Saturday, March 30, 2013

TV Show Review: Reba - Season 1

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny look at some serious issues
Cons: Could trivialize those issues, Barbra Jean's hypocrisy
The Bottom Line:
Serious issues
Background for funny sitcom
Still well worth watching

A Family Sitcom for Today's Family

I must admit, I almost let Reba - season one pass me by. A comedy starring Reba McEntire? How good could it be? Okay, so I'm not a fan of the country music singer, but I wasn't willing to give this show a chance. Then one Friday night, I was bored and decided to watch an episode. I found myself laughing hard before the opening credits. The show immediately went on my list of must sees and I enjoyed it for its entire run.

Reba Hart's (Reba McEntire) life is not turning out the way she had planned. Instead of the trial separation from her dentist husband Brock (Christopher Rich) ending in him moving back home, she learns that he has impregnated his dental hygienist Barbra Jean (Melissa Peterman). As if that weren't bad enough, she also learns that her 17-year-old drill team captain daughter Cheyenne (Joanna Garcia) is also pregnant, courtesy of her boyfriend and the captain of the football team, Van Montgomery (Steve Howey).

Naturally, this leads to lots of upheaval. While Brock and Reba divorce so Brock can marry Barbra Jean, Cheyenne and Van get married and move in with Reba to finish their senior year of high school. And Reba needs to keep it together for her two younger kids, smart and sarcastic Kyra (Scarlett Pomers), and six-year-old Jake (Mitch Holleman).

Adultery, divorce, and teen pregnancy. Am I sure this is a comedy?

As unlikely as it seems, it is. And it really is very funny. The writers manage to find ways to turn these hard topics into fodder for laughs. Heck, even the pilot, which sets all this up so well, is chock full of jokes and one-liners.

And I think that is a secret to the show. While none of the characters come right out and say it, they seem to come from the "If I don't laugh I'll cry" school of life. Reba leads this, and she always seems to have a sarcastic comment or put down, especially if Barbra Jean is the target. Kyra, always my favorite character, already has the sarcasm I absolutely loved. Cheyenne and Van can be a bit clueless at times, but they always mean well. Barbra Jean is completely clueless most of the time. Heck, she doesn't see why she and Reba can't be friends. And they make Brock human by showing his desire to do the right thing even after all the problems he has caused. He's trying, in his own way, to make things as easy for everyone as he can.

Obviously, the characters work because the actors do a great job. As a cast, they gel from the pilot. Some of the behind the scenes things I've seen make this seem like a very close cast, and the results show on screen. Reba sets the tone. It's obvious she is enjoying herself, and her reactions to events are often priceless. Granted, she does have a hard time with the tenderer, emotional moments, but that's a minor complaint. There isn't a weak link with the rest of the cast. Even Mitch is a great actor for a six year old.

Being a sit com, some of the serious subjects dealt with come across a little too softly. Consequences that might occur in real life are brought up, but all problems are solved in 22 minutes with laughs, jokes, and a hug or two. I will admit at times that does bug me. But it is the nature of the format.

While the show calls itself a family sit com, this isn't a show I would let my kids watch by themselves. There are occasional off color jokes. Plus, the subject matter is very mature. This is something I'd watch with older kids and use as a tool to open discussion of various issues brought up on the show.

My other complaint about this season is Barbra Jean. Here, they really play up her church attendance and Christianity. And yet she doesn't seem to get the fact that she's an adulterer. Fortunately, this hypocrisy is played down in later seasons.

The first season consisted of 22 episodes, and the set includes all 22 of them on three double sided discs. There are three audio commentaries by various cast and crew members, most of which don't tell you too much but are fun to listen to. There are a couple deleted scenes included as well. The majority of the special features are on the final disc. The "On the Scene with Barbra Jean" featurette is rather stupid, but the one about creating the show and the conversation between Reba McEntire and Melissa Peterman was worth watching. And you've got to love bloopers.

If you let this sit com go without watching, give it a chance. In Reba - season one you'll find great characters and funny situations that will have you laughing before you know what hit you.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pilot
2. The Honeymoon's Over or Now What?
3. Someone's at the Gyno with Reba
4. You Make Me Sick
5. The Steaks are High
6. The Man and the Moon
7. Tea and Antipathy
8. Don't Know Much About History
9. Every Picture Tells a Story
10. When Good Credit Goes Bad
11. Meet the Parents
12. A Mid-Semester Night's Dream
13. Brock's Swan Song
14. The Story of a Divorce
15. You May Kick the Bride
16. Vanny Dearest
17. He's Having a Baby
18. She Works Hard for Their Money
19. Labor of Love
20. The King and I
21. Up a Treehouse Without a Paddle
22. It Ain't Over Till the Redhead Sings

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