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Anchor Bay presents

Grounded For Life: Season One (2001)

"I think I may have screwed up just a little bit."- Sean (Donal Logue)

Stars: Donal Logue, Megyn Price, Richard Riehle, Kevin Corrigan, Lynsey Bartilson, Jake Burbage, Griffin Frazen
Other Stars: Miriam Flynn, Bret Harrison, Wesley Thompson, Eddie Karr, JB Gaynor, Dan Martin
Director: Gary Halvorson, Paul Lazarus, Ken Kwapis, Craig Zisk, John Whitesell, Dennie Gordon, John Blanchard, Brian Levant, Terry Hughes, Kenny Ortega

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 07h:40m:00s
Release Date: 2006-02-07
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-BB- B-


DVD Review

I love a good laugh, but I've never really been a fan of the sitcom, and the whole premise of a wisecracking family lobbing insults and one-liners is just embarrassingly tired.

A show like Grounded For Life has all of earmarks of something I would traditionally steer way clear of, with its blue collar family shenanigans that focus on bumbling 30-something parents (Donal Logue, Megyn Price), a trio of kids (Lynsey Bartilson, Jake Burbage, Griffin Frazen), a nosy, curmudgeonly grandfather (Richard Riehle), and a wacky, streetwise brother (Kevin Corrigan). That's typically a recipe for shrill disaster, more often than not. This show wasn't necessarily the saving grace of television comedy, but I'm not ashamed to say it had a certain charm to it, difficult as it sometimes was to see in between the structured, calculated flow of the sitcom.

Donal Logue and Megyn Price (one of sitcom-land's unheralded hot moms) are Sean and Claudia Finnerty, a working class Ramones-loving couple living in Staten Island who were pregnant and married by 18, and now find themselves in their early thirties raising three kids, including rebellious 14-year-old Lily (Lynsey Bartilson). For me, the appeal of the show is Logue and Price, and for once a set of sitcom parents are not represented by the worn out standard issue Dumb Dad/Smart Mom combo. Here both are equally unsure of what the right decisions are, and neither are played as pure buffoons as some sitcoms like to do. Their relationship is open and not necessarily confrontational, as with the "setup, insult, one-liner comeback" variety that has been done to death by other shows.

Grounded For Life came from creators Bill Martin and Mike Schiff, and debuted in January 2001 on Fox, who then eventually cancelled it after just two seasons, which led to a pickup by the WB, lasting there a couple of additional seasons. This first season, represented here on a four-disc set containing all 20 uncut episodes, is probably the strongest block of shows from its run, if for no other reason than the characters have yet to be put through the same old same old that usually befalls most sitcoms, and even the vaguely familiar plot points are at least new to them. Eps like I Wanna Be Suspended, Jimmy Was Kung Fu Fighting, and Love Child are examples of the show at its most solid, and the writers reliance on having every episode title be a variation of song is just a funny addendum.

But in between all of the expected sitcom predictability that came with the laugh-track-driven setup—three generations of a family continually bumping heads—a little glimmer of something just a tad different would occasionally rise out each 23-minute episode. Now, I'm not saying this was the high-water mark for situational comedies—far from it—but bits and pieces would go against the norm, enough so that there seemed to be a chance for the show to perhaps elevate itself above the flood of other similar series.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All 20 episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. There is nothing overtly spectacular about the transfers, but they are solidly average, sporting warm colors and decent black levels. Edge detail is a little soft, but otherwise presentable for a sitcom. No major print debris or damage was evident.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is in 2.0 stereo, and like the image side of things, it works without being anything but average. Voice quality is clear, the transitional music beds come across nicely, and the lack of any surround depth doesn't hurt the presentation at all (though I would have preferred the option to watch the eps without the horribly distracting laugh track). No hiss or crackle, either.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 40 cues
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Roseanne: Season 1, Third Rock From The Sun: Season 1
6 Featurette(s)
10 Feature/Episode commentaries by Bill Martin, Mike Schiff, Lynsey Bartilson, Megyn Price, Richard Riehle, Chris Kelly, David Israle, Joe O'Doherty, Gregory Thompson, Aron Abrams
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This four-disc set from Anchor Bay comes with two thin NexPak cases housed inside a cardboard slipcase. There are brief episode descriptions on the backcovers, though info like guest stars, director and original air date is missing. Ten of the eps get commentary tracks, featuring a small assortment of cast, writers and creators, though Donal Logue is curiously absent. Creators Bill Martin and Mike Schiff offer the most viable insight, but to be honest you could gather much of the same info from one of the other supplements—Interview with Creators Mike Schiff and Bill Martin (10m:04s)—in much less time.

In addition to the segment with the creators, there are also three other new interview pieces, each focusing on a principle cast member. The bits are pretty straightforward, mixing scenes from the show with comments and recollections, and the self-explanatory featurettes are Meet The Finnertys: Interview with Donal Logue (08m:12s), Claudia: Not the Sitcom Mom—Interview with Megyn Price (07m:06s) and Life with Lily: Interview with Lynsey Bartilson (07m:17s). The content is a little light, and borders on fluffery.

A Season One Highlights (07m:41s), a sort of montage of wackiness, and a grainy bloopers (01m:31s) reel are also included. Each 23-minute episode is cut into two chapters.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

This isn't quite a secret shame, but there is something about Grounded For Life that I find appealing. It's tough to get past the abundance of standard sitcom clichés, but I like enough of the characters that I can gloss over the ones that rub me the wrong way as retreads of hollow secondary filler.

This show certainly didn't reinvent the sitcom genre, but it had the ability to some decent laughs when it needed to. And that's about all you can ask for.

Rich Rosell 2006-03-02