Will And Grace (Season One and Two) Review
Somehow over the last decade, Channel 4 has become dependent on American sitcoms to fill up their schedules. Some have been great but a large amount of them have been the televisual equivalent to biting on tin-foil. Will and Grace lands somewhere in between the two - maybe not as great as it aspired to be but a fair shot more interesting than the never-ending repitition of Friends... Now into their seventh season, it seems like Will And Grace has got a lasting ability that doesn't really jump at you in this first season. A lot of the episodes circle around the novelty of having an openly gay lead (albeit one who is socially very straight) alongside a straight female lead. Their lives were generally quite conventional compared to their counterparts, Jack and Karen who play to the habitual stereotypes and provide most of the slapstick. It's a clever tour de main to mix both of these portrayals in one series but at the same time, seems to be trying too hard to please all possible audiences.
Series one, after giving us the summary introductions to the characters, becomes rapidly comfortable with the characters. Series two starts by changing the season one template (Graces moves out) and spends the season working through the new situations this brings about. It may seem a rather facile gimmick to generate additional material but globally it works quite well and allows for more personal storylines to develop. Season 2 also starts to introduce special guests (which has culminated in recent seasons with Cher appearing as God and Harry Connick Jnr. as Grace's love interest) which has now become a bit of an overkill in most TV series but at his point in the series was used with relative subtlety. These two seasons are regarded by many as the pinnacle of the series (as is often the case) and, to a large extent, it seems to be the case. The series has since lost its way with stories getting more and more random and the jokes starting to wear rather thin. For those who missed the first two seasons when they were shown a few years back, this is the moment to catch up...
Assiduous readers may remember my grip about the initial release of the Season Two discs: they had moved from eight episodes a disc to four with no noticeable improvement in image nor a decrease in price. Well, both boxsets contain only four episodes a disc giving you about 90 minutes of footage a disc. The plus is that the pricing has come down quite considerably - with the single disc releases you ended up paying approximately £2 per episode; with the boxsets, it can be as cheap as £1 an episode.
The image seems to not be any different from the single disc releases - that typical 90s TV feel is present: the image has a slight (intentional) blur and the lighting is strong and hard. Dogma 95, it ain't! There are little problems with artifacting (which is unsurprising given the space available on each disc) and globally the colours are stable. A standard but decent transfer...
As the series is heavily dialogue orientated, the sound is given a 2.0 mix which seldom ventures far from the centerfield. It remains clear throughout and I didn't notice and issues with the quality of the sound.
Well there are some but not really much to rave about: Season 1 gives us a brief preview of Season 2 (5 mins), a series of interviews with the cast, the creators and the main director (around 10 mins each), a blooper reel (5 mins) and some dreadful montages of clips put to cheesy music. The most interesting extra are the interviews that do offer something worthwhile background for the series - the concept of being a love story that would never be resolved, the involvment of James Burrows and so on. The rest is rather forgettable and really is just pure filler.
Season 2 gets noticeably worse with only bizarre themed montages and the blooper reel as extras so nothing really worth talking about on that set.
It's nice to see that the distributors have seen the light and readjusted the prices of the series downward. The R1 release was supposed to feature a commentary on season two but apparently doesn't so we seem to get a similar deal here. We do have good image and sound thrown in with some rather uninspired extras, but, after all, most people will be buying it merely to own the entire season so I'm probably splitting hairs here...