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Life As We Know It - The Complete Series
Newsflash: Teenagers like sex. They like to do it, talk about it, ruminate upon the topic, break it apart in their pubescent little brains, talk about it some more, do it a second time (if possible), and stress, whine, and debate about all things sexual in nature. Granted, pretty much everyone's the same way, but teenagers take to sexuality mainly because, well, it's uncharted terrain. And it's fun.
To those who might not be aware that 99.997% of the world's teenagers are, to one degree or another, obsessed with sex, we now have Life As We Know It, a 13-episode reminder that teenage carnality is not only alive and well, but scrubbed up with a fresh coat of paint with the beginning of every new TV season.
More serious than Dawson's Creek or The O.C., and a whole lot shallower than Freaks and Geeks, Life As We Know It centers on three horny high-school boys, the girlfriends they torture, the teachers they lust for, and the adulterous parents they're forced to contend with. This is a series that eliminated practically everything non-sex-related that might happen in a teen's life, and chooses to hone right in on the various ways in which intercourse can be had, delayed, discussed, or avoided.
Dino's the stud with the sexy-model-type girlfriend; Ben's the heartsick emotional one who carries a torch for his teacher; and Jonathan's the one open-minded enough to date a girl who's somewhat close to "fat." Together this trio of breast-obsessed mini-hunks will circumnavigate the world of Hornysville High School, where the curriculum focuses solely on the sexy.
Which is not to say that Life As We Know It is necessarily a bad show. Sure, it got canceled after only 11 episodes, but if there's one thing that DVD has taught us, it's that brilliantly fantastic TV shows get canceled all time time. No, Life As We Know It is not as sweetly disarming as Freaks and Geeks, nor is it as "guilty pleasure" amusing as The O.C., but there's still a level of brazen honesty to be found -- plus the cast is really hot and they sometimes get to say funny things.
The three leads are suitably charming, I suppose, although none of 'em really leap out as any sort of neon standout. That series creators Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs (both veterans of Freaks and Geeks) chose to allow their characters to speak directly to the viewing audience ... well, it's a dicey gimmick, to be sure. Sometimes it works -- and more often it does not. But the fact that the three main teens frequently stop what they're doing and speak into the camera only prevents them from becoming flesh & blood characters. Every time one of the kids chooses to address me in a personal fashion, I'm reminded that, yes, I'm watching a TV series with a gimmick. And the gimmick wears out its welcome long before episode 13 rolls around.
But I'm well aware that Life As We Know It was able to earn a small-yet-loyal fanbase during its three-month run on ABC, which is what makes DVD so darn great. A few years ago, if your favorite new show had been canceled -- that was it; bye, bye show. But now even the most expeditiously ashcanned programs can enjoy a second life on DVD -- where the kids who really dug it can buy a copy and watch it to their collective heart's content. If I'm ranking the teenshows that I've been able to discover through the magic of DVD, Life As We Know It ranks well below F & G and perhaps a few notches above the endearingly goofy Smallville -- but is considerably more intriguing than 80% of the other "teen dramas" that get left on the Cancellation Highway every February.
It's a little bit smart, a little bit silly, and all but entirely smitten with sex. Fun stuff all around, I suppose, but you'll be wishing for a "Very Special Abstinence Episode" after just a few short hours.
1. Pilot (Original airdate: 10/7/04)
2. Pilot Junior (10/14/04)
3. The Best Laid Plans (10/21/04)
4. Partly Cloudy, Chance of Sex (10/28/04)
(Audio commentaries, deleted scenes, gag reel)
5. Secrets & Lies (11/4/04)
6. Natural Disasters (12/2/04)
7. With a Kiss, I Die (12/9/04)
8. Family Hard-Ships (12/16/04)
9. A Little Problem (1/6/05)
10. Breaking Away (1/13/05)
11. You Must Be Trippin' (1/20/05)
12. Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Junk (unaired)
13. Papa Wheelie (unaired)
(Audio commentaries, photo gallery)
Video: The episodes are presented in the fullscreen (1.33:1) aspect ratio, which comes as a disappointment to many, considering that the series was originally broadcast in HD 16:9 Widescreen; colors are quite clean and vibrant, and the picture quality is exceedingly strong throughout. To be fair, this is a rather stylistically directed series, and the slick camera moves and colorful surroundings are brought home in fine visual form. But still -- if you're going to broadcast a series in WS, it only makes sense to release it that way on DVD ... doesn't it?
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, which sounds pretty damn excellent. Like most teen-centric series, Life As We Know It is heavy on the mood-setting pop tunes, and they come through loud and clear thanks to the 5.1. Optional subtitles are available in English.
This complete series set promises two unaired episodes as "special features," and while the fans will be thrilled to check these episodes out, I hesitate to refer to them as supplemental material. Thankfully, Disney has seen fit to outfit this 3-disc set with a generous handful of extra goodies.
On disc 1 you'll find a pair of tinny-sounding (yet perfectly entertaining) audio commentaries: The first one (for the pilot episode) features vocal contributions from producers Gabe Sachs, Jeff Judah, Michael Engler, Adam Horowitz, and actress Lisa Darr, while the second (on episode 4, "Partly Cloudy, Chance of Sex") offers Sachs, Judah, Darr, and director Michael Spiller. You'll also find five deleted scenes and a fairly amusing 5-minute 'Life As We Blow It' Gag Reel.
Disc 2 offers another pair of audio commentaries: With episode 6 ("Natural Disasters") you get even more of Sachs and Judah, but this time they're joined by producer Joel Madison and a foursome of cast members: Jon "Ben" Foster, Jessica "Sue" Lucas, Missy "Jackie" Peregrym, and Chris "Jonathan" Lowell. Episode 8 ("Family Hard-Ships") goes back to the reliable team of Judah, Sachs, Horowitz, and Darr.
Disc 3 continues the audio commentary parade. Episode 10 ("Breaking Away") comes with optional chat from Sachs, Judah, producer Stu Bloomberg, actor Sean "Dino" Faris, and ABC Vice President of Current Programming Ilene Berg. Episode 11 ("You Must Be Trippin'") reunites Gabe Sachs with castmembers Foster, Lucas, Peregrym, and Lowell, while episode 12 ("Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Junk") comes with optional yak-yak from Sachs, Foster, Lucas, Peregrym, Lowell, and episode director Danny Leiner. Rounding out the third platter is a producer's photo album, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
OK, so there's no whining and wistful featurette about how brilliantly underrated the show was and how it was so mercilessly cut down before its prime ... but the commentary tracks do make up for it in spades. You might have to crank your volume up a few notches to enjoy the alternate tracks, but fans will be treated to lots of insight and anecdotal material from the series run.
It isn't deep and it sure isn't startlingly unique, but Life As We Know It does take a refreshingly honest look at the ways in which sex rules all -- doubly so when you're a high school student. The cast is charming and the presentation is unquestionably slick, but there's only so much talk of "doing it" one can take before you just wish "it" would get "done" already.