TVonDVD: Stargate: Atlantis: The Complete Second Season; Sabrina The Teenage Witch, The First Season

Stargate Atlantis The Complete Second Season Box ArtDepending on whether you want action and interstellar travel via Stargate, or a little frothy, family-friendly fantasy, you can chose from two of this week's best TVonDVD releases: Stargate: Atlantis – The Complete Second Season, or Sabrina The Teenage Witch

Stargate Atlantis - The Complete Second Season Box Art

Stargate: Atlantis: The Complete Second Season

The first season of Stargate: Atlantis ended with the Wraith learning of the existence of Earth [or, to their way of thinking, a walking buffet] and them attacking the city of Atlantis. The second season opened up with the conclusion of the siege – ended by a truly bold ploy. Over the course of the season, the series continued with its balance of Wraith eps and standalones – including a Wraith ep that really wasn't, and a couple of Rodney McKay-centric eps that were deliciously odd. While the various Wraith eps were as solid as usual, where the season truly excelled was with the standalone eps – in particular, Duet, Instinct and Grace Under Pressure.

In the first, a technical glitch forces the lovely Lt. Cadman and McKay to coexist in McKay's body, with some serious [and hilarious] repercussions [if you want to talk romantic comedy, and some seriously compacted potential relationships]. In Instinct, a scientist is attempting to find a method of rendering the Wraith human – because he's raised a female Wraith as human, but her natural instincts are beginning to cause problems. Finally, in Grace Under Pressure, poor McKay's puddlejumper crash lands in the ocean and, while he faces death in a manner that is odd – even for him – he receives help from the most unexpected source…

Stargate: Atlantis – The Complete Second Season maintains the Stargate tradition of providing a lot of commentaries – all twenty eps have them [by four different directors, the director of photography, various writers and more than half-a-dozen cast members and guest stars]. The set also contains three Mission Directives [one each by Martin Wood, Peter DeLuise and Andy Mikita] – behind the scenes featurettes in which the directors discuss specific eps; Introduction to a Character: Ronon Dex; Road to a Dream with Martin Gero – the writer dreams of acting on the show; two actor profiles [David Hewlett and Paul McGillion]; Stargate: Atlantis: Stunts – an overview of the stunt over the course of the season, and two sets of photo galleries [Promo Stills & Production Design] on all five discs.

Stargate: Altantis: The Complete Second Season – Grade: B+

Features – Grade: A+

Final Grade: A-

Sabrina The Teenage First Season Witch Box Art

Sabrina The Teenage Witch: The First Season

Although it's not included here, it's appropriate to note that the pilot film for Sabrina The Teenage Witch paved the way for the series – albeit with some changes [Sabrina's aunts and Harvey were recast, for example]. It was pretty good and featured some up and coming talent [like Ryan Reynolds, Laura Harris and Tyler Labine] and contained most of the elements that made the series a hit. Anyway, the TV-movie was successful enough that it spawned a pilot for the sitcom to follow…

Sabrina Spellman [Melissa Joan Hart] was a sixteen-year old girl whose mother was a mortal and whose father was a witch. Guess who had the dominant genes! In the pilot, Sabrina is told by her aunts, Zelda [Beth Broderick] and Hilda [Caroline Rhea] that she's a witch – but doesn't believe them and goes on to have the worst first-day-at-a-new-school ever. From then on, Sabrina The Teenage Witch went on to become one of the longest running fantasy programs ever [lasting at least two full seasons too long…].

How could an adolescent's life be made any worse? By having to learn to control her magic – as well as dealing with zits, obnoxious cheerleaders, boyfriends and the most typical of teen jobs: babysitting. But that's nearly bad enough – there are rules! And a smart-mouthed cat! And teachers with very odd outlooks [and a tendency to date her Aunt Zelda]!

The series had a number of trademarks, like Salem, the bad attitude cat with the smart mouth [provided by one of the show's writers, Nick Bakay]. Salem was of the most caustic characters on TV for seven seasons, and the main reason to watch the last two. Then there was the opening credit sequence that had Sabrina magically changing her wardrobe and commenting on the last outfit [after the appearance of a black dress and pointed witch's hat: "This is so not me!].

The show worked because the writing was considerably smarter than that of the Archie Comics where the character originated. For a sitcom that was burdened with a laugh track, a lot of the humor came from situations and character behaviour, rather than the usual set-up, set-up, punchline routine. Over the course of the series, the characters did grow and change [except for, maybe, Hilda], and that added to Sabrina's fun factor, too.

My favorite first season eps include – Pilot [Sabrina turns sixteen and gets the shock of her life]; The True Adventures of Rudy Kazootie [the babysitting gone weird ep]; First Kiss – when Sabrina and Harvey [Nate Richert] first, he's turned into a frog and Sabrina has to go to mythic lengths to restore him, and Troll Bride [after Harvey and Sabrina are voted the yearbook's "cutest couple," Sabrina winds up being tricked into marrying a troll named Roland [Phil Fondacaro in his first of several appearances].

Although light and frothy, Sabrina The Teenage Witch was a smart, slightly sassy sitcom that helps ABC control Friday nights for several seasons. It made Hart a star and Salem a household name. Can't argue with that!

The season one DVD set includes no features and Paramount's packaging is such that, if you want to read the episode guide, you have to remove discs one and four – which is pretty silly, completely unnecessary and totally annoying. Let's hope they don't do this with Season Two.

Grade: A-

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