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10 Items or Less: The Complete First & Second Seasons (2006-2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/27/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/1/2009

I hate to sound like a complete TV addict (because I'm not...), but I have very vivid memories of when cable television first came into our house. There was a whole new world of channels to explore. One of those channels was WTBS "The Superstation" out of Atlanta. The programming was the same as your typical local independent station -- reruns, old movies, some sports -- but they played to a national audience. Of course, the network grew over the years and simply came to be known as TBS. The content from the vault was eventually supported by original programming, including dramas and comedies. Earlier this year, I checked out the TBS sitcom My Boys on DVD and became hooked on the show. (Where is Season 3?!) Thus, I decided to give another TBS sitcom, 10 Items or Less a try. But, as it turns out, success doesn't always begat success.

10 Items or Less tells the story of Leslie Pool (John Lehr), who has inherited his father's grocery store, Greens & Grains. Unfortunately, Leslie knows nothing about running a business. He is forced to lean on his staff, but they aren't the most stable group of individuals. Ingrid (Kirsten Gronfield), who works in customer service, is a mousy young woman who will do anything which she is told. Buck (Greg Davis, Jr.), is the bagboy, but his focus is on night-school. Cashier Richard (Christopher Liam Moore) dreams of being a figure-skater. Todd (Chris Payne Gilbert), the butcher, likes flirting more than working. Producer worker Yolanda (Roberta Valderrama) often lets her temper get the best of her. And Carl (Bob Clendenin), the handyman, rarely knows what he's doing and spends most of his time fawning over Yolanda. As if attempting to run a business with no experience isn't difficult enough, Leslie must deal with the fact that Super Value Mart has a location right across the street and the manager of that store, Amy Anderson (Jennifer Elise Cox), is trying to buy Greens & Grains. (Things are further complicated by the fact that Amy is Leslie's high-school crush.)

Few shows are very original and this is especially true with sitcoms. Although I enjoy the previously mentioned My Boys, I'll be the first to admit that the show seems to be going for a Friends vibe. 10 Items or Less is reminiscent of other shows as well. The show is shot in a documentary style, similar to Arrested Development and The Office. As with The Office, the show focuses on a work environment where the supervisor is inept and relationships often overshadow the actual work. Arrested Development also focused on a son who was attempted to take the reins of a company built by his father. (And John Lehr reminds me of Arrested Development star Jason Bateman mixed with John Michael Higgins.)

The problem is that 10 Items or Less is nowhere near as good as either of those shows (especially Arrested Development). Simply put, the show isn't very funny. The makers of the program and the actors are very proud of the fact that much of the dialogue and some of the situations are improvised. Thus, they have no one to blame but themselves. I usually enjoy this kind of show, but the jokes here simply fall flat one after another. The dialogue is never clever and most of the jokes are either stale or too obvious. I will say that the comedy improved during season two, but while watching the five episodes which make up season one, I think that I laughed twice.

The other main problem with 10 Items or Less is that the characters simply aren't appealing. It's clear that everyone has worked to make the characters as quirky as possible, but there's no one here to truly love. Going back to Arrested Development, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman's character) was the show's anchor and its link to the audience. Michael was the quintessential straight-man and he, like us, watched the chaos ensue on the show. Everyone on 10 Items or Less is crazy and there is no one to which the average audience member can relate. (If you do feel a connection to one or more of these characters, then I apologize and I pity you.)

Taking a long look at 10 Items or Less, the show's biggest problem may be that it overlooks the obvious. My first job was in a grocery store (I saved enough to buy my first stereo system!) and the comedic possibilities are endless. (I could do a whole show on the fact that my apron would never stayed tied.) However, the powers that be here decide to put the emphasis on the characters and the improv and the result is a show which delivers 10 laughs or less.

10 Items or Less: The Complete First & Second Seasons gets stuck on the little conveyor belt on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The two disc set contains all 13 episodes from the two seasons. The episodes have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfers are enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. There is some slight artifacting and video noise at times, but otherwise, this transfer rivals digital broadcast quality. The Season 1 DVD offers a Dolby Stereo audio track, while Season 2 has a Dolby Digital 5.0 track. Both tracks offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the in-show music sounds fine. The audio on Season 2 certainly sounds more crisp and has more presence, but the surround sound effects are plentiful enough to make that much of a difference.

The 10 Items or Less: The Complete First & Second Seasons DVD set contains only a few extras. There are two "Internet Viral Videos", "Choking" (3 minutues) and "Apology" (2 minutes). Both feature Lehr and Gronfield. The first is an interview gone wrong, while the second is an apology for the first video...which then goes wrong. "A Look Behind the Scenes" (16 minutes) contains comments from the cast and crew. They begin with discussing how the show was created. We then meet each of the characters, and in turn, the actors. They then talk about the process of using improvisation on the show and how it effects the process. The location and how the show is shot is then explored. In "Notes from the Casting Couch" (5 minutes), the show's creators talk about how the cast was selected -- the actor's didn't know what they were getting in to. This pieces includes audition footage. "Coffee Break - Blooper Reel" (2 minutes) offers gags from the set.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long