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The American sitcom is somewhat of an endangered species in television these days. Serial dramas and reality TV shows clutter the networks’ primetime line-ups leaving little room for family comedies. This is what made ‘What I Like About You’ so appealing to me when it first premiered on The WB back in 2002. Unfortunately, the series became a casualty of the merge between The WB and UPN. While The CW decided not to pick up ‘What I Like About You’ for a fifth season last fall, Warner Brothers is slowly making the series available on DVD.
The first season of ‘What I Like About You’ starts out with Holly Tyler (Amanda Bynes) moving in with her sister Valerie Tyler (Jennie Garth) after their parents move to Japan. The two share a Manhattan apartment and gradually learn how to get along as sisters and friends. Despite being the adult of the household, Valerie struggles with playing the role of mother to Holly, who is in the final phases of her adolescence. Co-starring in the show is Simon Rex, who plays Val’s boyfriend Jeff for most of the season and Wesley Jonathan who plays Holly’s best friend Gary.
The first half of the season is a full-on family-friendly sugar-coated sitcom. It’s cute. although adults might find it a bit too sweet. Holly is clutzy and, while her intentions are often good, she tends to make some pretty stupid decisions, which of course lead to the typical hijinks you’ll find in many sitcoms. While Holly has a more naïve, happy-go-lucky view on life, her sister Valerie prefers order and organization. The dynamic makes for some good conflicts but even that begins to get predictable after a while. For example, in the episode titled “The Teddy Bear,” Holly and Val fight over a stuffed bear they both adored when they were younger. The episode is only mildly humorous in a goofy sort of way.
Just when I started to think the rest of the season would continue down the predictable squeaky-clean path it was headed in, the show slowly started to turn a corner. It almost felt like the writers began to realize that if they continued recycling silly sitcom scenarios and canned-laughter jokes, there would be nothing left for a second season. Throughout the remainder of the season, the characters and the situations they’re put in become much less predictable. An actual story begins to develop, mostly centering on Val and Holly’s love lives. The humor and story content becomes a bit more adult oriented too, which is why I’d recommend the series to families with kids in their early teens and older. In one episode, titled “The Other Woman,” Holly becomes friends with Jeff’s exgirlfriend, Dana (played by Rebecca Gayheart). Jeff tries to convince Holly that despite Dana’s success and endless social connections, she’s not a good person and that hanging out with her would upset Val if she were to find out. The episode is funny and actually serves to help develop Holly’s character a bit.
The thing that stays consistent throughout the entire season is Amanda Bynes’ adorable knack for physical comedy. Based on what I’ve seen her in aside from this series, I’m not sure I could say she has all that much range as an actress but she does have a strong ability to deliver a funny line and couple it with the right body language and facial expressions. Meanwhile, Garth is almost unrecognizable as Val, compared to her role as Kelly Taylor in ‘Beverly Hills, 90210.’
Overall, I found myself enjoying the first season of ‘What I Like About You’ more and more with each episode and I’m looking forward to season 2 when that becomes available on DVD.
Generally, when it comes to buying a TV show on DVD, it needs to be a season of a show I plan to watch at least twice within the next three years for me to pick it up. After sitting through the entire first season of the WB series ‘What I Like About You,’ I determined that this probably wasn't a DVD set I would’ve purchased on a whim but I’m sure I’ll have the urge to rewatch it in the future.
In terms of special features, the only thing this DVD set offers is an option for French subtitles and a gag reel. Given the light-hearted nature of the series, the gag reel has quite a few goofy moments.
One thing I did notice about the DVD set, especially towards the end of the season is that some of the episodes are out of order. They’re arranged by airdate though it appears The WB rearranged the season when it originally aired for some reason and decided not to correct it for the DVD set. If this was going on at the beginning of the season, I didn’t notice. Then again, like I said, the earlier episodes were of the stand-alone variety, which would’ve allowed the network to air certain episodes out of order without it being noticed by the viewers. Towards the end of the season when the story became a bit more serialized, the order of the episodes becomes more important. The most noticeable example of this came when one episode (“Valentine’s Day”) ended with Valerie and Jeff having a major disagreement (one that could make or break their relationship). In the episode that followed (“Holly’s First Job”), everything was back to normal, as though nothing had happened. The episode that came after that (“The Breakup”) picked up where “Valentine’s Day” left off. It was pretty obvious that “Holly’s First Job” should’ve aired much earlier than it did.
The first season of ‘What I Like About You’ would be worth owning if you’re the type of person who enjoys the simplicity of a humorous family-oriented half-hour comedy. While I wouldn’t say all of the episodes are worth watching more than once, there are some that are enjoyable enough to rewatch if you’re looking for some light comedy and good mostly-clean fun.
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