Saturday, June 22, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Melissa & Joey - Season 1 Part 2

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some good laughs...
Cons: ...hidden behind predictable stories and jokes
The Bottom Line
Not the strongest show
But things seem to be growing
Hope it gets stronger

"I'm Taking a Bold Stand Against Needless Death."

For some reason, ABC Family decided to break up the first season of their sitcom Melissa & Joey into two halves that aired about nine months apart.  They've also released the show on DVD in those parts.  That's why, less than a month after the last episode aired, we get Melissa & Joey Season 1, Part 2 on DVD.  The show continues to be inconsistent, although it is growing on me.

The set up finds Toledo, Ohio, councilwoman Melissa Burke (Melissa Joan Hart) suddenly saddled with her teenage niece Lennox (Taylor Spreitler) and nephew Ryder (Nick Robinson) when her sister and brother-in-law are caught in a Ponzi scheme.  To help this single woman deal with the kids, she hires Joe Longo (Joseph Lawrence) as a manny (male nanny).  Joe is currently down on his luck because he worked for Melissa's relatives and has his reputation ruined in the scandal.  Rounding out the cast is Lucy DeVito in the recurring role of Melissa's assistant Stephanie.

There are eighteen episodes in this "half" of the 30 episode first season.  To start things out, Joe thinks his ex-wife wants to get back together.  When Melissa has to work with a businessman who only speaks Japanese, she has to rely on Joe as her translator.  Lennox has the potential to become a model and tries to get a job editing the school's literary blog.  Meanwhile, Ryder gets an obnoxious girlfriend who tries to micromanage his life.

Like many shows, this one is still struggling to find itself in the first season, and that's the case here.  I did feel these episodes showed more promise than those in the first half of the season.  A few produced few if any laughs, but most of them had some moments that truly made me laugh.

The storylines of the episodes are fairly predictable.  They follow traditional sitcom guidelines, so if you are looking for something new or surprising, you won't find it here.  And that predictability is one of the reasons I didn't find certain episodes that funny, the jokes were too predictable.

That predictability also shows up in the Melissa and Joe relationship.  Surprise, we've got a will they/won't they get together chemistry between the two of them.  Actually, that's a part of the show that is really starting to work.  The writers have come up with some great stories that hint at the attraction between the two main characters, but they still find ways to keep them apart.  It's very easy to root for the characters to get together and soon.  Melissa Joan Hart and Joseph Lawrence obviously have a great time playing their chemistry, and those moments are completely believable.

Honestly, most episodes give the adults a plot and the kids a sub-plot, and poor Taylor Spreitler and Nick Robinson aren't given nearly as much to do.  They make the most of what they have, however.  I really do like the storyline they started late in these episodes involving Ryder's obnoxious girlfriend, Holly.  While I didn't like her at first, the way they have played that relationship has provided some of the best laughs.  I hope they keep Rachel G. Fox around as Holly.

While none of Melissa Joan Hart's relatives have shown up yet, Matthew Lawrence appeared as Joe's brother while Andy Lawrence played one of Ryder's teachers.

Speaking of laughs, Joseph Lawrence must have decided to grow his hair back for the first time in years as these episodes aired.  But they don't air in the order filmed because in one episode, he's still bald or has very short hair, and in the next, he's got a full head of hair.  I had lots of fun watching that progression and regression as the episodes aired.

The eighteen episodes from this "half" season are included in two discs.  They're wide screen and full surround, but they are all we get.  There's nothing in the way of extras to be found here.

At best, Melissa & Joey is amusing, but part 2 of season 1 shows more promise than the early episodes did.  It still might grow into something worthy of the talents of the cast.

Season 1-2 Episodes:
1. Enemies with Benefits
2. Don't Train on My Parade
3. Lost in Translation
4. Joe Versus the Reunion
5. Toledo's Next Top Model
6. The Mel Word
7. Auction Hero
8. Waiting for Mr. Right
9. Young Love
10. Mel and Joe's Anniversary
11. Going the Distance?
12. All Politics is Local
13. The Other Longo
14. Teacher/Teacher
15. Play Ball
16. A House Divided
17. Do as I Say, Not as I Did
18. The Settlement

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