The First Season
Grounded For Life is a hilarious sitcom that first aired in 2001 and ended a five season run in 2005. Grounded For Life's basic premise is about the life of a Staten Island couple who were pregnant and married at the tender age of eighteen. Now in their thirties with three kids they struggle to be responsible adults and parents. When the show first aired, I managed to catch a few episodes here and there, but I never really got into it. Needless to say, I wasn't quite sure what to expect it when I started watching the DVDs. As it turned out, the show was really easy to get into. I found Grounded For Life to be an extremely funny sitcom with plenty of absurd situations and goofy characters.
The primary cast of Grounded For Life consists of seven individuals. Sean (Donal Logue) and Claudia (Megyn Price) Finnerty are the thirty-somethings who were married and pregnant at eighteen. Sean works underground in the New York subway tunnels and Claudia is a hostess at a restaurant. Their kids are Lily (Lynsey Bartilson), a teenage girl coming into her own, Jimmy (Griffin Frazen), the middle child, and Henry (Jake Burbage), the youngest child. Walt (Rcihard Riehle) is the traditional, judgmental and goofy grandfather and Eddie (Kevin Corrigan) is the irresponsible brother who has his hands in far too many shady activities. The characters work well together to produce some funny situations.
Grounded For Life takes an approach you do not see in most sitcoms. In each episode after the opening scene one or more of the characters will recap and retell the events that occurred to put them in their current situation. Something cool about this approach is that when multiple characters retell the same situation we get to see some very different tales about what happened. For example in the pilot episode "Lily B. Goode" Sean catches Lily making out with the next door neighbor in a car. The way Sean retells what he saw Lily doing in comparison to what Lily was actually doing is quite funny. It helps show how poorly Sean handled the situation and blew it out of proportion. The rest of the season episodes use the same approach and it is quite effective.
Content-wise, season one spends a lot of time on Sean and Claudia dealing with one of the many typical family sitcom problems like dating, school, alcohol, family bonding, etc. However the big difference from Grounded For Life and family-oriented sitcom (i.e. Home Improvement) is how the parents Sean and Claudia handle each situation. Since they came into parenthood at such a young age, they tend to struggle back and forth when in comes to making the "responsible" decision. This is another fun aspect of the show.
For fun episodes, they are all quite good. The pilot episode stands out because it setups the humorous tone for the remainder of the season. The story itself is quite funny, where Sean finds Lily making out with a boy in a car. There is also a fun side story about Claudia finding out she is the hot mom on the block. "I Wanna Be Suspended" is also a strong episode. In it Sean and Claudia decide it is more important for their kids to see the Ramones play live than finish their homework. The kid's school principal Sister Helen sees it much differently. This episode is the first of many comical battles between Sean and Sister Helen.
In "Like A Virgin" Claudia and Lily go to New Jersey to spend a weekend reconnecting together as mother and daughter. While in Jersey, Claudia embarrasses Lily in front of two popular cheerleaders while in the hotel's sauna. Angry, Lily storms out and takes a cab back to Staten Island. Unfortunately for Claudia, Lily took all of their clothes with her. "Eddie's Dead" is an absolutely hilarious episode where Eddie and Sean recap the dates he and Claudia have set him up with. "Jimmy Was Kung Fu Fighting" deals with Jimmy getting picked on by the school bully. Eddie teaches him to fight to back, which leads to a riotous scene that rivals kung fu flicks.
The family car is stolen in "Baby You Can't Drive My Car", and the recap and retell of the situation makes this episode a blast. There are a number of occurrences that led to the car being stolen, and it only gets funnier as the truth gets revealed. This episode guest stars Danny Masterson (That '70s Show). In "Let's Talk About Sex, Henry" the Finnerty's get in a lot of trouble when Henry walks in Sean and Claudia having sex. Sean not quite sure how to handle the situation tells Henry that sex is a lovely and beautiful thing. Afterwards Henry won't shut up about it and tells everyone at school which makes the authority figures believe that he has some mental problems due to instability in the home.
Overall I had a fun time with the first season of Grounded For Life. The characters are all a delight to see together and the situations they get into are all a blast. In the end, if you enjoy ridiculous, goofy comedies, then Grounded For Life should have more than enough content to keep you laughing and wanting more.
1. Lily B. Goode
2. In My Room
3. I Wanna Be Suspended
4. Devil With A Plaid Skirt
5. Action Mountain High
6. You Can't Always Get What You Want
7. Like A Virgin
8. Devil's Haircut
9. Eddie's Dead
10. Catch Us If You Can
11. Jimmy's Got A Gun
12. Jimmy Was Kung Fu Fighting
14. Mrs. Finnerty, You've Got A Lovely Daughter
15. Baby, You Can't Drive My Car
16. Dream On
17. Rubber Sold
18. Let's Talk About Sex, Henry
19. Is She Really Going Out With Walt?
20. Love Child
The Grounded For Life: Season One has twenty episodes spread across four dual-layered DVDs. The DVDs are stored in two slim pack cases and they each hold two discs. The slim pack cases are housed in a cardboard box about the same size as a regular DVD case.
The video format is given in its original aspect ratio 1.33:1 full frame color. The overall quality is fairly good. There are some noticeable of compression artifacts and ghosting during heavy movement. In addition there is also a slight roughness in the picture as a result of edge enhancement. As for colors, the picture tends to represent them well. However darker tones tend to highlight the picture's imperfections. Overall, while not outstanding, the visual representation is still quite good.
The audio track is given in English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound quality is good and like most TV on DVD releases, it is dialogue driven and incorporates a laugh track during the funnier moments. The laugh track does not interfere with the audibility of spoken dialogue. As for channel separation, there is very little distinction between left and right channels, but on occasion a sound effect will utilize it. This release has no support for subtitles, but does support English closed captioning.
This season set comes with a number of extras. The bulk of the special features are audio commentaries. The commentaries cover half of the season episodes, which include "Lily B. Goode", "In My Room", "I Wanna Be Suspended", "Action Mountain High", "Like A Virgin", "Devil's Haircut", "Catch Us If You Can", "Jimmy Was Kung Fu Fighting", "Baby, You Can't Drive My Car", and "Dream On". If you enjoyed the season episodes, then sitting through the commentaries should be fun for you as well. The rest of the extras include several featurettes. The featurettes are interviews with cast members about different aspects of the show. The first interview is "Meet The Finnertys" with Donal Logue. The others include "Claudia: Not The Sitcom Mom" with Megyn Price, "Life with Lily" with Lynsey Bartilson, and an interview with the show's creators Mike Schiff and Bill Martin. The final items are a funny bloopers reel and a season one highlights clip, which includes some of the funniest moments of the season. Overall this set has a nice set of extras to keep you entertained when you finish watching the season episodes.
When I first sat down to watch Grounded For Life: Season One, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had seen a few episodes during the season one premiere, but I never really got into the show. As it turns out, I was quite pleased with season one. There wasn't a single episode I didn't enjoy. The humor was right and now I can't wait for future seasons on DVD. The Grounded For Life: Season One box set comes recommended.