In 10 Words or Less
Spreading the wealth among the blossoming stars
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 the first season was released over a pair of half-season volumes, which DVDTalk reviewed.
The second season of Victorious expands on the types of stories from the first go-round, with episodes about the competition between the kids at school, various odd projects assigned by their drama teacher Sikowitz (the wonderfully fun Eric Lange) and their intermingling in any number of relationships. Along the way, there are some new experiences for Tori and company, including a job for Tori as a stunt double, a trip to a war-torn foreign country (as part of a double-length "TV movie" episode) and a visit from pop-star Ke$ha. But among the more memorable outings are an appearance by Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) as the sadistic new principal of Tori's school and the silly "Blooptorious," which carries the blooper episode idea over from iCarly, only now hosted by the "actor" who plays Robbie's puppet. Though much of the season covers similar ground as the previous season, it's the expansion of the main cast's characters that makes this season an improvement.
Any time you give a supporting character more time in the spotlight, you risk sacrificing their charms to overexposure, and with a character like Cat (Ariana Grande), who is charm on a stick, you could easily burn audiences out on her cuteness. However her quirkiness came with purpose this time around, as she brings the oddity, with stories about her odd brother and an assortment of subplots that keep her entertaining. (The show fully embraced weirdness this season, whether through an oddball like creepy theater tech Sinjin and his strange behaviors or little meta gags, like the kids noticing no one ever sits on the one side of the table.) Though the cast is filled with quality actors, no one stands out the way Grande does in her role, though there's a lot to like about Beck and Jade (Avan Jogia and Elizabeth Gillies) now, as they developed stronger personalities (and Jade's mocking imitation of Tori is good for a laugh every time.)
Normally when approaching a show my daughter enjoys, I've seen every episode multiple times, thanks to them being played over and over again, but here, it was surprising to see two episodes that were new to me, "Tori Tortures Teacher" and "Terror on Cupcake Street." The thing that stands out most about them is how different in tone they are from the rest of the season, with one putting a depressed Sikowitz front and center, while the other traps the kids on the streets of a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night. Considering both are as entertaining as any other episode of Victorious, one wonders if the reason they aren't seen as frequently on Nickelodeon is their much darker feel, with "Terror" coming off as particularly scary in spots for younger viewers, while exploring the emotional scars of a high school teacher doesn't exactly scream tween sitcom material.
Speaking of darker, one thing about this season's episodes that is increasingly creepy is the character of Rex, Robbie's puppet. Though he's always been adversarial toward Robbie, in the second season he takes on a life of his own, attending a nearby prom without his human companion and somehow playing hide and seek with him. But nothing is more unusual than his presence in "Who Did It to Trina?" (Spoilers ahead.) If the plot is supposed to be reality in the Victorious universe, it means that Rex committed a pretty heinous crime. Now, this has two possible consequences. Either Rex is alive, torturing Robbie and committing crimes, or Robbie is committing crimes and blaming them on his puppet. Either is disturbing, and while it's unlikely the series will address this, it's certainly in the back of my mind now.
In a clear single-width keepcase with a two-sided cover (featuring episode descriptions on the inside), this two-disc set offers up, in production order, all 13 of the second season's episodes (two of which were part of the TV movie.) This leaves out A Christmas Tori, which aired during season two, but was produced as part of season three. 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.
Oh my God...it's 2012. Per one report, 3/4 of a year earlier, nearly 67 million U.S. homes had at least one HDTV. So why is Paramount releasing Victorious in letterboxed widescreen? Is this a joke? They do realize anyone with a standard-definition TV will get a smaller picture, as will those with HD displays. No one can be happy about this. The only redeeming feature of this presentation is the fact that the video looks pretty good, with quality color and deep blacks. The level of fine detail could definitely be higher though, as the backgrounds tend to be light on sharpness, and the foregrounds suffer from softness is spots. On the plus side, compression artifacts aren't readily noticeable.
The audio is delivered via Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are your standard basic cable sound, keeping everything right down the middle, with nothing dynamic of note. Dialogue and music are both clean, with the musical moments sounding especially strong.
Of the two extras included, one's solid and one's pretty pointless. "Behind the Scenes" is supposed to be a look at the making of the "Locked Up" TV movie but it's just a brief interview with Justice used to promote the episode, clocking in at just over 50 seconds. Fare interesting to Victorious fans will be Seven Secrets with Victoria Justice. This 23-minute special focuses on Justice, and is built around revealing seven things you wouldn't know about her, with lots of footage of her hanging out and shopping with her friends, including fellow Victorious star Jogia. It's hard to imagine a young fan of the show not being interested in knowing more about the show's lead actress.
The Bottom Line
After 20 episodes in the first season, the stage was set for further exploration of the characters, and this set delivers, as there are more diverse stories and more time shared amongst the cast, who really hone their roles. The release is almost a carbon copy of the previous set, maintaining the same "quality" and limited bonus features (though for the first time, a significant extra is not one found on another DVD release.) So if that's enough of a draw, along with the less-frequently aired episodes, feel free to drop the cash.