Once and Again: The Complete Second Season
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Golden Globe(R) award-winner Sela Ward and Billy Campbell star in the highly acclaimed second season of ONCE AND AGAIN. Celebrate the loves and experience the triumphs and heartbreak that made ONCE AND AGAIN a favorite among critics and audiences everywhere. It's "a great show," raves Robert Bianco of USA TODAY. Now you can experience all 22 episodes of season two in this spectacular five-disc set, featuring exclusive bonus features. It's everything you remember and so much more.
After the romantic courtship and the awkwardness of first dates, Once and Again in its second season settled into charting the growing relationship between fortysomethings Lily (Sela Ward) and Rick (Billy Campbell), who finally shook off all their angst and family pressures to embark on a long-term relationship. And of course, once finally committed in their love for each other, life rudely interrupts what should have been a comfortable, winding road to happily ever after. Rick's architecture firm is hand-picked for a new high-profile project, but it's dogged by community protests and run by the ever-devious Miles Drentell (David Clennon, reprising his shady character from thirtysomething); what's more, Rick's ex-wife, Karen (Susanna Thompson), is the lawyer representing the project's opposition. Lily finds herself as the assistant to a twentysomething entrepreneur at a fledgling dot-com, and the victim of the amorous, non-professional interests of a consultant for the troubled company. She's also faced with the fate of her late father's restaurant, run by her ex-husband, Jake (Jeffrey Nordling), who's charming but not the best of businessmen, and his financial strain soon becomes hers as well. Oh, and then there are the kids: Rick's son Eli (Shane West) would rather start a band than go to college, and daughter Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood) may be anorexic; Lily's daughter Grace (Julia Whelan) falls into a friendship with a troubled girl, and only Zoe (Meredith Deane) seems to be the most normal--that is, when she isn't worried about Rick and his kids moving into her house.
The course of true love never did run smooth, and truth be told, there were a bit too many plot twists cooked up for this season of the Edward Zwick-Marshall Herskovitz drama (including a hostage episode at Jake's restaurant that garnered high ratings), but the creative team behind this show managed a deft balancing act among all the characters and plotlines. Teenage angst co-existed alongside more adult worries, and the specter of professional and money troubles for both Rick and Lily kept the characters grounded in a reality not often seen in television dramas. And in addition to giving all the cast members shining moments, Once and Again developed an extensive number of secondary characters, including Lily's mentally ill brother Aaron (Patrick Dempsey), Jake's flighty girlfriend Tiffany (Ever Carradine), Karen's hunky younger boyfriend (Mark Feuerstein), and an uncredited Edward Zwick as Jessie's therapist. It was the core cast, however, that made Once and Again soar--teen actors West and Whelan broke their characters' stereotypical molds, the young Wood (who would go on to star in thirteen) was outstanding as she navigated blooming adolescence: Nordling and Thompson, as the exes on the periphery, were two of the best supporting actors ever on television. As always, though, Ward and Campbell were the show's heart and soul, always communicating the underlying waves of frustration and anger in their character's facades as well as the love and happiness. Despite low ratings, ABC renewed Once and Again for a third and final season, giving all us fans of great television (and hopeless romantics) one more year with Rick and Lily after this one. --Mark Englehart
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If the first season of "Once and Again" is about Lily Manning and Rick Sammler falling in love, then the second season is about how that relationship has a ripple effect with their family as the inevitability of the relationship forces their children and ex-spouses to a new level of acceptance. There is actually more abut Lily and her new job (e.g., "Scribbling Rivalry") and Rick working on a mega-project for Miles Drentell ("Edifice Wrecked"), than there is about them being with each other.Read more ›
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This was an hour-long drama that lasted three seasons and aired on ABC from fall 1999 to spring 2002. Its careful, measured pace follows a similar timespan in the lives of two Chicago-area families splintered by divorce. Sela Ward stars as Elizabeth "Lily" Brooks Manning, who is separated from her husband Jake (Jeffrey Nordling) and now lives in the family house with their daughters, Grace (Julia Whelan) and Zoey (Meredith Deane). Billy Campbell co-stars as Rick Sammler, an moderately successful architect with his own firm (more or less) and a three-year-old divorce from Karen (Susanna Thompson), mother of Eli (Shane West) and Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood). The essential development of the series is that Rick and Lily meet, begin dating and somehow, over the course of two and a half years, manage to hammer out what they have into a hybridized, modern American family, a kind of Brady Bunch for the new millennium. Spinning around them are numerous peripheral characters, among whom notables include Lily's perpetually single sister Judy Brooks (Marin Hinkle), Rick's long-time fried Sam Blue (Steven Weber), Jake's on-again off-again girlfriend Tiffany Porter(Ever Carradine), and Lily's mother Barbara (Bonnie Bartlett).
To read a description such as the one above is to be supplied with most of the essential facts but to miss out on everything that's really worth knowing about the series. For example, it's probably more useful to mention that, of the actors listed, each and every one delivers a stellar, pitch-perfect performance that humiliates most of the actors who usually snap up the Emmys. No other television show I've seen has been populated with characters so solidly embodied by the actors who portrayed them, that at the end of a season, I felt as if I'd spent a year living with them instead of watching them on TV. It's amazing to observe how vivid and multidimensional they are, as if they have mass, heat up the air around them, and will continue to go on living their lives every day, whether the cameras are rolling or not. When you wake up in the morning and realize that you're worrying about Judy or Eli, you know it's not TV as usual.
Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz may not have built a ratings giant that would go on for too many seasons and make them billionaires, but they did something that, in my estimation, is far more noteworthy; they created a polished, masterful production where the soundtrack, color palettes, and careful, patient camera work consistently generate a viable space for their characters to live and breathe, a space that doubles as a stage with a great view from the bleachers. For example, much has been made of the black-and-white scenes, in just about every episode, which typically feature one character speaking frankly, at the camera, as if to an unseen psychotherapist. These scenes work not despite the artistic pretention of the black and white, but because of it. Executed with a suprising blend of restraint, humor, sensivity and wit, they give us these well-timed, cogent, honest glimpses at characters expressing -- at times struggling to express -- their private thoughts to another, one who sees and will judge but cannot act out. Sometimes the lines separating these realms would break down, as in the episode "Food for Thought," in which Zwick began a guest stint as Dr. Daniel Rosenfeld, a therapist counselling Jessie, first about her eating disorder then, later, about other things. I like to imagine how Zwick must have felt, sitting in that chair, facing Jessie Sammler, talking with her, because after Season Two, you feel like you know Jessie and her world, and the people who inhabit it.
If the first season of "Once and Again" is about Lily Manning and Rick Sammler falling in love, then the second season is about how that relationship has a ripple effect with their family as the inevitability of the relationship forces their children and ex-spouses to a new level of acceptance. There is actually more abut Lily and her new job (e.g., "Scribbling Rivalry") and Rick working on a mega-project for Miles Drentell ("Edifice Wrecked"), than there is about them being with each other. While Lily and Rick are happy, for the most part, everybody else is wallowing in misery to varying degrees, and throughout the season getting all the kids together and on the same page proves to be problematic again and again (e.g, "Feast or Famine"). The major irony is that the dyad I am most interested in is Karen and Jessie, especially knowing what is going to happen to Karen in the third season and what Evan Rachel Wood has done since this show ended (although I am equally impressed by Julie Whalen as a young actress as well). So I tend to pay attention to what each of those characters are doing, albeit for different reasons, but with more of an appreciation of how Jessie is her mother's daughter, which is not always a good thing ("Best of Enemies"), especially since Jessie is having trouble adjusting to high school and stops eating ("Food for Thought").
Having Miles Drentel is a mixed blessing, because while watching David Clennon is always a pleasure, when he becomes a wedge between Rick and David it is like watching Michael and Elliot on "thirtysomething" all over again. But it does inspire a true moment of vision for Rick ("Ozymandias 2.0"), and by the end of the season it becomes clear that the purpose of having Miles around is to bring Rick down to the point that all he can offer Lily is himself at the end because his professional reputation and business are pretty much shot. This becomes important because it means Rick and Lily do not have the money to find a house where their merged families can have enough space to breathe, let alone live. But dramatically the whole bit of Karen and her law firm trying to stop Miles, and Rick, from building their project is more interesting ("Edifice Wrecked"), especially when it seems Rick might end up going to prison ("Won't Someone Please Help George Bailey Tonight"). When the psychiatrist that Jessie is seeing points out that only married people get as angry as Rick and Karen get at each other, it seems so obvious.
This really is a year of one step forward and one step backwards for most of the characters. Jake is the big hero when an emotionally disturbed bus boy shows up at the restaurant with a gun ("The Other End of the Telescope"), but bails on Tiffany when she wants him to be a father to their baby ("Forgive Us Out Trespasses"). Judy comes up with the great idea of "Booklovers," despite Lily's negativity, but needs the entire rest of the season to figure out Will Gluck. Eli has found something he likes and is good at with his music ("I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down"), but is unable to build on it as his problems with school and romance continue. Note: why Rick and Karen wasted time letting Eli apply to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana is beyond me, because I have taught there and my oldest daughter is graduating from there this December. I have to tell you that unless Eli is going on a basketball scholarship, he is not getting it to that school and thinking he had a chance was a totally unrealistic expectation. So, my question is whether the people who put the show together know this was a big mistake and it is an insight into Eli's parents, or simply me once again reading way too much into the situation.
My only real complaint is that this time around it becomes clearer to me that Lily is really way too judgmental. At least when she does not immediately accept Rick's proposal (another painfully true moment for me), she does not leave him hanging for long and I liked the way he found out she had accepted his ring. The fact that season two ends with the wedding ("The Second Time Around") might seem like the end of the story, but only if you make the mistake of thinking "Once and Again" was simply about Lily getting remarried. It really is about trying to make two families one, which is why fans are sitting around waiting for the third and unfairly final (and incomplete) season to come out on DVD.
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