Plot: What’s it about?
Rick (Billy Campbell) is a divorced man with two children, while Lilly (Sela Ward) also has two children and just become separated from her own spouse. After she tired of her husband’s wanderings and decided to take some time off, Lilly was certain she was simply too old to go through the process one more time. But when she meets Rick, she realizes time hasn’t passed her just yet and by turn, Rick sees her as what he’s always needed. With both just out of marriages, that means the road won’t be a smooth or simple one, but based on the intense and deep emotions involved, they forge a relationship amid the chaos. This choice sends shockwaves throughout each of their lives of course, but also through the lives of their children, ex’s, friends, and everyone else who is part of their lives. So while their children haven’t even recovered from the divorce yet, they know have a new parental figure in their lives, not to mention the opposite partner’s own children. It seems like an odd and perhaps even impossible time for true romance to bloom, but Rick and Lilly plan to do whatever it takes, as their love has been true from the start.
As this show was from the creators of thirtysomething and My So-Called Life, I knew it would be better than most prime time trash and of course, it was and then some. Once and Again wasn’t able to hit the same kind of nerves as those two shows, but it was an excellent series and had three solid seasons. The later episodes, the ones closer to the end of the run, taper off a lot, but this inaugural season was close to television magic. The characters are well written from top to bottom, with complex issues that mirror the kind we see in real life, but never the kind seen on some shows, the kind that seem implausible. Yes, these folks make decisions that impact their entire lives, but the decisions aren’t as black & white as in most dramatic programs. Thanks to this real world approach, the emotion stays realistic and effective. So even when we’re taken through a wide scope of emotional turns, we remain right behind the characters, since the events and people are so well developed. I think the directions taken in later seasons would limit this somewhat, but that’s because the perspective narrows, with mostly a female outlook, whereas here we see things from all angles, even from the teenagers eyes. Even so, this first season is an almost landmark and without question, is well worth a look in this collection.
As part of Buena Vista’s first move into television programs on DVD, we saw Sports Night, Felicity, and of course, Once and Again released. I think fans of all three were delighted to see entire seasons issued at once (or the entire series with Sports Night), but overall, these sets can’t match up to the better handled television projects. As Fox has set the standard with The X-Files and The Simpsons, we’ve come to expect some extras with these expensive releases, but we’re left out in the cold this time around. Once and Again was given no supplements of any kind, no additional audio tracks, interviews, or even bland promotional materials. But the price is halfway decent for what is included, with all twenty episodes from the riveting first season included here. The episodes have been spread across six discs and that evens out to about four episodes per disc, a nice amount of content that doesn’t hinder the presentation. As this is by far the finest of the three seasons, I do wish some extras were tacked on, but let’s hope the other two sets arrive soon and perhaps then, a couple of bonus goodies will be slapped inside the box.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. This looks as good as it did when shown on television, with enhanced sharpness to up the ante a shade. The image is clean and very sharp, a solid looking presentation that should please fans. The show has some decent visuals to soak in, but remains mostly basic in approach, so while the episodes look good, they won’t dazzle the audience. But colors come through in bold and beautiful form, while contrast is stark and provides well balanced black levels at all times. Not a dynamic visual effort, but a solid one and in truth, we couldn’t ask for much more here.
Audio: How does it sound?
A basic, but acceptable 2.0 surround option is used here, which seems to be adequate, though unimpressive. As this is a dialogue driven drama however, I’m not sure how much more we could expect in terms of audio presence. The surround channels are usually silent, but are sometimes used to enhance atmosphere and the musical soundtrack, though even then you won’t be overly joyed with the results. The dialogue is smooth and crisp also, which is good news, since the writing is so superb in this series. This release also includes English subtitles, in case you need to enable those at some point.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release includes no supplements.