..

GROUNDED FOR LIFE
Season One

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Donal Logue, Megyn Price, Griffin Frazen, Jake Burbage, Richard Riehle, Lynsey Bartilson, Griffin Frazen, Bret Harrison, Kevin Corrigan
Directors:  Various
Video:  Full Screen Color
Audio:  Dolby 2.0
Features:  See Review
Studio: 
Anchor Bay
Length:  450 Minutes, four discs in two cases
Release date:
February 7, 2006

Sean:  “When you first came to me with the news [that she was pregnant], I panicked, and I was selfish, and then I wanted to make things better, and I only made them worse.  I wanted to prove that I could live without you, and I proved the exact opposite!  I do stupid things when I’m not with you, Claudia!  And I can’t afford to get any stupider.”

Claudia:  “No argument there!”

Show ***1/2

While The Cosby Show and Roseanne revived the family sitcom, I can’t say that I have ever known families like the ones on those shows.  The latter, in particular, was so intent on being lowbrow white-trash that I felt dirty after watching it.  Humor is fine, but thirty minutes of people who practically revel in their stupidity can be tiring.  Cosby was great but there was not one male character with any backbone or passion at all.    

Grounded for Life is to me much closer to home, featuring a working class family who started their family at a young age (thus the title).  This Irish Catholic family on Staten Island manages to feature stories which are mostly original in sit-coms yet seem so familiar, such as a daughter resenting the attention boys pay to her mother for being so attractive, or wanting to buy outfits that make her too sexy for her age, and even the trials and tribulations of school musicals and a father trying to bribe the nuns into letting his son out of detention by selling more candy bars than anyone else.   Sean (Donal Logue) and Claudia (Megyn Price) never seem too good or too bad to be true, they are just trying to work full time while raising three kids without going insane.  Frequent flashbacks to their youth show them struggling with the same demons that their children face, and the contrast between youthful carefree days and current parenting challenges are hilarious, such as in this exchange: 

“Sean, I’m pregnant.”

“Are you sure?

“You think I didn’t read the freakin’ box?”

“I don’t know, maybe you took the test wrong!”

“It’s not the SAT, Sean, you pee on it!”

The ongoing motif is that the parents were really only kids themselves when their kids were born, and they struggle with everyday challenges of raising a family while still hanging on to their youth and listening to the constant criticism of the father-in-law’s old school of spank now and ask questions later.  They have to deal with many challenges of raising children in a new world of challenges such as teenagers with tattoos and tongue rings.  They are not trash but not perfect either. 

Sean:  “What have I taught you about sharing?”

Boys:  “Nothing.”

Television networks can often be their own worst enemies in their quick-draw philosophy of canceling series with loyal but not necessarily huge audiences that may or may not fit a particular demographic.  Grounded for Life was never a huge hit but when Fox canceled it, the WB network picked it right up and loyal viewers followed it immediately.  Considering that Fox is supposed to independent and in the forefront of developing new shows, it is odd how they canceled this show too soon.  They did not learn their lesson after they canceled Family Guy, which went on to be the best-selling DVD set of the year, and is now back the network.   

Video ****

An excellent full frame transfer with no artifacts or other problems.

Audio ***

Very crisp and clean, though not in 5.1 as we might have hoped (such as in the Friends sets). 

Features ***

The features are brief and light but very entertaining for any fan of the show.  The first featurette is an interview with Donal Logue has much of the usual mutual admiration society drivel but he gives concrete examples of how talented and versatile many of the actors are and some behind the scenes tidbits with actual scenes from the series.    You may remember him from the “I Love the 80’s” VH-1 series, and he is clearly well-cast in his role of the uncool dad who plays guitar and who is not quite ready to let go of his adolescence.  Donal is also comfortable with the family atmosphere of the stories and the cast itself. 

Megyn Price describes Claudia as the “anti-Cleaver,” the mom who is far from perfect, and makes the point that in almost every sitcom, Mom has to be perfect and hold everything together.  Here Mom is more of an equal partner in causing or solving problems, which is far more entertaining, and it also makes for much more interesting interactions with her teenage daughter Lily.  She reveals that she is younger than they wanted for the role, and in my opinion she is not only one of the best young comedic actress in recent years but she is also hotter than any lad mag chick ten years younger.  Lynsey Bartilson, the effervescent teen terror who plays Lily, gives a nice interview as well. 

Several episodes have good commentary from cast members and production people, but the bloopers alone are worth the price of the set, only 1.5 minutes, but hilarious. 

Kevin Corrigan plays Uncle Eddie, who is even goofier and lamer at his attempts at being cool.  He has no responsibilities and reminds Sean of what he might have been had he not become a father at a young age.  His beautiful real-life wife Elizabeth Berridge (who viewers remember as Mozart’s voluptuous young wife in Amadeus) makes an appearance at the end of Season One as his newest love interest, and she returns in later seasons as “Crazy Amy,” the one woman who might actually tame him.    

Interviews with Mike Shiff and Bill Martin, the show’s creators, reveals that the whole show has the feel of a family story told by a friend, and most episodes actually do play out that way, opening with a crazy situation that you have to watch to figure it out.  The actual present-day parts of each episode were shot in front of an audience, and the flashbacks were filmed prior, then shown to the audience.  Somehow, it all worked.   

Summary:

I’ll end it with a quote that says it all:

Claudia:  “We got a bunch of kids here so we gotta stick it out until they grow up or run away.”

Sean:     “They’re never gonna run away.”

Claudia: “No I meant US!”

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com