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Sweet Valley High - The Complete First Season Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 March 2005

Sweet Valley High: The Complete First Season
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: NR
starring: Brittany Daniel, Cynthia Daniel, Amarilis, Ryan James Bittle, Brock Burnett, Amy Danles, Bridget Flanery, Michael Perl, Harley Rodriguez
TV broadcast year: 1994-1995
DVD release year: 2005
film rating: Three Stars
sound/picture rating: Three Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

Based on Francine Pascal's bestselling books, "Sweet Valley High: The Complete First Season" gathers the episodes that brought the stories of the Wakefield twins to television. Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, though resembling each other, are totally different in their attitudes toward life, friends, and goals. Jessica is all about hot guys and getting through school and stressful situations with the least amount of work on her part. On the flip side of the coin, Elizabeth is goal-driven and is always volunteering for causes and organizations. Joined by a gathering of friends and lightweight problems, except for the three-part kidnapping story at the end of the season, Jessica and Elizabeth get through each short episode with a minimum of fuss.

"Dangerous Love" introduces the viewer to the characters and the world that is Sweet Valley High. Elizabeth and Jessica are twins with very different personalities. Jessica is all about getting to be homecoming queen. Elizabeth broke up with her boyfriend Todd for nominating her for homecoming queen and putting her in direct competition with her sister in what she considers to be a shallow event. Todd has been making all of Elizabeth's decisions lately and she feels smothered. Elizabeth wins the homecoming queen crown. Her friend Winston gets to be the king. Later, Elizabeth also gets the cute college freshman that Jessica had her eye on. Scott asks Elizabeth out but she doesn't feel like going. However, Jessica knows and decides to claim to be Elizabeth for the date. That leads to all kinds of problems.

"Oracle on Air" opens with auditions for the news show. Elizabeth is attracted by the opportunities, while cute video guy Russ draws in Jessica. Jessica is totally inspired by budding romance to do an audition tape. The attention of a rival draws Winston into an uneasy truce and he immediately gets pranked. The rivalry goes full-bore. Jessica swipes Liz's demo tape and gets the job as anchor.

In "Skin And Bones," Jess decides to attract the attention of SVH's best artist, Dakota, so she can make the cover of the year's most important production. The principal takes down one of Winston's best jokes and Liz decides she's going to intervene and get the graffiti wall back for the students. Jess sabotages Edith, the girl who's slated to be on the cover. Liz blasts the principal in the school paper for censoring the kids. Dakota ends up painting Jess naked and totally blowing her mind. Her reputation goes down the tubes and she takes a lot of flack at school.

The rumor that a big director is coming to SVH in "Critical Mess" sets the rumor mill into full motion. By the time it gets around, supposedly casting is going on for a Brad Pitt and Christian Slater movie. Jess intends to get a starring part. Liz gets picked to review production of “Macbeth” that Jess is starring in. Jess intends to get a good review so that Bruce's director uncle will discover her. Jess stars in the play and tries to steal the show. Unfortunately, Jess also spends time flirting with the cute guys in the audience. Needless to say, her review doesn't come out as she’d hoped.

Jess' low grades have got her eligibility as a cheerleader in jeopardy in "What, Me Study?" Liz forgets her anniversary with Todd and goes through a lot of anxiety. Winston manages to hack into the teachers’ computer files. Jess quickly enlists Winston's aid to ace the chemistry tests. The gift that Liz orders from the television shopping network doesn't arrive and she freaks out. Jess' newfound ability to pass chemistry tests causes all kinds of tension, as well as great payback.

In "Almost Married," Liz's curfew causes problems with Todd. Jess steals Lila's date by getting concert tickets from Winston. After she finds out Liz plans to let Todd spend the night, Jess blackmails Liz for their parents' credit card to buy a dress for the concert. While shopping for food, Todd and Liz end up short of cash and have to put items back. Todd attempts to make dinner and things don't go as expected.

"The Curse of Lawrence Manson" features a ghost story and mystery rolled into one. The gang gets together for a costume party and learn about the ghost that comes back to SVH. Larry Manson broke into the school and died 25 years ago. Now he comes back every Halloween to take revenge on all SVH students that show up there. Winston and Edith get stuck together after a traffic accident and ultimately end up lost in the woods. Back at the school, the gang gets together for a séance. Spooky things really start piling up as two groups prank each other to see who is most afraid.

Liz gets to meet her royal pen pal in "Prince of Santa Dora" and we get to see a more sympathetic side of scheming Jess. Prince Arthur has an overprotective security guard, though the young royal tries to relax and have a normal life while visiting Liz and Jess. Lila plots to get the prince to herself at a party and enlists Winston to get Jess out of the way. The girls conspire to get Prince Arthur to go to an unescorted date with Jess. Then Jess finds out about the pain of an arranged marriage.

In "Coma," Jess follows her impulsive attraction to a new guy. Todd drives up on a new motorcycle and invites Liz to go on a drive, but she turns him down. Before Liz's disbelieving eyes, Jess vamps Dean, attempting to steal him from his current girlfriend. Taking off with her new guy, Jess strands Liz and Liz has to ride with Todd on the motorcycle to meet her deadline. A drunken driver chases them off the road and Liz ends up in the hospital in a coma. Jess blames Todd for Liz's accident while in denial about her own in stranding Liz. When Liz comes out of her coma, she goes through a personality change and ends up acting like Jess.

After a new action flick in "Uh Oh Seven," Liz goes home to work on a new short story. In seconds, the episodes segues into a 007-type fantasy with a female lead that looks suspiciously like Jess/Liz, whose designation is Double-D 7. She gets the typical spy toys to accomplish her mission. Later, everyone has comments on the story and the parts they see for themselves in it.

"Secrets" opens with Manny and Winston's radio show. Enid gets picked as the spokesperson for Drug Awareness Week, a gig that will allow her to go on tour with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Jess immediately decides she needs to replace Enid. Lila places a bet with her that she can't get to meet Tyler. While talking to Liz, Enid confesses that she partied and did drugs with a past boyfriend. Jess hears everything and makes trouble.

Jess goes to Liz with a crisis in "Photographic Evidence." Two guys have asked her out for the same night. Liz tells her not to go out with either of them. Liz has to go to the lake to complete her photojournalism assignment. Unfortunately, Liz snaps a picture of a kidnapping in progress that leads to danger for her and all her friends. One of the kidnappers puts the moves on Jess and leads to a final confrontation.

"Club X" strikes against the principal and leaves a note. No one in class knows who Club X is. Todd has developed a sudden interest in basketball that takes up all his free time. Club X is suddenly taking credit for everything that goes on in school. Jess receives a personalized invitation from Club X to come to an abandoned warehouse. At the warehouse, Jess confronts the Club X people disguised as dead presidents. Bruce sets up Jess to take a fall and Liz plots to get Todd's head back to its proper size.

Plans are made to meet at the Blue Iguana Coffeehouse to hear a teacher's poetry in "Poetic Injustice." Adam captivates Jess with his dark good looks. Jess becomes convinced that Adam likes her and gets totally lost in poetry. She writes a poem and wonders if she should read it at open-mike night. Adam tells her that it is a work in progress and that sometimes you have to completely transform to make it happen. Jess finds the poem Adam gave Liz to critique and reads it, making things even more complicated for the sisters.

Liz tells Jess she's going to have to bail on their annual volleyball tournament in "Stolen Diary." Liz inadvertently stands Jess up for a movie date. Trapped between Jess and Todd, Liz writes about the argument in her diary. Jess encourages another girl to hit on Todd and it starts a fight between him and Liz. Afterwards, Jess decides not to forward Todd's calls and tells Liz to let him go. At school, Jess sets Liz up with a new guy to continue setting a wedge between the two. When Jess reads Liz's diary, she realizes what a big mistake she made.

A foreign exchange student comes to Sweet Valley High in "Love on the Line." Enid works on a counseling helpline and ends up talking to Mike, who flirts with her and asks her out. The exchange student turns Winston's life upside down. When Enid chickens out of meeting Mike, she asks Jess to help her. After seeing how cute he is, Jess passes herself off as Enid. Enid decides to declare war for Mike's attention.

The gang gets internships at different jobs in "Working Girls." Liz works at the paper, while Jess gets assigned to a popular fashion designer. Lila starts to work at a restaurant and meets a guy with blue-collar values who really catches her attention. She works hard to appear as a girl of modest means herself. Jessica gets her design swiped and Lila gets caught in her web of lies.

Lila and Jess get into a rivalry in a dance competition in "Dancin' Fools." Winston decides to enter the dance competition. Manny and Enid pair up. Todd is worried that Liz will ask her to dance with him. Jess isn't happy with her auditions, and Todd's feelings suddenly get hurt for not getting asked. Jess takes Winston on and tells him they're there to win. Desperate, Jess steals Lila's dance partner and strands her with Winston.

"Kidnapped, Part I" starts out with Winston's dilemma over his mother's birthday. Liz tells Jess that Jeremy Franks, the talk show host, is in the hospital after a skiing accident and his partner is about to leave the show. Peter, an orderly, is having trouble coping with hospital work. Liz finds out that Jess has volunteered to help out. Of course, Jess has an ulterior motive for being there. Liz gets a secret admirer, but Todd thinks it's Winston. Unfortunately, the secret admirer turns out to be someone else who may be a menace.

"Kidnapped, Part II" picks up the story threads of the previous episode. Winston is still spending time with Liz, which upsets Todd. Liz's secret admirer is still secret. At the hospital, Liz gets captured. The gang goes into full rescue mode to find Liz and bring her home.

In "Kidnapped, Part III," the storyline continues to edge more toward suspense than humor and teen angst. Jeremy Franks, the talk show host, recaps Liz's capture. Jess is captivated with being on television. Jeremy releases the information that Peter, her captor, escaped. This time, Jess is the one who gets kidnapped.

Todd gets the news that he's been accepted to a university in Vermont in "Say Goodbye." He doesn't know how to tell Liz that he's going 3,000 miles away. He applied two months ago and never told Liz because he didn't expect to get it. The news quickly spreads around the school. Almost immediately, Liz seems to be getting hit on by a new guy, causing a lot of tension between her and Todd.

"Sweet Valley High: The Complete First Season" is not heavy television. The episodes reveal a fantasy high school where trouble comes and goes and doesn't leave a mark on anyone. Jessica never truly learns her lesson and never steps away from being selfish, and Elizabeth never takes a trip down the dark side. However, the series contains a high sexual awareness level for preteens, and parents might want to take that into consideration. The girls, especially Jess, often dress in revealing clothing and the innuendo is low-key but still present.

Without any true extra content on the three-disc set, the purchaser needs to be aware that only the season's episodes are being bought. It's a decent collection to pick up for teens who enjoyed the show and wants to revisit the episodes, who like to collect the books and/or haven’t seen the episodes in their first run.

more details
sound format:
English Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish Language Track
aspect ratio(s):
Full-Frame 1.33:1
special features: Episode Selection; Spanish Subtitles; English Closed-Captioning
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba

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