Fremantle Media has released the four-disc boxed set of Falcon Beach: The Complete First Season, a flat The O.C. and Laguna Beach rip-off (and that's pretty flat, then) that evidently didn't ignite too many sparks when it aired on the ABC Family Channel (it was canceled after 26 episodes). All the requisite elements of a modern teen soaper are here, including lots of buff, tanned young bodies in as few clothes as possible, various "forbidden" behaviors like drinking and drug taking, along with the usual summer hijinks, class warfare (between the rich kids and the townies), and of course, breaking up and making up among the interchangeable cast.
At Falcon Beach, summer is just about to begin. And as the rich, oblivious tourists who rent cabins start piling in for their traditional summer vacations, the townies who work in Falcon Beach are preparing to meet their every needs (actually, I'm making it sound way better than it really is). Snotty, snooty rich babe Paige Bradshaw (Jennifer Kydd) has arrived with her mother, Ginny (Alison Hossack), who is having a rocky time in her marriage to stressed, corrupt businessman, Trevor Bradshaw (Whittall). Paige and Ginny surprise townie hotties Jason Tanner (Steve Byers) and Danny Ellis (Ephraim Ellis) breaking into their cottage to steal electrical power for their summer kick-off party. Of course, Ginny doesn't call the police, but Paige is livid, as well as intensely attracted to hunky bad boy Jason - he even rides (squeal!) a motorcycle! Danny, on the other hand, is the "sweet kid," who has a crush on Erin Haddad (Melissa Elias), a lifeguard on Falcon Beach.
But no teen soap aping an adult soap is complete without some "villains," and at Falcon Beach, they don't come any bitchier or hotter than Tanya Shedden (Devon Weigel). A former European model now hooked on cocaine, Tanya returns to her hometown of Falcon Beach mainly to torment guys by walking real nice down the sidewalk, and to drive former boyfriend Jason Tanner right round the bend. Completing her evil circle, she hooks up with Lane Bradshaw (Morgan Kelly), Paige's brother, and a drug-dealing, smarmy rich kid to boot. These are the core characters of this Falcon Beach: The Complete First Season, and what these wild, beautiful people get up to, what with waveboarding, arcade game playing, boozing, snorting, boating, dancing, you will not believe (sorry again, I'm exaggerating - it's pretty lame).
I suppose with a series like Falcon Beach, where the producers want you to experience the hyper-dramatic antics of its oversexed cast, the real key to its success or failure is its ability to transport you to an identifiable, preferably romanticized place where "anything can happen." "Falcon Beach" has to seem "real," or at least "movie real." But I never felt that way about Falcon Beach. Visually, it's unimpressive, with the famed "Falcon Beach" and its surroundings looking more like a KOA Kampground, rather than a idyllic summer getaway. Small little details in the production also uproot the viewer. I understand that this series, shot in Manitoba, was filmed with and without Canadian references for its two sets of viewers (American money fueled this production, because when it dried up for lack of U.S. ratings, the series was cancelled). So I never really got the feeling that I was somewhere specific. Everybody occupied this weird limbo where the minute you think you're in the U.S., somebody's riding around in a boat with the Canadian maple leaf flag on it. If I can't I.D. "Falcon Beach," then Falcon Beach falls flat.
And if the place itself lacks atmosphere and verisimilitude, then the dramatics had better be superior - again; not Falcon Beach's strong point. The class warfare - and sexual attraction between townie and tourist, rich and poor, all jumbled and pushed together in a quaint, idyllic setting - is as old as the hills (Peyton Place would seem to be the most successful template of that dynamic), so you had better come up with something new with it, or at least make it fly if it's conventional. But Falcon Beach can do neither. We've seen these same relationships, heard these same conversations, and experienced these same manufactured "cliffhangers" a hundred times before.
So if you don't feel exactly "transported" to "Falcon Beach," and once you're there, you've seen it already, numerous times before, can the acting at least take your mind off the other shortcomings? Well.... Hey, it's an attractive cast, no doubt about that. Everybody looks good in their bathing suits (after all - that's the whole point of the show), and I'm sure the kids out there will take to them. But as far as actual "acting," I saw a lot of pouting, a lot of staring (which I guess is supposed to convey "deep thought"), and a lot of shouting. Real "acting" was hard to spot.
Here are the 13 episodes of Falcon Beach: The Complete First Season, as described on the DVD insert:
City folk open their summer cottages after the winter, marking the beginning of the series. While Falcon Beach townies Jason and Danny make plans to party, rich city girl Paige Bradshaw arrives in Falcon Beach with her mother Ginny, who has returned to reopen her girlhood cottage. Sparks fly between Jason and Paige, but complications arise when Jason's childhood sweetheart Tanya arrives back from Europe after a long absence, escaping a modeling career that's gone sour. Disappointed in Jason's reaction to her return, Tanya hooks up with Paige's troublesome brother, Lane - joining him in the local drug scene. Danny's efforts to romance his long time crush, Erin, are thwarted when Erin's college boyfriend arrives in Falcon Beach. Jason and Lane clash when Jason sees Lane selling drugs to the mayor's 14-year-old son George Tallis.
Jason tries to help a troubled Tanya, but Tanya's agent arrives to bring her back to Europe, forcing her to choose between Jason and her career. Paige is forced to stay in Falcon Beach due to a growing crisis within her father's corporation. Danny learns that his dad may lose the arcade.
Lance returns to Falcon Beach and starts paying the price for selling drugs to Georgie Tallis. Paige rents the renovated apartment over the arcade to the handsome new doctor in town. Danny and Erin deal with their stalled relationship while Jason and Tanya act on their passion for each other.
Trevor Bradshaw returns to Falcon Beach and involves his family in a public relations article for a lifestyle magazine. Paige learns some disturbing truths about her father. Jason decides to enter the regional wakeboarding championships. Tanya gets a job at the Sunset Bar. As a peace offering to drug-dealer Mook, Lane offers up his father's jet to transport drugs to Montreal.
Getting to Know You
Jason's boat breaks down jeopardizing his run for the regional wakeboarding championship. Danny convinces Paige to help him reopen Falcon Beach's historic dance hall. Ginny reconnects with an old flame. Danny and Erin's budding romance suffers another blow when Erin flashes to the crowd at a "Party Girls" event at the Sunset Bar.
Falcon Beach celebrates the Summer Solstice Festival. Tanya and Adrian become jealous when Paige rents a boat for Jason to help him compete. Mayor Tallis tricked into supporting the reopening of the dance hall by Danny and Paige. Lane becomes a partner in Hurst's grow-op business. Trevor and Ginny briefly recapture their old passion. Danny and Erin work through their issues and consummate their love.
On the eve of Wake Jam, the wakeboard regional championships, Jason feels the pressure from all sides. Ginny's sister, Patricia, arrives with her kids (Zoe and Mitchell) in tow and causes chaos at the Bradshaw cottage. Tanya gets Tom fired from the Sunset Bar for sexual harassment, but Jason doubts her side of the story. Danny and Erin work out some sexual issues.
Fresh from his victory at Wake Jam, Jason starts training for the Nationals. Tensions arise when Jason, Paige, Danny, an Adrian start renovations on the dance hall. Ginny is called to Toronto (New York) to testify about her involvement in Trevor's business dealings. Tanya and Lane's flirting steps over the line. A tragedy at the beach brings Erin's "Party Girl" past back to haunt her.
The Blame Game
The town reels from a drowning tragedy, Officer Palmer investigates and blame is being laid at the feet of "Party Girl" Erin. A social worker interview Zoe after Adrian reports her theft of drugs from the clinic. Tanya reveals a devastating truth about Jason's father, causing a breaking point in their relationship.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone
Jason turns to Paige for help when his ne'er-do-well Uncle Steve returns to Falcon Beach to call in a loan from Peggy, putting the marina at risk. Danny decides to snap Erin out of her depression by getting her favorite band, Matt Mays and El Torpedo to open the dance hall. Tanya begs Jason to take her back.
Jason begins intensive wakeboard training with his new manager/trainer Kyle, but an injured knee may destroy his chances of competing in the Nationals. Adrian's wife shows up unexpectedly, causing Paige to question their relationship. Sarah Chen betrays Trevor, forcing him out of the Bradshaw Group. Mook discovers Land and Hurst's grow-op and lays down appropriate punishment.
On the run from Mook and the police, Lane enlists the aid of Paige, Tanya, and Jason. After Paige breaks up with Adrian, Jason and Paige are tempted to renew their romance. With Ginny having already filed for divorce, Trevor returns to Falcon Beach to salvage their marriage.
Jason's sexy sponsor arrives in town to shoot a promotional video, prompting jealousy from Paige. Danny and Erin are forced to make a decision about their future when Erin discovers she's pregnant. Paige comforts Trevor after he is fired as CEO of the Bradshaw Group. Tanya's drug use causes her to spiral downward. Hurst tells Lane that Mook killed Jason's father over a drug deal gone bad.
As Jason prepares for the Nationals and Paige gets ready to leave for Harvard, a series of events threatens their newly rekindled love. Jason is devastated when Lane tells him what he's learned about his father's past. Under pressure from Officer Palmer, Tanya betrays Lane. Trevor takes revenge on Ginny for filing for divorce. Soon to depart for Vancouver, Danny and Erin say goodbye to heir friends at the Labor Day corn roast.
The full frame, 1.33:1 video image for Falcon Beach: The Complete First Season is bright and clear, with good color values and a bright image, but occasional grain and compression issues do crop up.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio mix is quite lively when the umpteenth song comes up on the soundtrack. There's a alternate French language track available, too. There are no subtitles or close-captioning options.
There are two, 8-minute featurettes, Creating Falcon Beach and The Shooting of Falcon Beach, included here. Not a lot of info is passed along, considering how short the featurettes are.
Derivative, not particularly well designed, and with less-than-compelling acting, Falcon Beach: The Complete First Season didn't exactly set any ratings records, and quickly folded after 26 episodes. You'll get the first 13 here in this boxed set, but unless you're already a die-hard fan of the show, you can safely skip the whole thing.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.