The First Season
What can I say about Ned and Stacey, except that it makes me laugh. While the show was never really popular, it was one I always enjoyed watching. The comedy tends to get a little racy and I love it. For those who aren't familiar with the series, here's an outline of what it is about. Before Debra Messing put the Grace in Will & Grace, she played across Thomas Haden Church. The show was a short-lived sitcom about an odd pair of people. The premise is basically Ned (Church) and Stacey (Messing) getting married to further their stations in life. Ned is an executive at an advertisement agency. Stacey is a journalist living at home with her parents. Ned needed to get married to get a promotion at work and Stacey needed to find a cheap place to live in a good area to get on with her life. So they made a deal, two years of marriage and Stacey would act as a wife to Ned during work related social functions. During this show's original run on TV, it was not taken well by viewers and it was pulled midway into the second season.
What I really enjoy about this series is Church and Messing. For those of us who watch Will & Grace, we can attest to the onscreen chemistry Messing has with McCormack. While Messing does not have the same chemistry with Church, the two do play off of each other quite well. Church gives his character a slightly racy and offbeat personality. He is a self-centered egotist who is generally more concerned about himself than anyone else. Messing, as Stacey, plays the perfect neurotic individual. For those who have seen her as Grace in Will & Grace, you've got a good grasp of Stacey. Together Church and Messing are what give Ned and Stacey substance.
The two supporting main characters on cast are Eric (Greg Germann) and Amanda Moyer (Nadia Dajani). Amanda is Stacey's older sister. She is a tough no nonsense gal. More than often she butts heads with Ned. Eric is an underpaid and overworked accountant at the same company as Ned. He is the kind of guy everyone walks over. Ned gets him into plenty of hot water, as he doesn't have the backbone to say no. The two characters don't add the same that Mullally and Hayes in Will & Grace as Karen and Jack do. They can be funny in certain situations with Church or Messing, but generally they don't. They have very one-dimensional characters.
The situations in this season aren't terribly unique. With the show not having the strongest premise or characters, they tend to focus on slightly racy dialogue and absurd, over the top situations. In the earlier episodes the situations usually deal with Stacey trying to work out the kinks in their odd relationship. Whether it is Stacey coming to terms with Ned and accepting that she agreed to the arrangement or Ned trying to hide something about his relationship with Stacey from the people he works with, they deal with company clients, estranged boyfriends, family, and friends. Most of the episodes are pretty generic, but I like to think Ned's egocentric personality makes for a few laughs. He is constantly making fun of Stacey and her sister, while bossing Eric around. Instead of coming off as a jerk, he is funny. It is this charm Church gives his character that I have always enjoyed about the series.
One of the funniest stories in this season is "Take My Wife, Please". Stacey meets an English guy in a bar, who is under the impression Stacey and Ned are truly married. They have an "affair" and the excitement of sneaking around is what makes their relationship tick. It's just a great episode that builds to a funny climax when Ned finds out. Another fun episode is "Thanksgiving Day Massacre". In this episode Ned wants to have the perfect turkey day, but Stacey and her neurotic family has something else in mind. The events that happen in this episode are not much different than most sitcom holidays (lots of things go wrong), but it is one I've always enjoyed watching. "Saul and Ellen and Ned and Stacey" is an episode about Stacey's family. Ned gets a little too attached to her folks and it drives Stacey up the wall.
Overall I enjoyed watching the first season of Ned and Stacey. Seeing as this was a series I enjoyed watching in the past, it shouldn't be a surprise I enjoyed watching the first season in its entirety. However I have realize what limited content it has to offer and I am really not that surprised it was pulled mid-season. The show has some strengths (mainly Church and Messing), but everything else (supporting characters, dialogue, plotlines, etc.) provide little to the show as a whole. This DVD box set is probably best as a rental.
1. Pilot - Ned and Stacey
2. Portrait of a Marriage
3. Take My Wife, Please
4. Cover Story
5. Model Husband
6. Saul and Ellen and Ned and Stacey
7. Here's To You, Mrs. Binder
8. Halloween Story
9. Reality Check
10. Thanksgiving Day Massacre
11. Sleepless in Manhattan
13. Accountus Interruptus
14. New Year's Eve
15. Paranoia on the 47th Floor
16. The Tender Trap
17. Promotional Rescue
18. Friends and Lovers
19. The Gay Caballeros
20. Gut Feeling
22. It Happened One Night
23. You Bet Your Wife
24. The End, Part 1
The video has been re-mastered for DVD. It looks pretty good and is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture gets a little grainy and the darker segments tend to show it off more. There are hints of edge enhancement and color distortions from video compression. Overall a pretty average looking release.
The audio is given in English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The quality is average with respect to most TV on DVD releases. The track is fairly flat, dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and it includes a laugh track. There is little distinction between left and right channels. The release does not come with subtitles, but is closed caption enabled.
There are not many extras included with this release, but more than some TV on DVD releases. The first extra is an audio commentary with creator Michael Wiethorn for the pilot episode. He has a few interesting comments to make about the episode and this series in general. For instance he almost passed on Debra Messing, which would have big a very big mistake. He almost makes this same comment in the next extra, which is a featurette. In "Strings Attached: Ned and Stacey, Season One", a twenty-two minute featurette, Church, Messing, Dajani, Germann, Weithorn, and some others talk about the series, how everyone got on the show, a little about the characters, the show's writing, etc. Overall the extras weren't really anything remarkable, but worth sitting through if you enjoy the series.
Ned and Stacey was a sitcom that was canceled during its second season and watching the first season explains why. I think the show has plenty of laughs, outrageous moments, and enough fun to keep you entertained, but such a feeling won't last forever. The show's premise has limited content in terms of its supporting characters and dialogue that despite Church and Messing's fabulous performance together, fails to really shine. In the end I think this box set has enough entertainment value to make for a good rainy day rental.