HTF DVD REVIEW: The Guardian: The First Season

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough

    The Guardian: The First Season

    Directed by Lou Antonio et al

    Studio: CBS/Paramount
    Year: 2001-2002
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
    Running Time: 972 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround English
    Subtitles: CC

    MSRP: $ 49.98

    Release Date: October 27, 2009

    Review Date: October 23, 2009

    The Series

    Half a dozen years or so before Simon Baker became the sparkling charm boy on CBS’ smash hit series The Mentalist, he frontlined a much more serious drama series for three seasons on CBS, The Guardian. Dealing with both high end legal cases and cases in child advocacy hearings, The Guardian was a dour, deglamorized program. During its first season on the air (represented in this six disc set), the show went through the typical growing pains that most first year shows experience: focuses changed, some characters were added to the mix while others were let go, but while the series managed to land among the top thirty rated shows for the season, the show always seemed rather frenzied and looking for a focus, a fulcrum from which the rest of the characters could propel themselves. Baker certainly serves as that in his current series, but in The Guardian, at least during the first season, he seems more like one among many actors scrambling to pull together many disparate elements into a unified whole and not always succeeding.

    Simon Baker is Nick Fallin, an associate in his father’s (Dabney Coleman) law firm in Pittsburgh. Convicted of drug use and possession, Nick’s connections allow him to keep his license, but he’s assigned 1500 hours of community service serving as a legal advocate for Children’s Legal Services (CLS) (later in the season, the agency broadens its clientele by becoming Legal Services of Pittsburgh and serving clients of all ages). There his hard-lined boss Alvin Masterson (Alan Rosenberg) cuts him no slack because he’s having to balance two jobs and demands that he give the center his best efforts. Nick’s severe father also demands crushing work hours from his son, so the first half dozen episodes finds Nick madly dashing back and forth between the two offices juggling cases which are as different as night and day. At his father’s high profile practice, he’s assisted by personable associate Jake Straka (Raphael Sbarge) and assistant Amanda Bowles (Erica Leershen). At CLS, he’s aided by receptionist Barbara Ludzinski (Rusty Schwimmer), fellow advocate James Mooney (Charles Malik Whitfield), and, several episodes into the season, his new superior Lulu Archer (Wendy Moniz) whom Nick begins carrying a torch for. Renowned Broadway actress Kathleen Chalfont has an effective recurring role as staunch social worker Laurie Solt.

    The blooming potential love affair between Nick and Lulu comes about when the show begins to throw much more personal soap opera into the mix of cases in each episode midway through the first season. The series becomes somewhat overburdened with two and sometimes three cases per episode plus much melodramatic contrivance between characters that keep the show’s fascinating legal issues often on the back burner while the personal drama plays out on a continuing weekly basis. Between the love affairs, jealousies over partnership offers (this reaches its nadir during the season's ludicrously over-the-top final two episodes), Nick’s continual drug temptations, family matters spilling over into work time, and health issues, every episode seems cluttered and sometimes rather cumbersome (though, to be fair, the legal issues whether they be about children in dire situations or issues involving various Pittsburgh businesses are very interesting and constitute the show’s strongest material. The trials themselves, however, are often too hastily conducted and insufficiently dramatized).

    Here are the twenty-two episodes contained on the six discs which comprise this box set:

    1 – Pilot
    2 – Reunion
    3 – Paternity
    4 – Lolita!
    5 – The Men from the Boys
    6 – Indian Summer
    7 – Feeding Frenzy
    8 – Heart
    9 – The Funnies
    10 – Loyalties
    11 – Home
    12 – Causality
    13 – Privilege
    14 – Family
    15 – In Loco Parentis
    16 – Solidarity
    17 – The Divide
    18 – Mothers of the Disappeared
    19 – Lawyers, Guns, and Money
    20 – Shelter
    21 – Chinese Wall
    22 – The Beginning

    Video Quality

    The episodes are framed at 1.78:1 and are anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. According to the packaging, these transfers have been digitally remastered, and they certainly look like new programs for many of the episodes. Occasionally, you’ll notice a stray white speck or two, and there are some soft shots. Edge enhancement also rears its ugly head from time to time. Color values can sometimes become too bright, and black levels, while deep, can sometimes be crushed, but flesh tones are usually quite accurate. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters (the pilot has 7).

    Audio Quality

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround track does quite well for an older sound mix. Dialog is rooted to the center channel and usually sounds quite natural while the surrounds contain the background music and occasional ambient effects like cars driving by and thunderstorms.

    Special Features

    There are three network launch promos, each lasting 32 seconds and all very similar to one another with clips pulled from the first few episodes. They’re presented in 4:3.

    There are trailers for CBS procedurals, Twin Peaks, and Nash Bridges.

    In Conclusion
    3/5 (not an average)

    The Guardian spent much of its first season trying to figure out what it most wanted to be: soap opera or legal drama. Though the cases were interesting and fairly well told, the ramping up of overly familiar personal drama among the regulars often intruded on the legal issues robbing the legal side of the show of the precious time it needed for development.

    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC

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