The War at Home: The Complete First Season DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Created by
Rob Lotterstein

Cast
Michael Rapaport ……… Dave Gold
Anita Barone ……… Vicky Gold
Kaylee DeFer ……… Hillary Gold
Kyle Sullivan ……… Larry Gold
Dean Collins ……… Mike Gold
Rami Malek ……… Kenny

The Show

The family sitcom is a dying breed. In fact, many people claim that the sitcom itself, or the classic sitcom (three cameras, studio audience) is dying as a whole, ever since Friends and Frasier went off the air. Modern sitcoms like The Office and My Name is Earl seem to rule the half-hour comedy slots. It seems like no one wants to watch shows where all the problems a family has can easily solved in 21 minutes anymore; they want something different and edgy. But one show that seemed to survive that trend and carve a niche for itself is The War at Home.

Premiering in the 2005-06 fall season on Fox, The War at Home was different than many other family shows. Most families on TV have two states either perfect or completely dysfunctional. The Gold family was more realistic and down to earth. Dave and Vicky, the parents, basically love their kids, but would rather love them from afar and not have to deal with their problems. When they actually have to step up and help their kids, they don’t always know the right thing to do or say. Truth of the matter they prefer to get high on pot, or drink wine or beer instead of dealing with their kids. Their children, Hillary, Larry and Mike, realize that and do their best to avoid their mom and dad, unless it’s a real emergency, like Mike’s penis almost falling off from constant self pleasuring.

Since the first episode, it was clear that this was a series worth following. By opening with a plot where Larry, the middle child, prefer his parents think he’s a transvestite instead of finding out he stole their car and Hillary pretends to date a black guy named Booty just so her parents would let her date a college guy, the message was clear: This show will break the normal TV family boundaries. Yes, the Fox network had previously a show where the family was even worse, Married with Children, but that show felt more like a cartoon while The War at Home was going for the more realistic approach. During the first season the show tackled many issues that families deal with kids having sex, drugs, self esteem issues, sexual orientations, relationships etc. What was different is usually the show didn’t take the sanctimonious approach, where it’s bad to drink, smoke, have sex and do drugs on this show the parents were doing all those things, not just the kids, so how can it be a bad thing?

The writing on the show is excellent. Rob Lotterstein, the creator (who also worked on Will & Grace), says, on the documentary that is part of this box set, that he based the show on his own teenage experiences, and he based Larry on himself, with the only difference is that Larry will probably grow up to be straight. Lotterstein adds “When I was a teenage kid, all I wanted to do was having sex and drinking and smoking pot. Where’s the TV show with those kids on it?”, so he went and created that show.

But writing isn’t everything. The main characters, of Dave and Vicky, are played by Michael Rapaport and Anita Barone. They play them very well, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing those roles. Rapaport is very believable as the middle-aged, middle class father who hates his job but has to go there in order to escape his family. In fact, sometimes when talking about the show with friends, we just call it Rapaport rather than The War at Home. Barone is just great as the mother who prefers to hide in the garage and have a smoke instead of listening to her kids fighting. They look and feel like the next door neighbors, as the characters demand. Their kids, played by Keylee Defer, Kyle Sullivan and Dean Collins (With Rami Malek as the gay neighbor child who has a crush on Larry) are also great.

The show’s trademark is the confessionals. Every once in a while it cuts to a scene where a character talks directly to the camera and tells us how they really feel about something. Sometimes it’s expected but in many cases those cut scenes have some of the best jokes on the show.

All in all, the first season of The War at Home was a breath of fresh air to the genre of the family sitcoms. It made sure to bring what so many sitcoms neglected laughs. Because that’s what comedies are about, making us laugh. If only more shows remembered that.

Episodes

Disc 1

“Pilot”: Dave won’t allow Hillary to date a college student so she brings home someone else, hoping her parents will cave in. Larry think of a plan to get girls but it involves wearing his mother’s cloths which is a bit risky, considering Dave already thinks he’s gay.

“I.M. What I.M.”: Is cybersex considered cheating? Dave doesn’t think so, but Vicky does. Meanwhile, Hillary is upset because Tay won’t give it up despite all her efforts.

“Guess Who’s Coming to the Barbecue”: Vicky invites Tay’s parents over for a BBQ, where the racial issues hit the surface. Dave, however, suddenly decides the kids should continue dating so he’ll be able to play golf with Tay’s dad. Mike is busy with chronic auto-eroticism that his thing almost comes off.

“High Crimes”: Dave thinks Hillary’s having sex, but it turns out she’s just trying to be nice to him. Everyone smokes pot in this episode, including Vicky’s mom, who’s more fun when she’s high than Vicky is.

“Dave Get Your Gun”: Larry can’t seem to catch a break as his parents are back to thinking he’s gay after they see him kiss what they think is a guy. Hillary has an image problem she has to deal with at school.

“The Bigger They Come”: Hillary wants to get breast implants and brings home one of her enhanced friends to meet Dave. Larry finally has a girlfriend but it seems Dave would rather have him date guys than Marla.

“Like a Virgin”: Dave thinks Hillary is about to start having sex (again) and freaks out about it (again). Kenny is jealous of Marla so he tries to get her and Larry to break up.

Disc 2

“Cheers”: In order to teach their kids a lesson about drinking, Dave and Vicky decides that their home will now be alcohol free, but being who they are, they can’t handle this decision. Larry, feeling guilty about hitting a bird, decides to become a vegetarian.

“The Empire Spanks Back”: Dave think the kids are acting up too much, so he implements a zero tolerance policy. When Larry becomes the first victim of that policy and gets spanked, he moves out of the house and in with Kenny, and calls the child protective services on his dad.

“Breaking Up is Hard to Do”: Dave tries to break up two couples, Vicky’s mom and her new boyfriend and Hillary and her new boyfriend (who has a child). Larry develops an interest in baseball cards, but not the kind of interest Dave approves of.

“It’s a Living”: Vicky decides to fulfill herself by going back to the fashion business but the house can’t cope with her being away for so long. Mike has a chance to join the honor class and Larry takes credit for Kenny’s work.

“Three’s Company”: An old college friend of Dave and Vicky comes for a visit and it turns out both of them have a history with her.

“Gimme a Break”: Vicky ends up leaving her new job after office politics force her out. It’s a blessing, as Dave couldn’t handle life without her at home to take care of everything.

“How Do You Spell Relief?”: Larry is finally a winner, but not at sports. One of the Gold ladies may be pregnant, and Mike takes the easy road and buys book reports from Hillary.

“Looney Tunes”:Dave and Vicky suspect that Mike has some serious emotional troubles. Mike decides to milk it for everything its worth, until a therapist comes into play.

Disc 3

“Oh, Grow Up”: Dave is terrified to hear that Vicky’s and Hillary’s gynecologist is an old school friend, one who went by the name of the “devirginator”.

“The Seventeen-Year Itch”: A new sexy coworker comes on to Dave, but only because she wants to set him up with her mother. While this goes on, all the boys in Mike’s class develop a crush on Vicky.

“13 Going on $30,000”: Mike decides to embrace his Jewish heritage and wants a Bar-Mitzvah, so he’ll get gifts and money, but Dave won’t make it easy for him.

Snow Job: Hillary tricks Vicky into letting her go on a ski trip without Dave’s knowledge, but it backfires on both of them when Hillary ends up in the ER.

“Drive Me Crazy”: Dave teaches Hillary to drive and takes the fall for her when she screws up. However, she’s not as appreciative as he expects. Also, Dave and Mike bond over some online gambling and Vicky’s messes up Larry’s summer plans.

“Runaways”: Vicky starts to question her parenting skills after Larry leaves home when she won’t give in to one of his demands.

“The West Palm Beach Story”: Dave takes the family to Florida to spend time with his parents, but no one seems to enjoy it. It also gives him the opportunity to learn how much he takes after his dad when it comes to parenting.

The DVD

This release contains three discs in two slim cases. The episodes appear in a different order than the original airing on TV this is supposed to reflect the vision of the show’s creator. The new order does make more sense in some cases, but in other it doesn’t really matter. It should be noted that there are no subtitles, closed captioning or audio tracks other than English, so if you’re hearing impaired or don’t speak English well, don’t bother getting this set

The Video
It looked good on TV and looks good on DVD. There wasn’t much need for an upgrade, as it looks colorful and vibrant.

The Audio
The basic of all transfers 2.0 sound. Doesn’t really matter as it’s mostly dialogue, but it would have been nice to get surround sounds in some cases, like the opening scenes of the pilot.

Special Features
Deleted Scenes: There are a few episodes that contain extra footage. It doesn’t really add much to those episodes but it also doesn’t hurt the flow, so it’s nice but not really significant.

Documentary: Living Room Confessions is a 16-minute documentary featuring the cast and crew as they talk about the show, the casting process and the creative journey. It’s a nice piece, especially since it incorporates the gimmick of the show, by having everyone give “real” confessions of how they truly feel about the show and fellow workers that spliced together with their “formal” answers.

Gag Reel: The standard bloopers collection, about seven minutes of it.

The Inside Pulse

The War at Home was one of the few sitcoms in the last couple of years that not only managed to finish their first season, but also get picked up for another. That’s a hard task on any other network, but especially on Fox, which is quick to cancel shows, sometimes after only two episodes. The War at Home earned it by being funny and topical. The issues dealt with on the show are always relevant, not only in the US but everywhere. Watching the first season now on DVD, I found it just as funny as I did when it first aired. The War at Home (Together with How I met Your Mother which came on at the same time) proved that there’s still hope for the classic sitcom, it just needs the right ideas and performers.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
The War at Home: The Complete First Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

8
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

7
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)