In 10 Words or Less
More adventures at Hollywood Arts
Loves: Good sitcoms
Likes: iCarly, Ariana Grande
Dislikes: Most Teen Sitcoms
The Story So Far...
Dan Schneider's most recent teen TV franchise centers around Tori (Victoria Justice), the new kid at a performing arts school, and her group of friends, as they hone their craft, chase their dreams and live their lives, in and out of school. The series is currently in its third season on Nickelodeon, and there's been one previous half-season release on DVD, which DVDTalk reviewed.
So, we're back for more. One of the worst developments of the DVD era has to be multi-volume season releases, which force fans to buy multiple sets in order to get all the episodes of their favorite shows (pioneered obnoxiously by Fox with their Family Guy DVDs.) While the concept that people are more likely to buy the sets at the lower prices afforded by including fewer episodes is acceptable, in the end, it feels like you end up spending more. And again, that would be fine, but it seems like these decisions are made at random, as earlier seasons of iCarly came out in volumes, then Victorious started in volumes, only to be followed by a complete season for the third run of iCarly. So, that's aggravating and instantly brings down this release a notch in your reviewer's book.
That said, the show is a fun time, continuing the entertaining run started by the first volume. This time, with 10 episodes under their belts, it feels like the characters are pretty fully established, and so the show really starts focusing on plot, an area that puts the show a step ahead of its sibling iCarly, which gets very focused on the interplay between the three stars. The stories here, whether they are about Tori trying to produce Jade's play or the group's scam to get the school to pay for a big night out each year, play on a slightly larger scale, which is especially important when there are so many players (seven in the main cast) to give time to. Thought the show is named for Tori, you're not going to find many episodes focused mainly on her. In fact, in this set's 10 pack, it's arguable that just three focus on her, and of those, each features large roles by her friends (though thankfully, unlike the first volume, none of them focus on Robbie and his puppet.)
There are some uniquely structured episodes that draw strongly on classic sitcom plots, like when the majority of the group, with the exception of Cat (Ariana Grande), gets stuck in a sweltering trailer, and turn on each other as the heat rises, or when they sleep over at their teacher Sikowitz' house as part of a method-acting exercise, playing silly characters while trying not to break (how do you not love Grande's '80s female comedienne or Justice's Raisin Bran-obsessed cop?) But there's some definite originality, like Tori's attempt to complete a group project via video chat while stuck on a plane, running into difficulties that arrive in the form of Robbie's annoying cyberpest or her sister Trina (Daniella Monet) and her special brand of crazy. Like much of Schneider's work, it has a keen sense of what works in a sitcom (likely the result of him coming of age on the set of one of the field's better examples.)
There are some really good episodes here, with "Sleepover at Sikowitz's" and "Wok Star," where a fame-hunting Chinese restaurant owner becomes Jade's patron, among the stand-outs, and there are really no down notes, with the possible exception of the final two-parter, "Freak the Freak Out." This story, which puts a great deal of emphasis on Jade and Cat as they do karaoke battle with a pair of musical brats, would actually be quite good, but it gives so much time to Trina, who is at home recuperating from wisdom teeth extraction, watched over by Tori, that she just overpowers the episode, to any viewer's chagrin (nothing against Monet, but the character is beyond annoying.) Beyond that, the show's music remains a strongly appealing elements (even the kids song in "The Diddly-Bops" which is insanely catchy) and the cast is good across the board, with Jade and Beck (Elizabeth Gillies and Avan Jogia) becoming stronger, more defined characters, especially Beck, who is no longer just Jade's boyfriend. Sometimes it just takes time for a show to find it's characters' true voices, especially with so many voices to hear.
In a clear single-width keepcase with a two-sided cover (featuring episode descriptions on the inside), this two-disc set offers up the episodes 11-20 of the first season (in production order.) The discs have static, full-frame menus, with options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out the extras (on the second disc.) There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.
Yet again, Victorious is presented with letterboxed full-frame transfers, despite the show being broadcast in high definition anamorphic widescreen. Despite this annoyance, the video does look pretty good, with appropriate color, a decent level of fine detail and no obvious digital artifacts, though it does come off as slightly soft.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that sound like any other Nickelodeon show on DVD, delivering the audio in a balanced manner. Everything comes out clear and crisp, especially the songs, but there's nothing much dynamic about the mix, though the doorbells in "Sleepover at Sikowitz's" do sound like they are appropriately off-screen.
The main extra is the Victorious/iCarly crossover episode "iParty with Victorious" which is part of iCarly's third season (and is included on that DVD set.) From my review of that set:
The logic behind the two shows meeting is tenuous at best, as Carly and Victorious star Tori are both dating the same guy, who alternates homes between Seattle and Los Angeles on a monthly basis. When Carly becomes suspicious because she sees a picture of Tori and her boyfriend online, the crew heads down to L.A. to check things out in person. Though there's a lot of Tori and her pals in the episode, including a cute plot involving ditzy Cat and her lost voice, it is an iCarly story at its core, and it manages not to drag too much, thanks in part to the presence of both Spencer and his spiritual relative, the Victorious crew's teacher Sikowitz, as well as a cameo from Schneider alumnus Kenan Thompson. (Unfortunately, the extended four-part version of the "movie" is not included, as it explains one of the episode's mysteries.)
A clips and video make up the remainder of the extras, starting with a behind the scenes look (1:21) at the theme song mash-up from the "iParty" special. As this was just a promo that aired on Nickelodeon to promote the show, it's too short to give any real content other than a few words from some of the stars. What would it have taken to go back to the footage and cut something a bit longer with more of the recording of the song or the actors talking about the special?
The video, for the song "Best Friend's Brother," is the full-length video they pulled the clip from that aired on Nickelodeon to promote the show. With it's catchy "B-F-B" chorus it's an infectious pop song, but they missed an opportunity to make a really good video. It starts with a dream sequence where Justice performs like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, but drops the movie dream sequences there. (If the other dream sequence is from a movie, I missed it at the multiplex.) Either way, it's a good song.
The Bottom Line
The second half of Victorious' first season gets a bit more involved in terms of plot, which makes the situational comedy more enjoyable, simply by making it more organic. The release is pretty standard for a Nickelodeon DVD, which means just-good-enough quality and limited extras, so like usual, a purchase is more about convenience than what's on the disc.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.