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Kyle XY on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3

"Kyle XY" The Complete First Season (Declassified) DVD Review

Buy Kyle XY: The Complete First Season DVD from Amazon.com Kyle XY: Season One (2006)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber / Writers: Eric Tuchman, Julie Plec, Bryan M. Holdman, Bryan Wynbrandt, Steven Lilien, Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber, Curtis Kheel, Elle Triedman, Michael Oates Palmer

Directors: Michael Rohl, Pat Williams, Michael Robison, Gil Junger, Holly Dale, Michelle MacLaren, Guy Norman Bee

Regular Cast: Matt Dallas (Kyle XY), Marguerite MacIntyre (Nicole Trager), Bruce Thomas (Stephen Trager), April Matson (Lori Trager), Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Josh Trager), Chris Olivero (Declan McDunaugh), Kirsten Prout (Amanda Bloom)

Supporting Cast: Nicholas Lea (Tom Foss), Chelan Simmons (Hillary), Cory Monteith (Charlie), Kurt Max Runte (Detective Breen), Merritt Patterson (Ashleigh)

Running Time: 436 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: TV-14
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (Spanish) / Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007; Season 1 Airdates: June 26 - August 28, 2006
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99; Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9)
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with holographic, embossed cardboard slipcover

Buy from Amazon.com

My first contact with "Kyle XY" came last summer. After spotting several posters for the new ABC Family series throughout a mall, I pondered, "Who on Earth would want to watch a show promoted by a picture of a boy revealing that he has no belly button?"
Of course, the moment I asked that, I recognized the effectiveness of the marketing campaign. Not only had Disney's "other" cable network spent enough money to expose me to the show multiple times without even watching TV, but their ads had me taking notice and talking about them.

The title character of this hour-long drama appears to be a healthy young man around college age (which translates to high school for television). The twist is that no one -- not even he -- has any idea who he is, where he came from, or what exactly he is. Clearly, he's different, not only in his lack of navel and his initial inability to communicate, but also in how he processes information and adapts to his surroundings. The adolescent (played by Matt Dallas) is named Kyle and becomes part of the Tragers, a suburban Seattle family of four. They consist of caring therapist mother Nicole (Marguerite MacIntyre), graying computer technician father Stephen (Bruce Thomas), and two randy teenaged kids, base-rounding Lori (April Matson) and porn-stashing Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau).

The title logo for "Kyle XY", an hour-long drama series, during its first season on ABC Family. Kyle XY (Matt Dallas) likes to smile and show off his boyish dimples.

As Kyle and those around him, chiefly Nicole, try to figure out his past, a few pieces of the confounding puzzle fall into place. Some clues arise from Kyle himself, whose intellectual gifts appear to be off the charts, from an MRI that reveals ridiculous amounts of brain activity to his photo-accurate pointillist crayon drawings. Then there's the lightning speed at which he acquires new skills and adapts to foreign situations. Additional clues arise from outside sources, including a potentially relevant murder case and a mysterious home security employee (Nicholas Lea) who seems overly interested in the Tragers with Kyle in their midst. The mystery elements border upon lame at times; there's vague bad guy/conspiracy stuff which doesn't neatly mesh with the domestic, relaxed tone that's usually at the foreground.

Nevertheless, the overarching air of uncertainty contributes to the show's appeal and its addictive quality. The series' central question -- "Who is Kyle XY?" -- is one which is not authoritatively answered in this ten-episode debut season. Is it severe memory loss or, as seems more likely, is Kyle an alien, as only the youngest Trager seriously suspects? Like many of today's most popular hour-long series, this one keeps audience members hooked to find out more. la "Lost", it rewards perceptive viewers with some small, subtle clues, but it still leaves them guessing most of the time with regards to the bigger picture. Definitive answers are released gradually, with usually no more than one or two hard facts being revealed in any given episode. Building upon itself, later episodes in the season do pack some noticeable suspense.

Supplementing the methodical unwinding of the central conundrum is the fish out of water, a set-up that really never gets old, no matter how many times it's put on film. It takes investing a little while for "Kyle XY"'s contribution to the genre to become memorable, but it eventually emerges as diverting enough to keep the show afloat. Kyle is like a fully-conscious (and, via his narration, articulate) baby. The regular voiceover is supposed to be funny for the unusual way it refers to ordinary everyday things, and while it only has mild success, the curiosities of modern living are framed in a compelling manner to the observant, completely unfamiliar protagonist.

Kyle experiences his new home for the first time. Nicole (Marguerite MacIntyre) and Stephen (Bruce Thomas) talk about their unusually gifted new foster child.

A kind of cross between Doogie Howser and young Clark Kent, Kyle excels in school academically and can more than stand up for himself physically thanks to his quick reflexes. One area where there's room for him to learn is in human interactions, but his new "siblings" and their social circles give him plenty of schooling there. There's school, parties, friends, romances, lies, secrets, and basketball. Naturally, Kyle's family learns from him in more subtle ways, just as he learns from them in seemingly concrete fashion.

The premise of "Kyle XY" calls many things to mind. The out-of-this-world individual in Anytown, U.S.A. reminds one of a number of scripted concoctions of the early-to-mid 1980s, like Starman, E.T., "ALF", and most closely, D.A.R.Y.L.. Naturally, this is adapted to the hour-long drama format, rather than Spielbergian fantasy or standard sitcom. (And of course, Kyle doesn't look like an extraterrestrial, at least not in the Mac and Me sense.) In style, "Kyle XY" definitely resembles a WB/CW hour-long show both in its teen drama and the intrigue/sci-fi/fantasy elements. Some might say it's like a much lighter version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in that regard. Another hour-long series it recalls is Fox's one-season, 2002-03 drama "John Doe" about a man with much expertise but no knowledge of his own identity living in, you guessed it, Seattle.

Lori (April Matson), Kyle, and Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) stick together after striking out at a much-anticipated party. Tom Foss (Nicholas Lea) is a man of mystery who's very interested in keeping tabs on the Tragers.

Despite the similarities to other properties, "Kyle XY" found an audience of its own, becoming the highest-rated show in ABC Family history. That in itself is not exactly a triumphant claim, based on the network's low-key and rerun-heavy programming.
Still, when the show returns to the air in a second season on June 11th, it will run for 23 episodes, thanks to a recently-announced extension from the originally-ordered 13 episodes.

As far as its network is concerned, "Kyle XY" moves toward illustrating how the "Family" part of "ABC Family" is a technicality, one required by the terms of the contracts that have let ownership of the Pat Robertson-founded channel shift hands. The show is rated TV-14 for DLV (Suggestive Dialogue, Coarse Language, Violence) and while it never contains the type of gore, profanity and nudity that's largely limited to the big screen (and subscription cable), it definitely does not deserve to be thought of as family viewing, unless your family is free of young children. In truth, some may consider the show questionable even for those newly in their teens. While such adolescents will surely be exposed to far worse things in PG-13-rated theatrical fare and merely in hormone-fueled peer conversations, the frank sexual content involving teens may be deemed off-putting, inappropriate, or at the very least awkward for those in lower grades of high school and younger.

Synopses of the ten episodes follow. I've made sure not to ruin any big surprises, so that a potential viewer can know what to expect in terms of the types of episodes yet still get to experience each episode without having plot specifics spoiled.

The first time we see Kyle XY, he's naked in the woods and dripping with pink goo. Yet, when it's bathtime, he keeps his clothes on. (Actually, he sleeps in this bathtub.) Kyle XY, high school student, in "This is Not a Test."

Disc 1

1. Pilot (42:54) (Originally aired June 26, 2006)
Caught roaming the streets in the nude, an unidentified boy is taken into a juvenile detention hall and then into the custody of a therapist and her family, who name him Kyle.

2. Sleepless in Seattle (43:16) (Originally aired July 3, 2006)
Kyle struggles to understand the concept of time
and tries to acquire a need for sleep.

3. The Lies That Bind (42:58) (Originally aired July 10, 2006)
Kyle is introduced to the notion of white lies in visiting Stephen's workplace and spending time with Lori and Josh.

4. Diving In (44:43) (Originally aired July 17, 2006)
In this episode of firsts, Kyle has his first dream, his first erection, and his first swimming lesson, in three separate but related incidents. There's also a party which yields excitement then disappointment for he and his foster siblings.

Disc 2

5. This Is Not a Test (43:59) (Originally aired July 24, 2006)
Kyle's first day of school finds him absorbing a multi-volume encyclopedia to pass an entry test. He also bonds with an outcast and wows a math teacher.

Kyle wants in on Lori's birthday action, as Amanda (Kirsten Prout) looks on. Declan (Chris Olivero) and Charlie (Cory Monteith) don't agree on Kyle being allowed to join their basketball team. Kyle, Lori, and Declan walk through the University of Washington's campus during their weekend trip.

6. Blame It on the Rain (44:19) (Originally aired July 31, 2006)
A thunderstorm keeps everyone inside the Trager house on Lori's birthday. Kyle forms his first memory while still questioning his origins.

7. Kyle Got Game (43:32) (Originally aired August 7, 2006)
Kyle tries his hand at basketball and excels. He immediately joins the school team for their championship game in this most contrived episode.

8. Memory Serves (42:54) (Originally aired August 14, 2006)
Kyle joins Lori and Declan for a visit to the University of Washington, where they explore his potential link to the college's recently-slain professor.

Disc 3

9. Overheard (43:21) (Originally aired August 21, 2006)
Kyle reconsiders giving up the search for his past, as his newly-discovered precision hearing ability reveals new truths.

10. Endgame (44:12) (Originally aired August 28, 2006)
Kyle's "real parents" show up, but he's skeptical and all are reluctant to bid farewell.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though made for basic cable, "Kyle XY" boasts the production values of a higher-profile TV venture and thus its 16x9 widescreen/Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation compares well with network dramas. There were no shortcomings in picture, which is recorded via high-definition video; the occasional handheld-shot scene being excused and the rare digital-looking shot not offending. (It's worth mentioning that the pilot's commentary mentions the widescreen framing shows "extra stuff that was never meant to be seen", suggesting the show's 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio is the creators' preferred vision.) While the soundtrack is subdued next to a theatrical film, the mix is plenty sufficient and the 5.1 channel audio does add a bit of depth and atmosphere to the proceedings.

Stephen and Nicole admire Kyle's elaborately-choreographed goodbye in the 100-second sequence that extends the season finale "Endgame." Comments from the likes of Matt Dallas pertain largely to the second season and are buried at the end of "Kyle Declassified."

BONUS FEATURES

Bonus features begin on Disc 1 with audio commentaries on the first and fourth episodes. The pilot's features star Matt Dallas, producer Julie Plec, co-creator Eric Bress, and executive producer David Himelfarb.
The other commentary, on "Diving In", brings back Dallas and Plec, and adds actress April Matson. Both tracks prove to be easy and rewarding listens, especially the informative pilot one, which elaborates on differences from the original script (penned 8 years ago) and from itself before re-shoots/re-edits (presented elsewhere on the DVD). Both offer interesting production anecdotes, explanations of visual effects, discussion of guiding principles for the series at large, market research findings, and comments on aspects that the network either supported or shot down. That last point merits a tiny gripe on "Diving" and a note to all studios: when you're editing a remark out of a commentary, make sure you lose the lead-in too. There's little more frustrating than an about-to-be juicy tidbit that abruptly cuts off. Aside from that, these tracks are a treat and are worth the time they require.

Disc 3 holds two alternate versions of Season 1 episodes. First is the alternate pilot (41:45, without end credits) discussed in the commentary. It differs in a number of slight ways from the pilot that aired, most noticeably in the vocals of a different narrator and pre-voice change Josh (his dialogue was later looped for consistency). There's no major personnel change (like, say, the alternate series premiere of "Full House") and any extensions or deletions seem too brief to single out, but perhaps ardent fans may appreciate it. Second and less substantial is an extended version (45:40) of the season finale "Endgame." As far as I can tell, its only difference comes near the end when a cheesy 100-second sequence depicts the Trager family missing Kyle and witnessing his elaborately-choreographed absentee goodbye, complete with new musical cue. I guess it's nice to see the added scene in context and still have your choice of watching the broadcast version or this, but for such a long running time, the unique material is quite minute.

The last extra, "Kyle Declassified" (18:03), spends its first 13 minutes recapping Season 1's central mystery and the remaining 4 previewing Season 2 in the most vague way possible. It's fine as a condensed series primer for someone jumping in on Season 2, but that's obviously not the case for someone owning the DVD, leaving the promotional final minutes of only slight interest for fans.

As someone who was mildly pleased by this show, I was fine with the supplements offered, but it seems pretty apparent that more could have been done, even with just a genuine featurette, deleted footage, and some show promos.

Kyle listens to Amanda's sweet piano music in the Kyle XY Season 1 DVD Main Menu. Kyle looks to the heavens for guidance in selecting an episode on Disc 1.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

"Kyle XY": Season 1 is packaged like, many 3-disc Buena Vista season sets, in a disc-overlapping Digipak. This is housed inside an open-ended cardboard case, which is partially holographic and embosses the show's title.
Apple iTunes
In the Digipak's flap for booklets, one finds two inserts: one promoting the second season on ABC Family and various Disney TV series' DVD releases, the other offering a dollar savings on a repeatedly-referenced sour candy that serves as a questionable source of budget, i.e. product placement.

As far as menus go, though only the Main Menu is animated, it is done so in an inspired way, with a montage that assumes the style of Kyle's pointillist artwork set to a piano score excerpt. The other menu screens are silent, static, and strangely, overly sharp, yielding distinct edge-ringing. While no scene selection menus are offered, each episode is broken into 8 or 9 well-timed chapter stops. Each episode opens with a one-minute "Previously on 'Kyle XY'" recap and closes with a cheesy 30-second montage of pilot episode moments (the end credits are to the side).

Disc One opens with promos for Ratatouille, "Scrubs": The Complete Fifth Season, ABC Family, "Kyle XY" on ABC Family, and "Fallen."

Kyle XY puts the puzzle pieces together in more ways than one. The Tragers (plus neighbor Amanda) welcome Kyle into their family photo.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Skeptical of both ABC Family's original programming and a series being sold by a navel-less abdomen, I was lightly but pleasantly surprised by "Kyle XY." As I was ready to write off this hour-long drama, it wound up winning me over enough to care about what happened next. I can't call it an excellent show, but it is an effective one, well-crafted enough to involve a viewer in both its overriding mystery and everyday encounters.

Disney's three-disc DVD is a bit pricey for holding just ten episodes. Picture and sound are predictably potent, while the modest slate of extras falls short of fan-satisfying but does serve to gently supplement the featured series, with the two commentaries coming especially recommended.

Though it bears mentioning once again, despite the family setting and the name of the cable network that airs it, "Kyle XY" is best for those into their teens and up. Those in that age group who enjoy hour-long teen and genre dramas, like certain fare on the WB/CW, should find this program worth considering.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Items:
Buy Kyle XY: The Soundtrack CD from Amazon.com Buy Kyle XY: 2008 Wall Calendar from Amazon.com Buy Kyle XY: Nowhere to Hide from Amazon.com
Kyle XY: Soundtrack
CD, MySpace Records
Features songs from The 88,
O.A.R., Earlimart, Carey
Brothers, Sherwood,
Irving, and Climber
Kyle XY: 2008 Wall Calendar
August 1, 2007
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Kyle XY: Nowhere to Hide
Young Adult novel
Paperback, 192 pages
Harper Entertainment
September 1, 2007

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Reviewed May 22, 2007.