Journey back with me now to the halcyon days of 1998, when Viagra first entered our lexicon, Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota and President Bill Clinton was impeached. That was also the year when Fox gave us "Significant Others" a placeholder for the on-hiatus "Party of Five," created by the same people who brought America that young ensemble faux-soap. The story of three twentysomethings trying to make their way in Los Angeles, "Significant Others" lasted only three episodes on Fox, with an additional three shot but never aired.
While the show never got a chance to really rise above its Internet boom-era trappings, it did serve as a launching pad for a trio of youthful actors. Eion Bailey (Almost Famous, "Band of Brothers") and Scott Bairstow ("Party of Five," Tuck Everlasting) both used this show to springboard to bigger and better things, while Jennifer Garner burst forth to become the star of "Alias" and 13 Going on 30, though first toiling on the "Party of Five" spin-off "Time of Your Life." How Bailey (interestingly a main name in "Party") was able to avoid serving more time in "PoF" Prison is a feat that should be rewarded.
The show mainly told the story of Campbell (Bailey), who, lost in a world where fast money is available to just about anyone capable of logging onto the Internet, tries to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He doesn't want to go into the family lingerie business, and he also doesn't want to catch his two best friends, Nell (Garner) and Henry (Bairstow) sleeping with each other. Well, one out of two isn't bad. The friends-with-benefits situation is only the beginning of Campbell's problems, as his brother marries Campbell's ex-girlfriend.
With only three episodes aired, the story couldn't progress far, with Cam trying to find his way, and Henry and Nell trying new romances, both with older lovers. The show is filled with the kind of conflicts only people like these characters could create, like Nell's inability to keep a good job, though only because she can't commit to anything. The woe-is-me factor is high here at times, and shouldn't be unfamiliar to anyone who has sat through a season of "Dawson's Creek." Though attempts at blending humor into the soapy drama didn't work every time, it helped keep the show from becoming deadly self-serious.
If you can stick out the first three episodes, you're in for a treat. The three unaired episodes round out the world of "Significant Others," giving more focus to the supporting cast, especially Cam's father, played by the underrated Richard Masur, who struggles with Cam and his brother. The mix of comedy and drama reached a near-perfect balance as the show found its voice, though it was just as it came to an end. It's hard to not think that if these episodes had reached the airwaves, that the series could have found a following. But then, it didn't really work for any of the other great series that died prematurely. This series suffered in the shadow of "Party of Five," and it's unlikely that it could have been saved, no matter how good it became.
The show is shot and edited creatively, with each episode loaded with more camera moves, non-traditional angles and transitions than you'll find in 12 hours of standard prime-time television. That alone makes it unfortunate that this show didn't last. It seems like any show that attempts to be extensively creative is cutting its run short. It's also unfortunate that the plots didn't get to build any kind of momentum, because it seemed like they could have been better than the average show.
Significant Others' complete run of six 44-minute episodes is presented in full-screen format, spread over two discs. Oddly, the first four episodes are on disc one, with the final two on disc two. Why they wouldn't split them evenly is a mystery for the ages. The menus are static, with a play all feature on each disc, and episode selections. Also included on disc two are previews and a bonus feature. And insert fans, rejoice! Included is a two-sided insert with short descriptions of each episode.
(Note: When putting this disc in my DVD-ROM drive, the disc hijacked my computer, and filled the screen with a Columbia Tri-Star DVD menu, that then didn't allow my DVD Player to read the drive, until I ejected and reinserted. I also found this on another Columbia disc I recently reviewed.)
Accoring to Columbia/Tri-Star, the episodes have been remastered, and they are, in fact, presented in a very clear and crisp format, though some grain is evident. The show looks to have been shot on film, and the colors, though muted, are clean. There are many fade-to-black, fade-in transitions, and the blacks are deep enough to make them work correctly. Fleshtones are also good.
The audio is mixed well, as songs are used regularly to increase the emotional feel of scenes, and the dialogue does not suffer because of it. The soundtrack has no distortion, unless intended.
The only show-related extra (found on disc two) is a featurette entitled "Jennifer Garner Recalls 'Significant Others'." Obviously, this title was governed by the Truth in Advertising laws, as that's exactly what you get here. Made specifically for the DVD, Garner talks about her experiences on the show, what it meant to her as an actor and her connection to it now that she's a big star. As an extra added bonus, she twirls her ponytail and uses it as a prop. Hey, it's cute.
There are also three trailers, for 13 Going On 30, 50 First Dates and the Dawson's Creek finale.
In England, most shows have a limited run, due to the short length of their television seasons. In that sense, "Significant Others" would have been perfect for the BBC. Six episodes was probably as far as it could have gone without overstaying its welcome. When you're telling the tale of how a trio of twentysomethings find maturity, you can't stretch it out. They either find it, or they don't. Follow the story too far past that, and you're telling a different story altogether. This set brings home an overlooked show that tells a story that could resonate with most people and one I can recommend wholeheartedly. It's just disappointing that you can't find out more about what happened to Cam and company.
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Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.