Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Another One For Syndication: Mad About You Season Two Is Average Television/DVD.

The Good: Some amusing moments, Decent character development
The Bad: Acting is average, Plots are very sitcommy, No DVD bonus features
The Basics: A very average season of television on DVD, Mad About You Season 2 is fun to watch, but hard to recommend buying.

In the rush to bring DVDs to market, I wonder how frequently the market is actually evaluated for the need for such things. Sometimes, there is a clear demand: when Family Guy was taken off the air and fans clamored for the episodes, they illustrated that there was a desire for the DVD sets and new episodes. And the smashing success of Firefly (reviewed here!) was enough to get a feature film on the series made. But, with shows in syndication like Two And A Half Men and Everybody Loves Raymond, where the DVD releases offer little outside what fans see on television, I often find myself wondering why they even bother with a DVD release. Truth be told, I'm there now with the second season of Mad About You, a show I enjoyed while it was on, but when I rewatched it on DVD, I realized I hadn't truly missed the program.

Following the first year of their marriage together, Mad About You Season Two follows the life and times of Jamie and Paul Buchman, a New York City couple who still is getting used to being married and spending their lives together. Paul, a film director, and Jamie, a producer who soon finds herself unemployed, are figuring out their relationship while surrounded by Jamie's friend Fran, her sister Lisa and Paul's cousin Ira. The couple lives in an apartment with their dog, Murray, and continues to discover their love for one another and the struggles that come with being married (except, improbably enough, money issues while living in one of the most expensive cities on Earth).

In the second season of the show, Lisa loses Murray, Paul and Jamie have to endure two months apart where their marriage only comes into play on the weekends and Ira finally gets divorced from his absent wife. Paul and Jamie try to find time to be intimate and one time they do - making a tape in the process - they inadvertently send their sex tape to a studio in place of Paul's latest documentary! They have issues with their families, like Lisa calling Jamie an overbearing sister in a book published by her therapist, Paul's father having a cardiac incident and both Jamie and Paul's mothers getting into a fight.

Throughout the season, there is a conscious decision to not have children between the pair as they focus on their careers and on keeping up their romance with one another. Jamie's career takes a turn when she insults her boss at dinner, not knowing he is seated behind her. Paul's career continues to grow as he is given increasingly better opportunities to pursue. In the process of finding time together, they surprise one another, travel together and debate on philosophies like fate vs. self-determination.

Mad About You seems to be a sitcom which is very sit-commy. In other words, all of the humor truly does seem to come from the situations the pair finds themselves in, like Paul scrambling on Jamie's first day of school to get her registered when he realizes he forgot to mail in the registration materials. The situations are often laughable, as is the body language of lead actors Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. The show looks good, but the characters only have minimal development over the course of the season, so this is more a show about the situations the pair finds themselves in.

To wit, after rewatching the second season, none of the writing stands out for me. My partner and I have watched hundreds of hours of television since we first watched the second season of Frasier (reviewed here!) together, but I can still say "Dad wanted to tell you, but I won the coin toss" and we both burst out laughing because we recall the exact episode and circumstances that quote comes from. But even after immediately concluding the second season of Mad About You, there were no lines that were as sharp, clever or funny that evoked laughter from us. Instead, this is a comedy I found myself smiling at more than actually laughing out loud with.

Even so, it helps to know the trials and tribulations of the main characters to make a decision about whether or not this season is for you. And in the second season of Mad About You, the principle characters are:

Paul Buchman - After squeezing in time to make love with Jamie, he misses taking his nephew out for Halloween because of his shooting schedule. He takes on a problematic producer and ends up getting a job in Chicago for two months. He becomes curious about mortality when another Paul Buchman dies and he debates how his relationship with Jamie was (or not) preordained,

Jamie Buchman - Is thrilled to try to earn points with Sylvia (Paul's mother) when Paul's father has a heart attack. She squabbles with Lisa, especially over her place in Lisa's therapist's book and she gives Paul a haircut - and edits one of his films - while bored. She believes it was fate that brought her and Paul together,

Lisa - Loses Murray and gets referenced (under a pseudonym) in her therapist's book. She plays her mother and Paul's against each other for her benefit and she actually comes to Paul's aid when Paul forgets to put in Jamie's registration forms,

Fran - No longer with her husband, she finds herself shocked when she is late and who she hooked up with to get that way surprises everyone! She remains friends with both Paul and Jamie,

and Ira - Able to treat Paul, Jamie and Fran to a weekend in Atlantic City - which is a ruse by his wife to get him to sign divorce papers, he drifts. He gets Paul interested in virtual reality through a simulation involving Christie Brinkley. And he begins a relationship with Fran which gives him a chance to grow some.

But, more often than not, Mad About You in its second season is about the situations the characters fall into and how they become resolved, as opposed to excessively evolving the characters. So, for example, Lisa is as unobservant and self-absorbed in "Murray's Tale" (where she returns from walking Murray with a completely different dog) as she is in the season finale. This is not to say some of the plots are not hilarious, because "Disorientation" is actually very funny. But even by this season, the show feels like it is going with cliche plots for romantic comedies involving couples, like "Paul Is Dead" where another Paul Buchman dies (it's been done on virtually every sitcom) and "Love Letters" where the couple finds letters between a couple whose romance mirrors their own.

The acting in Mad About You Season Two is good, but none of the principles expand upon what we've already seen as their range in this season. As a result, watching this season feels more like returning to good friends, as opposed to watching something truly new.

On DVD, there are no bonus features, so fans do not get anything they do not already get through seeing the syndicated versions of the episodes.

Ultimately, Mad About You is very average in its second season and those who love sitcom television will find it amusing, even if not enduring.

For other works featuring John Pankos, please check out my reviews of:
Morning Glory
Bride Wars
Mad About You - Season 1


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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