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The Complete First Season
Running Time: 999 minutes
Starring: Stephen Collins, Catherine Hicks, Barry Watson, Jessica Biel, Beverley Mitchell, David Gallagher, Mackenzie Rosman
Retail Price: $69.99
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Stereo Surround, French Stereo, English Closed Captions, Episode Selection, Chapter Stops (6 chapters per episode), Six-Disc Set
Released: September 14th, 2004
Aaron Spelling - prolific TV producer. Best known for some of television's most memorable prime-time soap operas and action-adventures: "Charlie's Angels," "Dynasty," "Beverly Hills 90210"... the list goes on and on. Which is why it was a shock to many when Spelling attached himself to a family-oriented show with morals and decent values. The show of course was "7th Heaven." It was an interesting change of pace for Spelling, but if anything it's this: the man certainly believes in solid entertainment for different kinds of audiences. He conquered every demographic in the past with his shows, so why not families?
I'm sure most of you know that "7th Heaven" has been a WB staple since its inception in 1996, scoring strong ratings and an incredibly dedicated fan base. Currently entering its 9th season (and nearing 200 episodes), the show has gone through some major changes in the past few years (such as shifting cast members and a focus on secondary characters) but has somehow still remained consistent with its beloved formula of everyday characters and relatable situations.
The show is situation based and character driven - some of it is serialized, but it's easy to go into an episode and know what's going on. Basically, the jist is this: the Camdens are a normal family that are tight-knit and they love each other. The family goes through all sorts of problems together or with people they know. This includes matters of faith, diseases, relationships, peer pressure and a lot more (especially as the seasons go on). There's father Eric (Stephen Collins) who's a minister, his wife Annie (Catherine Hicks), oldest son Matt (Barry Watson), tomboy daughter Mary (Jessica Biel), middle child Lucy (Beverley Mitchell), persistent son Simon (David Gallagher) and the always curious Ruthie (Mackenzie Rosman) - the youngest in the clan.
I'm not a major fan of "7th Heaven" nor do I regularly watch the show, but I've caught it now and then. It's predictable and really corny, but sometimes I just can't resist formulaic dramedys. And when it comes to series dealing with family, important life lessons, good values and strong morals - this show is as good as they get. Sometimes cheese is good, and this show is fun since it's familiar and offers something to take away from it (even if you already know the point the show is trying to make). No, the series hasn't garnered any major awards (or even major nominations) but to quote Satan it "keeps America smiling" (bonus points to you if you know what I'm referencing). I can see girls and families loving this show, but for me (and I'm sure others) it's really just a guilty pleasure that's a more-than-decent escape for an hour. Still, I can't knock a show that has hits priorities straight (with what it's trying to preach, anyway) and balances the drama and humor pretty flawlessly. People really identify with this show and are quite passionate about it. Probably due to the religious backdrop, this show has grown comparisons to the CBS mega-hit "Touched By Angel" (except "7th Heaven" - while having mainly Christian characters - is less Christany) - it's easy to see why since it's all clean family entertainment. The series breaks no ground whatsoever - but it must be doing a few things right since its longevity has been impressive.
The cast is pretty solid, as they really do seem like a real family - they're probably instrumental in the show's success since there is a natural chemistry between them. Most staggering to me though is just how much they've matured in the past eight years - the kids are pretty much adults now and aren't as adorable (Jessica Biel is certainly hotter now, though!) - but that's what puberty and some forms of maturity will do to you. Anyway, Collins and Hicks are commanding, strong but still kind-hearted as the two parents shepherding the household - they bring the right kind of touches to their roles, and work well together as a team. Rosman is really cutesy, but still enthusiastic and that's fine given the nature of the show. Watson captures Matt's angst well, but Gallagher is just a bit annoying as Simon (his character is the most predictable, and in fairness, the annoyance is based on how is role is slanted). Of course, Mitchell and Biel are believable and enjoyable as the daughters going through their own growing pains.
With the TV on DVD boom in full alert, "7th Heaven" has now hit DVD. Newcomers can now experience the show from the beginning, or those who have seen 'em all and watch the reruns religiously on cable can now experience the wonders of all twenty-two episodes from the 1996-1997 season all over again.
All the episodes are presented in 1.33:1 full screen and look pretty good. The transfers do seem to suffer from some artifacting but it's not too bad. The source prints of the episodes are relatively clean, but the episodes look a bit grainy. Detail isn't too spectacular, but color saturation looks nice and flesh tones are a bit off, but not by too much. I also noticed some edge halos and noise too on the episodes, but not to the point where it's distracting. These transfers could have been better, but they're not too bad after all.
There's not too much to say about the audio. The episodes are given English Dolby Stereo Surround tracks which are pretty decent. "7th Heaven" isn't a show that features a lot of actions, so the sound effects are a lot more natural and subtle since they deal with standard human actions. I will say the show's theme song and musical score sounds particularly warm on the tracks, while dialogue is easy to hear and quite clear. The audio on this series doesn't really stand out, but it's good enough for what it is. English closed captions are available, as are French stereo tracks (except for the episode "Choices" for who knows why).
Given the show's success, it's surprising that there's nothing here.
"7th Heaven" is a good show for families, and is a stark contrast to what the WB is usually stereotyped for. Die-hard fans will definitely want to own this set, but the price is pretty steep. Even though the episodes look and sound fine, there are no extras. With that said, you'll have to be pretty big Camden fan if you want to purchase this set - but I have seen the set go for around 45 dollars, which isn't too shabby.