Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Once and Again": Initial Thoughts

I'm about three-and-a-half episodes into the Season One DVD set of Once and Again that I bought a short while ago, and I'm really enjoying it. This is one of the few TV shows I want to own on DVD (Scrubs being the other big one, with Millennium's season two also on the list). No, I'm not watching Once in a great hurry, because...well, I want it to take a while. I don't want to plow through the whole thing in as short a time as possible. So I'm rationing it, a bit at a time. Kind of like how Rick and Lily have to ration out their romance at the outset, a bit at a time. Complete with interruptions.

For those who don't know what Once and Again was all about -- and given the show's anemic ratings when it was on and the fact that it was cancelled three years ago, that's probably most of you -- it was a one-hour drama on ABC, lasting three seasons before the final descent of the axe, which took the basic idea of The Brady Bunch and then also took that basic idea seriously. It took a divorced father with two kids and a divorced mother (well, not quite divorced yet) with two kids and had them fall in love. And then it followed not only the tale of their burgeoning romance, but also its effects on the other people involved, who also tended as real people do to have problems of their own.

I didn't start watching Once until, oh, two-thirds of the way through the first season, so all of the episodes I've seen thus far are totally new to me. What strikes me in these opening shows is the way the typical cliches in romantic dramas about divorcees are present: the woman's ex is a cheater and not the most reliable father, and the man's ex is a hyper-anal control freak. Yup, got it. Only Once doesn't allow things to lie like that. We quickly see that Rick and Lily have problems of their own, and that Jake and Karen -- the ex's, who are major supporting characters on Once -- may have had good reasons of their own to wish for their respective marriages to end. Once and Again just doesn't take the easy way out, whether it's showing Rick failing to really come to grips with his son's increasingly apparent academic troubles, or Lily's cringe-worthy attempts to convince her self-esteem-challenged daughter Grace that she actually is pretty.

Once and Again also uses a nice storytelling device of intercutting the action with "interviews" of the characters, in a one-on-one basis. In this way we get to know the characters even better than we normally would, as they express thoughts and feelings in their "confessionals" that they then work hard to conceal in their real-life moments.

And yes, I'll probably babble more about Once and Again as I go through the episodes. Because what's a blog for, if you can't beat a single topic into the ground?

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