I have a confession to start with: I don't have cable or satellite TV. It's good to have that off my chest, but the point is that I miss a lot of the mindless reality television that the rest of America gets to enjoy. Flipping around channels at friends' houses, I've gotten glimpses of a lot of it, but I've never really been able to effectively rot my brain over a whole season (or seasons) of a reality show. However, DVD releases of these shows, especially the ones like E!'s Sunset Tan, have leveled the playing field.
Sunset Tan is the name of a tanning salon chain in southern California. The show follows the crazy, dramatic, bronzed exploits of the Los Angeles chain's employees and owners. Jeff and Devin are the California personalities that enjoy the lifestyle of the area and co-own Sunset Tan. Janelle is the tall, moody manager who is one of the company's senior employees. Nick is the young, hungry, male employee who excels. Erin is the new girl, from a small town, and she has to deal with the culture shock of living in LA while trying to climb the corporate ladder. Keely is the sweet-yet-saucy blond. Finally, Holly and Molly, or the Olly girls, are the young blond bimbos who finish each other's short, grammatically butchered sentences and just exist so that Sunset Tan has a pretty face. Other employees come in and out of the mix throughout the season, like Nick's girlfriend Ania.
I don't really need to get into the personalities of any of these people because they're all the same: dramatic, shallow, greedy, and catty. In other words, they were made for reality TV. They all lack brains but overflow with personality. In season 1, we focus a lot on Erin's adjustment to californication-esque culture after her emigration from Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Erin, by the way, is the only relatively normal one.) We also wait in suspense while the employees compete for the new position that is opening up to manage the new salon in Las Vegas. Along the way, they all fight a lot, both at work and outside of it.
Sunset Tan is shot like the standard reality TV show and was one of the bad shows in the E! avalanche of crap. Cameramen without steadicams weave around the subjects as they walk and talk and sit and drink. They get in the passenger's seat and film them when they drive. Shots of on-camera interviews are intercut as the employees describe what happened in the footage we're seeing.
I hope that critics have already pointed this out, but reality TV is as fake as the body of an LA trophy wife, and Sunset Tan personifies this. The editing always keeps things moving at a frantic pace, but you need to understand how much they edit out. The producers show the most dramatic things three times, but they cut out all of the mundane stuff and a lot of happenings that could shape the viewers' opinions about the characters. Also, the scenes are contrived beyond belief. If you actually pay attention, you can see that within a scene they have the characters perform actions more than once so that they can shoot it from different angles. When a celebrity walks out the door, he or she probably has to do it at least twice, and from one shot to the next you can tell that a camerman has moved, even though it's supposed to be the same action. Also, celebrities and guest stars who are supposed to appear randomly are already mic'd.
Sunset Tan comes on a 2-disc DVD. This is the full screen version. It comes in a clear, single-wide plastic case with pictures of hot bods all over it. There are seven episodes on disc1, and disc 2 has five episodes and the special features.
Sunset Tan is presented in 4x3. While the menus are enhanced for 16x9 TV's, the show itself, obviously, isn't. The picture is nothing to write home about because it's a typical reality show. It's made documentary style, with shaky handheld shots dominating the landscape, dotted with the occasional, steady, on-camera interview. The lighting is usually uncontrolled.
Unexceptional cinematography aside, the picture on these discs is fine. It's bright, which always goes well with upconverting. The image is pretty sharp, though not as sharp as a high quality motion picture, and is completely devoid of artifacts. However, the lack of a 1.78:1 image detracts one star from my "Video" rating.
There is only one audio track, which is English stereo 2.0. There's nothing great, but the dialogue is usually pretty clear. (When it isn't, there are subtitles on the image.) Other than the rock soundtrack I the background, that's all there is to the audio. There are no subtitles that can be turned on or off.
The first special feature is red carpet interviews. It's footage from E! Entertainment at the premiere of the show. The people are actually a little less fake during this. It is two minutes long.
The second feature is deleted scenes. There are three, and their clip is five minutes long. They are edited the same way as the show, and they're pretty worthless.
The third special feature is a collection of featurettes starring the Olly girls, called "The Olly Girls' Guide." They tell you how to make a sandcastle, pack for a vacation, pack a picnic, camp, throw a barbeque, play tackle football, make a sundae, wash your car, and perform CPR. Yes, these are all as mindless as you would expect, but they're almost charming. Each is less than two minutes long.
None of the special features are enhanced for widescreen TV's. There are also some trailers from Lionsgate DVD.
I'll gladly watch the next season of Sunset Tan when it comes out on DVD, just so no one else has to. Unless you actually want to pay money to watch childish adults act like idiots and tan themselves brown, I'm definitely saying "Skip It."