Cover)

Opening Statement

Considering the quality of the pilot episode, it's no real surprise that Significant Others was canned so quickly. The other episodes on this set, some of which were never aired, suggest that the show may have eventually developed into something better. Still, the show never managed to come together into a cohesive whole, which forces it to remain a curiosity.

Facts of the Case

Significant Others follows the pathetic misadventures and relationship crises of three uncertain twentysomethings living in Los Angeles. Campbell (Eion Bailey, And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself), the most put-upon man in the history of television, discovers that not only are his two best friends sleeping with each other behind his back, but his older brother is marrying his ex-girlfriend as well. He then proceeds to freak out at everyone in his life, acting like a neurotic teenager. At the same time, we are introduced to Henry (Scott Bairstow, Party of Five), who feels relieved that he can now demonstrate his love for Nell (Jennifer Garner, Alias, 13 Going on 30) in public. They have their own problems, however, as Nell takes issue with the fact that Henry writes pornography for a living. She, however, is so wishy-washy that she's incapable of holding down a job for more than a few months. Each of these characters proceeds to handle their situations with the finesse of high school football players, causing massive problems in their collective relationships.

The Evidence

This two disc set includes all six episodes of this quickly-canceled show. Note: these episode descriptions do contain some spoilers:

• "Pilot"
As I hinted before, this hour of television was probably bad enough on its own to sink Significant Others. It has enough convoluted drama to easily fill half a season of another show, but doesn't ease us into feelings of sympathy for any of the characters. In this first episode, we are quickly introduced to all of the characters as they bumble through their pathetic lives. Because so much happens in such a short amount of time, we don't get the luxury of being introduced to the characters before we are introduced to their problems. It makes for a steep learning curve, and I found myself disliking the entire core cast.

• "The Next Big Thing"
This second episode was much stronger than the pilot. There are still some structural errors, but the pace has slowed down enough that the audience is able to get a better grip on the characters and the types of situations that are to come. Campbell gets an idea to make lots of money by directing a children's video. Nell finds a new job, and decides she'll stick with it no matter what. Henry finds himself attracted to his older, and very married, boss.

• "The Plan"
I'll call this episode the "adultery episode." Henry continues his relationship with Charlotte, to the horror of the other friends. Campbell continues his plans for the video, which involves obtaining the help of his brother's wife, with whom (surprise) he suddenly gets along with really well. Nell starts to spend time with one of her father's friends visiting town, perhaps sparking something that is best left alone. Campbell's brother Ben gets a little too friendly with one of his models.

• "The Shoot"
This fourth episode is basically a continuation of the previous one. Henry becomes dissatisfied with his sneaking around with Charlotte. Campbell shoots his children's film, which comes with some good and bad surprises. Nell realizes the stupidity of her own actions with her father's friend, and gets into yet another mess with Henry, causing him to end his relationship with Charlotte. By this point in the show, these problems are starting to get overwrought and obnoxious, but at least a few of the same issues are carrying through to following episodes.

• "My Left Kidney"
Campbell makes a horrible discovery about Brittany, and tries to take care of Nick after he gets out of rehab. Nell tries to sort out the confusion with Henry and drives him away. Henry gets some terrible news, which brings all of the friends back together. This show works well, but is slightly thrown by the sudden addition of a number of secondary characters in their first and only appearance. While stopping the series after this episode would have been depressing, I think it may have been a more suitable end for the series.

• "Matters of Gravity"
This final episode has some closure, but it doesn't feel sincere. Campbell decides to join his father's business, only to be pulled away when Nell (a) gets a job there herself, (b) is fired, then (c) decides they should have another go at the failed children's video. Henry comes back from staying with his mother, planning to make things right with the other people in his life. I really thought the video subplot would (and should) be over, and a return to it doesn't seem like a solution to the problems that the characters have faced from the beginning of the show.BRBR

I've already said quite a bit about how I feel about the series in the individual episode synopses. I found the purported closure in the final episode to be somewhat hollow and meaningless, given what had come before. Yes, each of the main characters had learned some things about themselves and reconnected to the important people in their lives. That's no different than the closures at the end of the other episodes, though—when they were just going to make more stupid blunders and screw their lives up once again the next week. The whole series feels like an unending game of snakes and ladders. These characters will never reach a place of happiness until they stop searching for a perfect solution and begin making s omegenuinechanges.Ireallythoughtthatthings were heading somewhere new at the beginning of the final episode, because the choices that the characters made were really different from those they had made before. By the second commercial break, though, things just fall apart into the same old mess.

To confuse things further, am not sure what Significant Others wants to be. In one sense, it has the kind of problems and issues that are familiar in the hour-long drama show context. Hell, at times it really feels more like a soap opera. However, instead of having a number of long plot arcs and continuing issues between characters, the structure of each episode is more like a sitcom's: several plots with complicating actions all come together and get solved at the end, so that everyone is friends once again at the end of each hour. It's too irreverent to be taken seriously as a drama, yet it's too full of pain and moaning to work as a comedy series. The dialogue doesn't solve this problem either—some of it is sharply written and clever, but other segments are insipid and ineptly handled. The themes that combine in each episode are handled with about as much subtlety as an after-school teen comedy.

Should canceled television shows with no closure be released on DVD? I'm not sure. Apparently the show did have a number of fans when it was still on television. They must be happy to see these final episodes. For the rest of us, though, Significant Others simply doesn't make a lot of sense. We missed it back then, and now there can never be the promise of some long-term improvements and changes to the series. This is all there ever will be, which eliminates whatever potential may have been left in the show.

The quality of the disc itself is an indication of the faith Columbia TriStar has in the series. The video and audio quality is acceptable, with a generic full-frame television transfer and a Dolby stereo track. The video transfer is surprisingly decent, with solid colors and a reasonable black level. The sound is exactly what is expected from a television show of that age. Everything is mixed well, although there is nothing remarkable about the track. There are no subtitles available on the disc, and there is a shortage of bonus material. The only real extra feature is a ten-minute interview with Jennifer Garner. It's an interesting interview because of the things that she has remembered and forgotten since the show aired. At times, she seems unsure of details about the plot and characters, and her contemporaneous impression of it is very different than the one I got watching it for the first time on DVD.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

To be fair, all of the performances are quite strong. Eion Bailey absolutely nails his part as Campbell, striking a great balance between confidence and self-loathing. Jennifer Garner is also good as Nell, showing some of the charisma that would later make Sydney Bristow such a wonderful character. Scott Bairstow is probably the weakest link as Henry, though he does have the occasional exceptional scene. The supporting cast is fun as well, generally being memorable without hogging the stage.

Closing Statement

Realistically, it's pretty clear that Significant Others was released as a cross-promotion product for 13 Going on 30, and it doesn't really live up to expectations in any way. I can't really recommend the series for purchase to anyone except fans of the series, especially in its unfinished state. Big fans of the cast members may want to rent it as a curiosity piece.

The Verdict

Guilty. Any potential that Significant Others demonstrated is shattered by some mediocre writing and a poor ending in its unfinished state.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 78
Audio: 81
Extras: 15
Acting: 84
Story: 68
Judgment: 72

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 274 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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