American teen dramas have never been popular. Just watch The CW on a weekday night during the Fall and Spring, and you will see a variety of dramas featuring either high-school aged teens or young people under the age of thirty trying to find themselves. More recently, the same can be said for ABC Family with their new original summer programming lineup. Just because there are lots of these shows out there, doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great shows among them. It’s just a little harder to differentiate one show from another. What does separate a good teen drama from all the rest is a great cast that has good chemistry with each other. The latest teen drama to hit the airs comes from Canada, which hasn’t had the best history in producing quality teen dramas, with the exception of Degrassi: The Next Generation. From the same people who made that show, here comes The Best Years, whose first season was largely praised and well-received by viewers. But season two has a lot of changes that doesn’t look for this promising teen drama.
The Best Years is a Canadian teen drama series set in Boston, Massachusetts. It revolves around Samantha Best (Charity Shea), who receives a scholarship to attend the fictional Ivy League school Charles University, despite bouncing between foster homes for ten years. She has to learn to deal with college life, friends, enemies, and new loves along the way. With so many things coming her way will she be able to focus on school and not let anything get in the way of her scholarship?
This series is really like every other teen drama out there today. There is nothing that really sets this show apart from others. Each episode follows Samantha and her fellow classmates as they struggle through college life. They tackle the usual subjects, including cocaine addiction, child molestation, and suicide, among others. The second season picked up eight months after season one with many season one characters gone and replaced with new characters. As you might can guess, love and the many intersecting relationships are the main focus of this season.
Season two of The Best Years looks drastically different than season one. Niall Matter, who played Trent, Athena Karkanis, who played Dawn, and Brandon Jay McLaren, who played Devon have all left the show before the start of this season. Chemistry between the main cast is the key to any teen drama, so it’s not a good sign when half of the man cast from one season doesn’t come back for another season. Besides Charity Shea, who is the star of the show, the only other main actors that are back for season two are Randal Edwards, who plays Noah, and Jennifer Miller, who plays Kathryn. That said, the acting is decent enough. None of the characters are that memorable, though, with the only actor standing out as being unique and interesting is Lauren Collins, who plays Samantha’s crazy cousin, Alicia.
The Best Years is your typical teen drama focusing on teenage and college drama. Season one of the series was beloved by many who enjoyed Degrassi: The Next Generation, since it was created by the same people. But now that it has been two years between season one and season two, things are completely different here. Half of the main cast is gone and in their place are some less memorable characters. The acting is decent enough, but the chemistry between the cast doesn’t seem to be there as much as season one. That spells trouble for a teen drama that has predictable and cliched storylines. If you like teen dramas, this might be worth checking out, but don’t start with season two. Only hardcore fans of the show will likely enjy season two of The Best Years, and even some of them might be mad about all the cast changes.
Episode 1 – Dangerous Liaisons
After heading to South America for eight months, Samantha Best returns to Charles University to find that things have changed. Trent, Dawn and Devon have all left C.U., but that doesn’t mean that Sam won’t make new friends. New students Delman, Robyn, Rich, and Poppi all arrive and shake things up. Meanwhile, Noah must sort out his feelings for Kathryn after her return.
Episode 2 – Documentary
Noah films a documentary for his film class on a subject very dear to him- Robyn. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to have enough time to give him a proper interview. This leads to Noah filming Kat and jealousy sparks. Meanwhile, Sam is failing out of her literature class and Dorothy steps in. Not knowing what exactly to do with her life, she parallels her life to her literature assignment.
Episode 3 – Dermabrasion
After receiving an assignment in class, Sam sets up a play about her thoughts and emotions to show to the students of C.U. Meanwhile, Del and Kat form an unlikely friendship when they begin picking apart their choice of friends. Robyn, exhausted from all of her medical school duties, decides to act out as well.
Episode 4 – Different Hearts
Samantha has her work cut out for her when Alicia’s antics go too far. Not only does her latest stunt make a mockery of Dorothy, but it might cost Samantha her place at C.U. Meanwhile, a bad boy named Jake arrives and stirs up trouble for everyone.
Episode 5 – Destiny
The gang at the dorm gathers together when Samantha hosts a Canadian Thanksgiving for Noah. However, Samantha and Rich’s relationship unravels. Meanwhile, Del learns that he and his family no longer have any money.
Episode 6 – Duluth, Minnesota
Sam assists Poppi in distributing condoms on campus, and Sam is surprised to find herself bonding with Jake, Alicia’s ex.
Episode 7 – Debtor’s Prison
After hearing details about her aunt’s romantic history, Sam contemplates giving Rich a second chance. Dorothy becomes the subject of Noah’s film. When Poppi’s dad comes to visit, Poppi and Del become closer.
Episode 8 – Delirious
In the second-season finale, Sam and her pals commit to doing something that requires facing their fears and achieving happiness.
The video is given in widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is enhanced for 16X9 TVs. Transfer is good with minimal distortion. There is some noticeable grain, but nothing that distracts from the overall product. No major problems at all.
The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. There are subtitles available in Englih as well. It’s pretty standard quality for a TV show. The dialogue comes out crisp and clear. No major problems here either.
Cast Interviews –
There are cast interviews with Charita Shea, Randal Edwards, Jennifer Miller, Tommy Lioutas, Nadiya Chettiar, Michael Xavier, Mishael Morgan, Corey Sevier, Lauren Collins, and Jon Cooksey, executive creative consulant for the show. Overall this runs 90 minutes total. The big cast members talk for at least 15 minutes each, so if you love this cast, this is the special feature for you.
B-Roll Footage –
This runs 9 minutes and it’s basically your usual deleted scene stuff. These actually show the camera crew filming the scenes, though, so that’s somewhat interesting. Other than that, not much to see.
Only hardcore fans of the series will want to even think about watching this season. It might be worth a look for any fan of teen dramas, but you can start with the better overall season one. There is too much change and predictability going in season two.
E1 Home Entertainment presents The Best Years: The Complete Second Season. Created by Aaron Martin. Starring Charity Shea, Jennifer Miller Randal Edwards, Sherry Miller, Brandon Jay McLaren, and Tommy Lioutas. Running time: 368 minutes. Rated: Not Rated. Released on DVD: June 15, 2010.
I'm not embarrassed to say that my favorite television show of all-time is The O.C. I live by the motto "you can't fight fate!" More importantly, I watch WAY too much television, but I do so for the benefit of everyone reading this now. So to my mom and my wife, I say thanks for reading! To everyone else that might stumble across this, remember TiVo should be your best friend!