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Paramount Studios presents
Jessica: "Have you ever seen our laundry room like this?"
DVD ReviewTwo episodes into my initiation into Newlyweds, I wondered if the producers had picked the wrong title. My mindset was along the lines of "Impending Divorce" as the more appropriate moniker.
What initially tapped my curiosity was the admirable demeanor of the show's female lead, pop princess Jessica Simpson. While many of her contemporaries seemed to be in a competition for who could makeout (and then some) with members of the opposite sex, the young Texas-raised songbird held closely to her moral beliefs, abstaining from pre-marital intercourse until her wedding night with hubby Nick Lachey. Even during their pre-engagement breakup, when guys were practically throwing themselves at her, Jess skirted temptation. To me, that's a wonderful quality in a fast moving, "instant gratification" world we're all a part of (not to mention the added craziness and stresses people in the public eye are subjected to). Additionally, I really liked the classy way Simpson and her family conducted themselves during what had to be a very difficult transition from the world of Christian pop to the secular market. It was with a fair amount of anticipation that I looked forward to seeing what the big fuss was about with these two lovebirds.
Forty minutes into the first disc, the old saying "you never really know someone until you live with them" came to mind. The image I'd gotten of the fair-haired (almost reminiscent of Farrah Fawcett's winged 'do from the days of Charlie's Angels), sticky sweet kid that graced magazine covers and music videos, a faraway fantasy of the perfect wife for many a guy, disintegrated quickly. Being a bachelor and unofficial member of the Oscar Madison school of housekeeping myself, I should be one to talk, but with piles of clothes growing closer to resembling the exact dimensions of Mount Rushmore, we see our lazy heroine, lounging on the couch, eating the contents of a Chicken of the Sea tuna can (Is it chicken or fish? she inquires of Nicky, who stares at her with the funniest "I can't believe I'm hearing this" look.
At that precise moment, the former member of 98 Degrees (a man whom Felix Unger would have proudly bestowed a Good Housekeeping blue ribbon upon) became my newest hero.
To be so graceful, understanding, and tolerant in dealing with slightly more than bargained for shortcomings in a life partner, is it too over the top to nominate Mr. Lachey as husband of the year? Through a minefield of disastrous attempts at bonding (camping, decorating, and golfing—where Jessica hilariously asks "Where are the porta-potties?"), the pressures of establishing himself as a solo artist and the horrors of hearing your significant other on the other end of a cell phone inquiring if $700 is too much to spend on three sets of lingerie (here comes that incredulous "chicken or fish" look again), it's remarkable he didn't break sooner than the time of the episode where they have an intense argument over the decorating of the house, with cameras capturing it all for posterity.
Even after years of courtship, Jessica still had some growing up to do and to her credit, the second half of Season One finds her gradually achieving that goal, particularly as she kindheartedly attempts to make a romantic dinner for Nick and discovers some untapped business sense in suggesting he take a stand in letting his record label fork over the cash for an additional music video shoot, in order to revamp a rough cut of pre-existing footage Nick wasn't happy with (saying it made him look too "beefcake"; talk about a refreshing lack of ego!).
But not all of Newlyweds is as telling or involving; after an impressive couple of outings, consistency takes a vacation for the majority of shows on Disc 1 (can we hear you whine about having to take a piss just once more with feeling, Jess?) with some achingly dull premises with only a few chuckles to be found (although the couple's return to Nick's hometown of Cincinnati for a gig with brother Drew at their grandmother's wedding is a nice change of pace, especially since everybody needs to be on their best behavior for family). Although I know the show's gist is to cast unblinking eyes into the freshman year of marriage, with two fine singers as its stars, couldn't there have been more of an emphasis on their careers? Some of the best moments come from Jessica's disgust at her record company for making her go back in and re-cut a potential single because her original performance was too over-the-top for them, which spurs Nick into action by vocally coaching her at the eventual tracking session. I'll take moments like that over goofy golf cart rides and Home Depot shopping trips any day (but I have to admit the latter sets up a funny sequence where Mr. Lachey triumphantly wins a battle with some troublesome bees in the couple's backyard; take that, you overpriced pest control experts!)
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Over a decade of producing reality fare like The Real World, Road Rules, and The Osbournes has made MTV production crews pros at shooting shows like Newlyweds and this is one of their best-looking television-to-DVD transfers yet. From the pretty exteriors of the Lachey's home to the sunny locales of California, the Bahamas, and back, visuals are colorful, natural and vibrant. Even the light deprived night shoot during the camping episode looks impressive. Even the best satellite dishes on the market couldn't have made this program look as nice as it comes off here.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Since much of the program focuses on dialogue, musical passages take a bit of a back seat. But in the few instances where it's called for (transitions and such), the wide separation in the fronts is mildly of note with above average low end. The two principles and their multiple participants are very well miked, so dialogue is never muffled or distant.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English` with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Carmen and Dave: 'Til Death Do Us Part, MTV Pilates, Punk'd
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
In addition to text biographies, complete discographies of their recordings and montages devoted to their most memorable moments, the two music videos excerpted in the series are showcased in full. While Jessica's Sweetest Sin is the most impressive on musical terms, Nick's engagingly fun Shut Up winds up taking best video dibs from me with its trailer park redneck getting dance tips from the boy band alumnus (and thank goodness most of the original concept's "hot dancers surrounding tank-top-ttired pinup idol" was deep-sixed).
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsThough I don't think the end results lived up to the hype, Newlyweds is an intermittingly entertaining and sometimes hilarious look behind the scenes of a celebrity marriage's freshman year. An instant snatch for fans, but for the potentially curious, rent or buy at your own risk.
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