Life gets a little complicated for local politician, Melissa "Mel" Burke (Melissa Joan Hart) when her sister and brother-in-law get in trouble for stealing money, leaving her to take care of her niece Lennox (Taylor Spreitler) and nephew Ryder (Nick Robinson). Mel isn't exactly mother material, after all she used to be the kind of aunt that said things like "Let's get matching tattoos." Now, she's unsure whether to be the cool aunt or a parental figure. Amidst all of her work and trying to adjust with two teenagers in home, Mel considers hiring help. It's only when Lennox gets suspended that Mel realizes she has to hire someone to help her with the kids and keeping the house organized.
Enter Joe Longo (Joey Lawrence), who has lost all of his money thanks to Mel's sister and brother-in-law. Joe comes on a bit strong at first, hoping Mel can help him get a job since he's lost his house and is living in his car. Not to mention the fact that his wife left him. When Mel tells him there's a hiring freeze, Joe sees an opportunity to become her nanny (or manny), and reluctantly, she agrees. Things don't go too well at first, but when Joe manages to get through to Lennox, Mel realizes Joe might be good for the job after all.
The subplot through part 1 that Lennox and Ryder's Dad is responsible for Joe's recent situation adds another layer to the series. Their Dad even comes out of hiding in the episode, "A Fright in the Attic." There's never any real sense that Joe holds any animosity towards the family, in fact he turns out to be a great parent/friend figure that they need. Not only does he help Lennox and Ryder, he teaches Mel how to take care of two impressionable teens. It's unrealistic, but it's also a sitcom on ABC Family. As for any hints at a relationship between Joe and Mel, well there are some, but otherwise the show manages to skirt around that possibility throughout most of part 1.
The idea is somewhat reminiscent of "Who's the Boss," but the writing and character stand on their own, especially Mel who isn't exactly perfect and Joe, who was originally a commodities trader (One can only imagine Lawrence as a commodities trader: "I'll buy 10 June WTI contracts! Woah!") Hart and Lawrence turn in fine performances and do lift the series up a little bit over the kind of generic family comedy that this could have easily fallen into being. In fact, it's the banter and more humor-based episodes that really give "Melissa and Joey" its appeal. Watching Joe adjust to being a nanny is amusing and in "Nanny Love" he realizes that telling women he's a nanny doesn't always go over too well. Lennox and Mel have more in common than they thought when in "Boys Toys 'R' Us" they are both dating bad boys, much to Mel's dismay. In "Up Close & Personal" Joe steals Mel's spotlight when a reporter decides to focus on him instead. In the part one finale, "Joe Knows," Joe decides its time to share his financial knowledge and he, along with Ryder's help, sets up a website for financial advice.
ABC Family is known for dividing their original series into parts, rather than seasons. "Melissa and Joey" is no exception, with Season One, Part One now available on DVD. It's never fun when shows are divided into parts and here, it seems rather unnecessary. Still, the series isn't headed for the TV Hall-of-Fame, but it's sweet and amusing, with two fine lead performances.
• Season 1, Part 1
1-01 17/Aug/10 Pilot
1-02 17/Aug/10 Moving On
1-03 24/Aug/10 Nanny Love
1-04 31/Aug/10 Boy Toys 'R' Us
1-05 07/Sep/10 The Perfect Storm
1-06 14/Sep/10 Spies & Lies
1-07 21/Sep/10 Up Close & Personal
1-08 28/Sep/10 Dancing With the Stars of Toledo
1-09 05/Oct/10 Seoul Man
1-10 12/Oct/10 In Lennox We Trust
1-11 19/Oct/10 A Fright In The Attic
1-12 26/Oct/10 Joe Knows
VIDEO: The series is presented by Shout Factory in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is quite nice, as the series looked smooth, crisp and clean throughout much of the running time. A couple of minor instances of shimmer were spotted at times, but the transfer was otherwise largely pristine. Colors looked rich and warm, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the audio is narrowly focused and dialogue-driven, which is no surprise, given the material. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and music.
"Blooper Reel" - At just over eight minutes, there are several funny moments of the cast flubbing their lines and being silly on set.
"Featurettes" There are six featurettes that can be played all together or individually. Each featurette runs around a minute and asks one of the stars of the series a question regarding what they'd do in a given situation. Nothing much.
Also included on the DVD is a "Season 1, Part Two Preview."
Final Thoughts: With only twelve episodes, the set does feel a bit small, however the episodes are enjoyable as are the features. With some fun guest stars, humorous writing and performances, "Melissa and Joey" isn't perfect, but it is better than it could have been. The DVD set offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras.