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.
Our review of Significant Others: The Complete Series, published September 6th, 2006, is also available.
…three twentysomething best friends living in Los Angeles and having the best—and worst!—times of their lives. (Back Cover)
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.
This two disc set includes all six episodes of this quickly-canceled show. Note: these episode descriptions do contain some spoilers:
• "The Next Big Thing"
• "The Plan"
• "The Shoot"
• "My Left Kidney"
• "Matters of Gravity"
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.
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.
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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