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Grounded for Life: The Complete Series DVD Review

Grounded for Life: The Complete Series

September 25, 2012

Director: Gary Halvorson, Ken Kwapis, Paul Lazarus,
Starring: Donal Logue, Megyn Price, Kevin Corrigan, Lynsey Bartilson, Griffin Frazen, Jake Burbage, Bret Harrison, Richard Riehle,

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DVD Review

For years, independent film actors Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve) and Kevin Corrigan (Living in Oblivion) toiled away in Hollywood films playing scene-stealing supporting characters while enjoying much more substantial roles in indie fare. By 2001, fans of both of these actors would be in for a treat when they starred in a sitcom together. Grounded for Life debuted as a mid-season replacement on the FOX Network where it ran for two seasons before being canceled only to be picked up by the WB Network for three more. Created by Bill Martin and Mike Schiff (3rd Rock from the Sun), the show chronicles the trials and tribulations of a working class Irish Catholic family living in Staten Island, New York.

Sean (Logue) and Claudia (Price) Finnerty got pregnant and married at an early age. They’re now in their 30s with three kids: two precocious boys – Jimmy (Frazen) and Henry (Burbage) – and Lily (Bartilson), a mercurial teenage girl. Added to the mix is Eddie (Corrigan), Sean’s ne’er-do-well brother and their strict father (Riehle). At times, Grounded for Life comes across as a slightly hipper version of Roseanne with Logue and Corrigan giving it indie cred. Not surprisingly they are the best thing about the show with Logue acting flustered when his kids do something bad and Corrigan playing the slightly creepy uncle always cooking up scams (like hooking up illegal cable in the pilot episode).

Logue has a real knack for physical comedy while Corrigan has an offbeat style of delivering his dialogue. Together, they make this traditional sitcom worth watching. However, the show’s secret weapon may very well be Megyn Price who brings an earthy sexiness to her role and has excellent comic timing. She plays well off of Logue and they are quite believable as parents making it up as they go along. Amazingly, they have chemistry right from the first episode.

One of the better episodes in the first season features Sean and Claudia going to see the Ramones with their kids even though one of them has to finish a school project and gets in trouble as a result. In a nice twist, it is the parents who are irresponsible, not the kids. The highlight of the episode is when Sean gets into an argument with a nun over the artistic merit of the Ramones.

One of the highlights of season two is “Bang on the Drum,” which sees Sean and Eddie reform their old band to play at a wedding reception. Predictably, things go badly and Sean goes back home, complaining of “creative differences.” Claudia tries to convince him to come back and via flashbacks we see how it all went down. There are sly references to This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and it’s fun to see Logue and Corrigan “rocking” out together. Meanwhile, Jimmy convinces Henry that he’s a robot.

Season three marked the final one on Fox as they switched to the WB mid-way through the run. Sean quits his job and buys a bar with Eddie. In “Claudia in Disguise (with Glasses),” Eddie helps Lily figure out what present her boyfriend (Mike Vogel) is getting for her birthday. Meanwhile, Claudia loses her contacts and embarrasses herself at a wedding reception with hilarious results. The ensuing hijinks give Price an opportunity to show off her knack for physical comedy.

“I Right the Wrong” is one of the more memorable episodes of season four. Brad is getting teased at school and is frustrated that he and Lily are keeping their relationship on the down-low because she’s embarrassed by his geekiness. There’s a funny montage of Sean trying to de-geek-ify Brad. When a bully takes Brad’s money, Sean and Eddie help him exact revenge with hilarious results as things go predictably awry.

Finally, one of the stand-out episodes from season five is “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” which sees Eddie working on his stand-up comedy routine with Lily’s help. A pregnant Claudia is self-conscious of her looks and is driving Sean crazy. We get to see Eddie do some of his routine and Corrigan is definitely in his element, here.

Special Features:

Season One, disc two features the extras for season one. Everything from the previous box set is included with the notable exception of the audio commentaries on various episodes.

“Donal Logue: Meet the Finnertys” features the actor talking about his character and how he put a lot of himself in Sean. Logue talks about working with Megyn Price and sings her praises. He also speaks highly of Kevin Corrigan. There are loads of clips from the show mixed in with soundbites from Logue.

“Claudia: Not the Sitcom Mom” features the actress speaking fondly about her character and the show. She said that the producers felt she was too young at the time to play Claudia but got the role anyway. Price talks about working with the other cast members.

“Lynsey Bartilson: Life with Lily” She claims that the bitchy part of her character was the most fun to play. Naturally, she talks about working with her television parents and what she thought of them.

“A Collaboration is Born: Mike Schiff and Bill Martin” The two creators of the show talk about how they met and cut their teeth writing for 3rd Rock from the Sun. They also talk about the various characters and how they cast the show.

Grounded for Life: The Bloopers” is a funny collection of the cast blowing lines and goofing around with Logue adlibbing like crazy.

Grounded for Life: Parents in Training” features highlights of Sean and Claudia’s not so better moments as parents but with hilarious results.

Season Two, disc three features “Grounded for Life: From Ashes to Ashton” with an interview with Ashton Kutcher who plays Sean’s cousin in an episode. He talks about his character and his relationship to the rest of the cast.

“Kevin Corrigan: He Ain’t Eddie, He’s My Brother” is an interview with this consummate character actor. He offers his take on Eddie, including envisioning him a mix of Larry from Three’s Company and Lenny from Laverne & Shirley. He also provides a refreshingly candid view of sitcoms and how he approached filming the show.

Grounded for Life: Sibling Revelry” takes a look at the relationship between the two kids – Jimmy and Henry. Griffin Frazen and Jake Burbage talk about their characters and an episode they happen to be filming at the time.

Grounded for Life Season 2: The Bloopers” is an amusing collection of blown lines and the cast cracking each other up.

Grounded for Life Season 2: Highlights” is an 11-minute montage of clips from the season that focuses on some of the most memorable bits.

Season Three, disc one includes a commentary on “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with co-creators Mike Schiff and Bill Martin, actress Lynsey Bartilson, supervising producer Aron Abrams, executive producer Ned Goldreyer, and writer Chris Kelly. The talk about how the characters underwent a big change with Sean quitting his job and buying a bar with Eddie.

There is a commentary for “Cat Scratch Fever” with Schiff, Abrams, Kelly, Goldreyer, and writer Gregory Thompson. They dish the backstory to this episode and how the network wanted a new female character introduced.

Also included is a commentary for “Drive Me Crazy” by Schiff, Bartilson, actress Miriam Flynn, Martin, actor Chris Hogan, and Kelly. This was the first episode that aired on the WB network and executives felt that the family had to be re-introduced for new viewers.

There is a commentary for “Henry’s Been Working for the Drug Squad” with Martin, Kelly, Hogan, Goldreyer, Flynn, and Bartilson. They talk about the genesis of the episode and joke and offer many filming anecdotes.

Season Three, disc two starts off with a commentary for “Claudia in Disguise (with Glasses) by Thompson, Abrams, Goldreyer, Kelly, and Schiff. They talk about the writing of the episode and how they pick the right scripts.

Also included is a commentary for “Tonight’s the Night” with Bartilson, Schiff, Thompson, Abrams, Goldreyer and Martin. They talk about how Lily is the focus on this episode.

Season Four, disc one features a commentary for “Your Father Should Know: Part 1” with Schiff, Martin, Kelly, and actor Donal Logue. They talk about how this episode was shot months before it actually aired because they switched from Fox to the WB. Logue cracks some funny jokes and enlivens this track greatly.

Also included is a commentary for “Pay You Back with Interest” with Schiff and Martin. They talk about Kevin Corrigan’s dislike of his character driving an SUV and how they stuck him with a clunker in this episode. They also point out continuity errors.

Season Four, disc two includes a commentary for “Communication Breakdown” by actor Griffin Frazen, Schiff, Martin, and Kelly. They talk about the episode’s prevailing theme of lack of communication between the characters.

Season Four, disc three features a commentary for “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Schiff, actor Bret Harrison, Bartilson, Kelly, and writer Erica Rivinoja. Harrison provides some good, dry humor while Bartilson acts wacky on this sometimes chaotic track.

Season Four, disc four includes a commentary for “Space Camp Oddity” with Bartilson, Kelly, Rivinoja, Schiff, Harrison, and Martin. They explain why Claudia’s voice is so hoarse and crack jokes with each other. They also talk about working with guest star Mila Kunis.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 84%

Website: http://www.carseywerner.com/grounded.html

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