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Hearts Afire - The Complete Second Season

Image // Unrated // November 1, 2005
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted November 27, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Series

Ah, good ol' John Ritter, one of the most beloved icons of my desperately geeky generation. Launched to stardom before our pre-pubescent eyes in the classic goofball sitcom Three's Company, Mr. Ritter would go on to a colorful TV & movie career that delighted his faithful fans ... before he suddenly, tragically died at the way-too-young age of 54. And for folks like me, it was one of the most shocking losses since the death of Phil Hartman.

I suspect it's the popularity of Mr. Ritter that inspired Image Entertainment to get their hands on Hearts Afire, a sitcom that ran from 1992 to 1995. This one came several years removed from the failed-yet-interesting Hooperman and quite a few years before 8 Simple Rules. Basically a very conventional sitcom about the colorful staff members of a goofball U.S. Senator, Hearts Afire proved popular enough to play for a full three seasons before heading off to cancelvania.

Front and center in Hearts Afire are Mr. Ritter as Senatorial aide John Hartman and Night Court's Markie Post as the high-maintenance press secretary Georgie Anne Lahti. Their gradually progressing romance gets most of the attention in Hearts Afire's initial season -- but producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (creator of Designing Women) was smart enough to fill the potentially tiresome premise with a heaping handful of colorful supporting characters.

And here's one of the second season's big missteps: Gone were S1 stalwarts like George Gaynes, Ed Asner, Beth Broderick, and Wendie Jo Sperber -- and in their place was Leslie Jordan and Conchata Ferrell. So right there you're losing a lot of comic steam. Fortunately, Ritter, Post, and Billy Bob Thornton were still around to dish the punchlines.

Also somewhat annoying is the show's change of scenery. When Hearts Afire began, John and Georgie were bickering politicos who eventually fell in love. For season 2, the whole series got up and moved back to the sticks so "the gang" (Ritter, Post, Thornton, and the kids) could run their very own newspaper. But I suppose the producers knew that the actors were the draw and not the setting. Still, season one was funnier, period.

And it's a damn good thing that Hearts Afire has such a decent cast, because if you're judging this season of sitcomedy based solely on the plots, the dialogue, and the teleplay material -- well, let's just say this cast elevates the material with each new episode. (Only in season 2, the cast just isn't as strong!)

Much like the first go-round, Hearts Afire's second season treats you to several scenes between John Ritter and Markie Post in which the actors throw rapid-fire banter at each other with appreciable skill. It's as if the writers decided they wanted to throw at least 15% of the "Moonlighting banter vibe" into their otherwise very vanilla sitcom. So while you're sitting through a fairly charming but ultimately drop-dead familiar sitcom concept, you'll be intermittently treated to a series of back & forth dialogue volleys that absolutely manage to transcend the generally inane plots and pre-fabricated scripts.

If you harbor a strong affection for John Ritter and/or Markie post, or you just want to see what Billy Bob Thornton looks like on a weekly sitcom, you could do worse than to check out Hearts Afire's second season.

Handy-dandy disc inventories follow below, with plot synopses courtesy of the nifty little booklet that comes packaged with the DVDs.

Disc 1

Lovely Always (Parts 1 & 2) -- Georgie, John, Billy Bob and the kids leave D.C. to run a newspaper in the small town where the guys grew up. When things start going wrong, everybody confides in Madeline, a depressed psychologist. (Original airdate: 10/27/93)

Moonlighting -- Desperate for cash to get their newspaper off the ground, the gang goes to work at the high school cafeteria and asks for a loan from an obnoxious, now wealthy former classmate. (11/03/93)

The Great Depression -- Based on John and Billy's high school reputations, the gang gets fired from the cafeteria. Then help comes from an unlikely source. (11/10/93)

First Edition -- The gang hires a bombshell receptionist and Lonnie, the "printer from hell." Madeline offers to write a "tough love" advice column. (11/17/93)

String of Pearls -- John plans to give Georgie his grandmother's string of pearls for their first anniversary, but then Billy Bob and Madeline get involved. (11/24/93)

Disc 2

The Stud Club -- Lonnie convinces the gang to go with him to a cowboy bar where mayhem soon ensues. (12/08/93)

Blue Christmas -- Georgie finds out she's pregnant, and her dad arrives for a visit. (12/15/93)

True Confessions -- An insurance company mix-up leads John to think that he's seriously ill, prompting him to reveal some things he's done to friends in the past. (12/29/93)

Accelerated Dating -- Billy Bob is shocked to find out how different the dating world is. He turns to John's oldest son for advice. (01/12/94)

Sweet Revenge -- Georgie and Madeline devise ways to embarrass Madline's ex, and John suffers a bout of jealousy over Markie's past. Meanwhile, the kids put on a play satirizing the adults' behavior. (01/19/94)

The Sons of Sissy-Whatsis -- A camping trip goes haywire when the girls raid the boys' camp, tie Lonnie to a tree and steal the van. (02/02/94)

Disc 3

Fatal Traction -- After being hit by a car, Lonnie takes advantage of Madeline and Billy Bob's guilt. (02/09/94)

Sleepless in a Small Town -- The movie Sleepless in Seattle inspires the gang to express their own feelings of love...loudly. (03/28/94)

Do the Limbaugh -- Longtime liberal Georgie writes a scathing letter to a conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Then they meet... (04/11/94)

Love in the Afternoon -- With their house invaded by guests, John and Georgie attempt to find some privacy, but instead are caught again and again during intimate moments. (04/18/94)

The Big Yes -- Goerige and John pretend they aren't married so they can vacation in a Miami singles-only time-share condo with the rest of the gang. (04/25/94)

The DVD

Video: The episodes are presented in their original fullscreen format, and the picture quality is ... meh, not bad. Images look soft, flat, and vaguely fuzzy on occasion, but we're talking about a 12-year-old b-level sitcom here. Either way, the episodes look a lot better here than they would as reruns on the Lifetime Channel, so the fans should find be happy with the end result.

Audio: A perfectly adequate Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track.

Extras: On disc 3 you'll find a 5-minute collection of Bloopers and Outtakes, plus there's also a cool little fold-out booklet included, which gives you some cursory info on each of the second season's episodes.

Final Thoughts

It sure isn't high art, and I doubt it's even a series that many people remember all that fondly ... but even a so-so sitcom with this sort of cast is probably worth a look or two. Season 2 does suffer from a pointless change of venue and the absence of several funny faces, but the three leads still keep things suitably fun.


(Portions reprinted from my review of Heart Afire Season 1 ... because it's the same show.)
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