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Family Bonds - The Complete First Season
Originally intended to be a one-shot reality show special, Family Bonds ultimately became a 10-episode series for HBO. It's a candid and frequently rather amusing visit with a New York City clan known as The Evangalistas. A colorful family filled with cousins, nephews, kids, and a few loyal hangers-on, the Evangalistas make their living in the trade of bail bonds. Which means they'll lay out the cash if you need to post bail, but they'll also chase your ass down if you don't show up for your court date.
Tom's the patriarch of this motley crew, a gruff and grumpy grumbler with just a touch of buried sweetness. He's got two teenagers named Dana and Sal, and a younger one known as Frankie. Flo is Tom's wife, and she's got two sisters called Dawn and Kim. Jimmy is Dawn's husband. Chris is Tom's nephew. And Dan "no relation" Boswith seems to be the Tom Hagen of the Evangalista crew: quiet and loyal, yet not related by blood.
Basically, Family Bonds flips back and forth between domestic dramas during the day and nighttime bounty hunting missions. Common throughout both stories is the family's endless pool of profane bicker-dom. These guys argue, fight, complain, and run roughshod over each other at the drop of a hat. Yet for all the raised voices and blustery bravado ... they never really seem to get angry at each other.
If the frequent sequences of rather uninspiring "skip tracing" gets a little tiresome, stick around for the at-home stories, because that's where the funnier moments reside. Big-boy Chris, for example, is a natural comedian, and there's something strangely sweet about a running subplot involving Dana's first childbirth. It's a pretty weird show, to be sure, and one wonders precisely how much of the material is actually "natural," but the Evangalistas end up becoming a pretty fun family to visit with -- but you sure wouldn't want to live with 'em.
Video: The episodes and extras are presented in a full frame format, with picture quality precisely what you'd expect from a doco-style program. A bit grainy and choppy, but still more than watchable.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, in your choice of English or Spanish. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.
Extras: The pilot episode comes with an audio commentary by director Steven Cantor, producer Matthew Galkin, and editor Pax Wasserman, while disc 2 delivers a pair of featurettes: Family Unfiltered is a 9-minute "intro piece" that gives you just a taste of what the Evangalista clan is like. Family Business is another 9-minute introductory segment in which Big Tom and his three musketeers discuss the world of bail bondsmanship. Rounding out the extras is a Family Photo Album.
Throughout the first few episodes, I figured Family Bonds was constructed for the viewer to laugh at the rather crazy clan. But as I crept closer to the last couple of episodes, I began to realize that I actually liked these goofballs! Sure they're loud, they're vulgar, and, occasionally, they're pretty obnoxious -- which makes them exactly like millions of other families out there. But they can also be disconcertingly sweet, loyal, and just funny enough to build a documentary series around.