The Class: The Complete Series DVD Review: An Updated, Expanded Friends

Warner Archive have been releasing some very interesting DVD sets this year, especially in the realm of “lost” television programs. Search was a one-season wonder from 1972 – 1973, and now there is The Class, which aired during the 2006 – 2007 season.

The Class: The Complete Series contains all 19 episodes of the program, which was created by David Crane and Jeffry Klarik. Both had big hits in the ’90s, Klarik with Mad About You, and Crane with Friends. In a lot of ways, The Class could be seen as an updated and expanded Friends. Obviously it did not gain anywhere near the audience that Friends enjoyed though.

The scenario is set up quite well in the pilot. Ethan (Jason Ritter) is a hopeless romantic who has created the ultimate surprise for his fiancee Joanne (Kasey Wilson). They had first met 20 years earlier in the third grade. So Ethan puts together a reunion of their third-grade class. Only about eight people show up, but for Joanne, the party was the last straw in their relationship. She was feeling suffocated by Ethan already, and she very publicly humiliates him and calls off the wedding.

The reunion stirs up a lot of unexpected feelings among the revelers, and these are explored through the course of the remaining 18 episodes of the series. Afterwards, Ethan goes out for coffee and meets a woman who mistakes him for her blind date. So they go out for a while until he comes clean about not being the blind date, and she dumps him. All the while though, Ethan has been confiding in the cynical Kat (Lizzy Caplan) and begins pursuing her as the series ends.

Lina (Heather Goldenhersh) is Kat’s fraternal twin sister and is as optimistic about love as Kat is pessimistic. She has had a thing for Richie (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) since the third grade. After the party, the two go out for coffee, then Richie accidentally backs his car over her while talking on his newfangled cellular phone. She spends the first half of the season in a wheelchair, but they continue to see each other even though he is technically married.

Another relationship that comes out of the reunion is between Duncan (Jon Bernthal) and Nicole (Andrea Anders). She was the love of his life and (it seems) vice versa, although they broke up because she was “a bitch” according to Duncan. All these years later, they hook up, but there is a problem. Nicole is married to an ex-pro football player. Whether Nicole will leave her jock husband for Duncan remains in question for just about the whole series.

Kyle (Sean Maguire) and Holly (Lucy Punch) are the final two characters in this eight-lead series. Another revelation from the pilot’s reunion party is that Kyle and Holly went to the Senior Prom together. The evening ended badly at the party they went to afterwards because she found him and another man having sex in the coatroom. Kyle is now in a stable relationship with his live-in boyfriend while Holly is a newscaster whose husband is the most flamboyant “straight” guy since David Gest.

One problem with the series is that there are just too many characters to follow, especially in a half-hour sitcom. It is funny, although a bit too self-consciously “hip” for its own good. The decision to issue DVD sets of programs that only lasted a single season is definitely an unusual one. From a business standpoint, since the series did not do well enough to be renewed, the potential buyers for these sets seems limited. But from what I have seen, the programs chosen have a pretty strong cult following, which may have been a factor.

Another reason the show may have been taken out of the archives might be the recent success’ of some of the classmates. These include Jason Ritter (Parenthood), Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), and Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex). While Sara Gilbert (The Talk, Bad Teacher) is not one of the leads, she has a recurring role as well.

As is the case with many of the Warner Archive titles, the two-DVD The Class: The Complete Series is manufactured on DVD-R. The set is available now.

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Greg Barbrick

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