While the series doesn't match up to either classic, "'Til Death" strikes me as a mixture of elements of "Seinfeld" and "Married...With Children". The series stars Brad Garrett ("Everybody Loves Raymond") and Joely Fisher ("Desperate Housewives") as Eddie and Joy Stark, a couple who have been together for nearly 25 years and have long since past that point where they've become mildly irritated by one another. However, there's still love there and the two continue to make the most of it, despite battles over petty arguments (this season, one of the examples revolves around not fixing a lamp) and tossing the occasional bitter one-liner at one another.
In the opening episode, Steph (Kat Foster) and Jeff (Eddie Kay Thomas) Woodcock moved in next door. Recently married, the two are still in the phase where they are all over one another, which doesn't exactly sit well with the Starks. Jeff is the new vice principal and Eddie is a teacher at the same school, and it's not long before Eddie becomes a reluctant mentor to Jeff, giving him questionable advice about how to handle his marriage.
The series, from "King of Queens" co-creators (and "What Women Want" and "13 Going on 30" screenwriters) Jeff Goldsmith and Kathy Yespa, isn't anything new, but it's an appealingly snappy and bitter little series in a time where sitcoms are often sunshine and happy endings. Garrett and Fisher perfectly play the kind of couple who not only aren't pleased with the idea of people who are happier than they are within their territory (see the Darcys vs. the Bundys in "Married..."), but are awkward when having to be forced to socialize (the kind of anti-social tone of "Seinfeld", a series that often talked about the lack of need for new friends and how being there for current friends was kind of a "maybe.")
While the third season of the series went completely downhill due to the unfortunate decision to limit the Thomas and Foster characters to rare appearances, the second season of the series sees the show at its acidic peak. The writing - both in terms of plotting (well, for a sitcom) and dialogue - improves and the actors seem not only more comfortable in their roles, but play off each other with improved comic timing. Some of the show Foster and Thomas also remain superb as the Woodcocks, as the two perfectly play the kind of bland, chirpy yuppies who, despite their best attempts, are occasionally pulled into the sourness of their older neighbors.
The second season contains one of the show's best episodes in "Second Marriage Guy", which sees Eddie and Jeff getting jealous of their friend Carl (Nick Bakay), who has a fun second wife who lets him do what he wants. They each make a list about what they want from another marriage, but Eddie doesn't exactly fare well when he tries to stay out all night, fueled by a combination of different energy drinks. The episode is mostly Garrett's to carry, and it's the funniest he's been in a while.
Other highlights from the season include: "Four Neighbors and a Funeral" (Eddie and Joy feel left out when everyone in the neighborhood but them is invited to an elderly neighbor's funeral), "Vintage Eddie" (Eddie gives Jeff a bottle of wine from his cabinet that turns out to be worth far more than he thought), "Bedtime Stories" (Eddie and Joy fight over a broken table lamp), "Really Big Brother" (Eddie volunteers to be a "Big Brother" for a child, but is accidentally paired with an adult) and "Sob Story" (Eddie agrees to therapy after Joy accuses him of being unable to express his feelings.)
While the series doesn't get sentimental about it, the two couples obviously see themselves in each other: the Woodcocks are rather horrified that this could be their future, while the Starks wonder when it was they stopped being like the Woodcocks. While it's unfortunate that this series has taken a turn for the worse due to the changes made in the third season, the first two seasons remain consistently very funny.
23. 2- 1 19 Sep 07 Performance Anxiety
24. 2- 2 26 Sep 07 Four Neighbors and a Funeral
25. 2- 3 3 Oct 07 Come Out and Play
26. 2- 4 10 Oct 07 The Tale of the Tape
27. 2- 5 17 Oct 07 Mixed Doubles
28. 2- 6 7 Nov 07 Vintage Eddie
29. 2- 7 14 Nov 07 Bedtime Stories
30. 2- 8 28 Nov 07 No More Mr. Vice Guy
31. 2- 9 28 Nov 07 Everybody Digs Doug
32. 2-10 25 Mar 08 Really Big Brother
33. 2-11 16 Apr 08 Raisinette in the Sun
34. 2-12 23 Apr 08 Snip/Duck
35. 2-13 30 Apr 08 Sob Story
36. 2-14 7 May 08 Second Marriage Guy
37. 2-15 14 May 08 Swimming with the Starks
17 Sep 08 Joy Ride
8 Oct 08 Secret Meatball
1 Oct 08 Philadelphia Freedom
VIDEO: "'Til Death" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation did show some slight artifacting here-and-there in darker scenes, but the majority of the episodes looked crisp, clean and clear. No edge enhancement was spotted, either. Colors looked bright and warm, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "'Til Death" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a purely comedy mix, with understandably little for the surrounds to do. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: Bloopers and footage of Brad Garrett giving a pre-show talk to the studio audience.
Final Thoughts: While I'm dismayed with the show's third season, the second season of "'Til Death" still offers consistent laughs and shows improvement over the first season. The DVD set provides fine audio/video quality, as well as a couple of minor extras. Recommended.