The First Season
In an effort to mix the popularity of reality television programming and teen melodramas, Laguna Beach details a look into a group of eight high schoolers as they drudge through the last stages of their young adult lives. This first season is comprised of eleven thirty minute episode and covers issues we have all gone through, from high school relationships to Mexico spring vacations to car maintenance to senior proms to high school graduation to goodbyes. And as the caption says before the beginning of each episode, "The following program was shot over a six month period in the city of Laguna Beach, California. The people, the location and the drama... are real." Although it doesn't always feel real and sometimes the drama is more annoying than dramatic.
Originally, I was pretty interested in Laguna Beach because I am a sucker for teen melodramas (see One Tree Hill and Felicity) and I don't mind the occasional reality program (see American Chopper: The Series and Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica). I figured the combination couldn't be half bad. As it turns out, Laguna Beach isn't a terrible watch, but at the same time it doesn't have anything as sappy and over the top teen melodrama has to keep you glued to your seat. There is very little character development and the show attempts to romanticize some of the most trivial situations.
When I first started watching Laguna Beach, I was pretty put off. The initial episodes were lackluster, but they slowly started to get better. The problem is that the initial drama was basically a sordid love affair. Lauren (also called LC) is having problems with her longtime best friend Stephen. They sort of have a thing going together, except another girl is in the picture. Stephen ends up with a junior Kristin. There is this tension between the two girls throughout the rest of the season, since they hang out quite a bit through mutual friends. What didn't work about this drama is that there is a lot of bickering resulting and after a while it just gets annoying.
The whining gets taken a step further. We have an incident when Lauren doesn't understand why she's being grounded. She's getting D's and F's, and to her, she should still be able to go out and have a good time. Or there's the time when Kristin's car breaks down because she doesn't understand the phrase "car maintenance". There are other things like the girls gossiping between each other which comes off as blatant bitching and moaning.
Once you get past the annoyance factor, the show can be somewhat entertaining. What I liked most about these episodes was watching the cast go through common life events that occur during your last year of high school. We got to see the cast go through the pains of getting into college, crazy spring vacations in Cabo San Lucas, planning the perfect senior prom, a last big hurrah with the gang, and of course, saying goodbye. Seeing the Laguna Beach cast go through these experience triggered some memories for me and I enjoyed getting to compare my experience with theirs.
In the end, I thought season one of Laguna Beach was an interesting watch. While it doesn't have the same level of drama or character development most teen melodramas have, it still has its appeal. As a reality series I don't think it is half bad either. For the curious who are interested in seeing what senior year of high school is like for the cast of Laguna Beach, tune in. It's worth a rent.
1. A Black & White Affair
2. The Bonfire
3. Fast Cars & Fast Women
4. Eighteen Candles
5. What Happens in Cabo...
6. The Best Part of Breaking Up...
7. The Last Dance
8. Grin & Bear It
9. Graduation Day
10. The First To Go
The video is given in letterbox widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture quality is pretty good. There are minimal distortions in the video, with some traces of edge enhancement. Colors look good, especially brighter ones.
The audio track included is in English Dolby digital stereo sound. The audio track is dialogue driven, but is supplemented with plenty of music from artists like Maroon 5, Blink 182, Michelle Branch, and more. The music came off fairly rich. For the dialogue, I noticed that the sound levels would sometimes jump around. But it did not occur often enough to be a real problem.
The special features included in this box set are located on the third disc. The first significant extra is Deleted Scenes (41:53). They include extra footage for the first ten episodes and some miscellaneous footage. Some of these deleted scenes are entertaining, but most were deleted for a good reason. Then we have Cast Interviews (55:27) for all Laguna Beach season one cast members: Talan, Christina, Morgan, Trey, Lo, Stephen, LC, Kristin. The interviews follow a fairly strict format. A question is posed and the individual answers it. They answer questions about their experience being filmed, personal life, etc. Definitely something a die hard fan would enjoy. The next extra, Casting Tapes (7:26), is the one I enjoyed the most. We get to see the cast without the make-up or the fame talking about themselves. It feels much more real. It's too bad there wasn't more of this footage. The Laguna Triangle (3:30) is a montage with clips about Stephen, LC, and Kristin and their sordid love affair. Next there is a pretty dull extra, Laguna Looks (0:54). It's a very short clip of the cast looking and making facial expressions.
Next we have three featurettes. There is a LC's House Tour (9:16), which is about LC showing off her parent's big and expensive mansion. If you like MTV Cribs, this won't be a total waste of time to watch. Lo's Guide to Laguna Beach (7:08) has Lo revealing some of the best places for shopping, the surf shop Stephen worked at, and a great place to get frozen yogurt. Boring. The last featurette is Behind-the-Season One Finale with Kristin & Trey (5:56). Despite the title, the first part is not about Kristin or Trey. Instead some fans of the show answer the questions "What's your favorite cast member?" and "If you had one question for a cast member, what would it be?". Afterwards, we get to see Kristin on a MTV segment. There are a few short clips with Trey scattered throughout the featurette.
Next there are several Music Videos (25.24), which include Jay Star "Save Me", Justin Farren "We Don't Work", Kaila "Get Up On You", Vaughan Penn "I Can't Help Myself", The Pills "All That Way", Aruna "The Other Side", and Junk "So Hard". The last extras are more or less advertisement promotional stuff. They include Laguna Beach Surf Club VIP Access, with this you can access exclusive content no the MTV Laguna Beach website, MTV Overdrive, a link to MTV's free Broadband Video Channel, and trailers (Season Two Sneak Preview, Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, Aeon Flux, MTV Pilates Mix, Viva La Bam, and Charmed).
When I first started watching Laguna Beach, I thought it would turn out to be pretty bad. But my initial impressions were wrong. The show turned out to be better than I expected. These eleven episodes mix teen melodrama with reality television and show the drama and experiences of eight rich and beautiful teenagers going through one of the final stages of their young adult lives. I liked getting to see their perspective on life. Still even though I did enjoy watching the show, the experience wasn't all fun. A fair portion of the material was dry and hard to get through. There are plenty of moments that will leave you rolling your eyes in disgust and others that might leave you heartily laughing. Overall, unless you are a fan looking to get your hand on all of the extras (there are quite a lot!), better rent this.