If you pick up a TV guide and browse through the kid shows, you'll notice a lot of junk. Sure, there are a countless number of programs out there, but very few of them are worth you or your child's time as the cartoons are generally loud and obnoxious and the live-action shows are uninspired and recycled material. If you look back at the early to mid 90's, Nickelodeon was cranking out live-action and animated shows that were beloved by children everywhere. To this day, many of the adults who watched these shows as children still think highly of these shows. Thanks to the magic of DVD, one of these quality Nickelodeon shows ("The Secret World Of Alex Mack") has finally been released on DVD for new and old generations to experience anew or all over again.
The story of the series concerns a young girl in junior high named Alex Mack who accidentally comes into contact with a chemical that gives her various powers (levitating objects, transforming into liquid, shooting electricity from her fingers). While she tries to fit in at school and deal with typical day-in-the-life issues, Alex also has to avoid being detected by the chemical plant who want to find her for testing and cover-up purposes.
"The Secret World Of Alex Mack" works primarily because of its universal themes. Much like "Spider-Man," the plot revolves around an average person (in this case a young girl) struggling in life. She struggles in school with bullies and science projects, she struggles in her home life as she lives under the shadow of her older wiser sister, and she struggles to keep her powers a secret from the public. Anyone of us can relate to a child growing up as we've all experienced or are experiencing this. The only difference between us and Alex is we didn't have powers.
Another reason the show works is due to the notably good cast (Darris Love, Meredith Bishop, Dorian Lopinto, Michael Blakley, and a young Jessica Alba). Unlike certain shows, each of the main and secondary character becomes more and more developed as the season progresses. The real standout, however, is the star of the show herself Alex Mack (played by Larisa Oleynik). Larisa is a talented young actress who found moderate success after "Alex Mack" ended (namely in "10 Things I Hate About You" and "Third Rock From the Sun"), but has unfortunately never hit the big time. It's a real shame too as her acting ability easily puts many of today's young actresses to shame.
As with most children/young adult shows, the episodes suffer from formulaic story structures. Every episode is virtually the same. Alex faces trouble in life or at school, uses her powers, daydreams, and tries to evade the power plant security. Another bothersome aspect of the show is the fact that Alex often uses her power for selfish reasons like doing chores or cheating at basketball. My problem with this is that it sends a negative message to younger children.
The episodes included in season one are: 1. The Accident 2. Shock Value
3. Hoop War 4. Cold Day In Paradise Valley 5. False Alarm 6. School Daze 7. The Science Fair 8. Alex And Mom 9. The Feud 10. The Video Tape 11. The Solo 12. Annie Bails 13. Road Trip
"The Accident"- The pilot episode that sets up the characters, story, and how Alex gets her powers (and what some of those powers are).
"Shock Value"- This episode is notable for the fact that Alex Mack doesn't try to use her powers to do her science project, but instead works hard to complete it on her own (with a little help from her sister Annie).
"Annie Bails"- A heartfelt episode about sisterly love.
The fullscreen video contains a slight amount of fuzz and overly bright skin tones, but the show looks as good as the original broadcast (if not better).
The English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is solid all around. The audio on this disk is as good as the show has ever sounded.
Sadly, no extras here. It would have been nice to see a few Snick promos at the very least.
"The Secret World Of Alex Mack" is a nice reminder of the good ol' days of when Nickelodeon put out quality children's programming. Hopefully other Nickelodeon shows like "Are You Afraid Of The Dark," "All That," and "Salute Your Shorts" will be released on DVD in the U.S shortly.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.