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"Make It or Break It" Volume One: Extended Edition DVD Review

Buy Make It or Break It: Volume 1 DVD from Amazon.com Make It or Break It: Volume One (2009)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Holly Sorensen / Writers: Holly Sorensen, Kerry Lenhart, John J. Sakmar, Michael Gans, Joanna Johnson, Richard Register

Directors: Steve Miner, Norman Buckley, Chris Grismer

Regular Cast: Zachary Abel (Carter Anderson), Chelsea Hobbs (Emily Kmetko), Ayla Kell (Payson Keeler), Josie Loren (Kaylie Cruz), Cassie Scerbo (Lauren Tanner), Susan Ward (Chloe Kmetko), Candace Cameron Bure (Summer Van Horne), Peri Gilpin (Kim Keeler)

Recurring Characters: Neil Jackson (Sasha Beloff), Johnny Pacar (Damon Young), Anthony Starke (Steve Tanner), Rosa Blasi (Ronnie Cruz), Jason Manuel Olazabal (Alex Cruz), Marcus Coloma (Leo Cruz), Mia Rose Frampton (Becca Keeler), Wyatt Smith (Brian Kmetko), Erik Palladino (Marty Walsh), Marsha Thomason (MJ), Brett Cullen (Mark Keeler), Nico Tortorella (Razor), Nicole Gale Anderson (Kelly Parker)

Running Time: 430 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: TV-14-DL

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 12, 2010; Season 1 Airdates: June 22 - August 24, 2009
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99; Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Clear standard-width keepcase in embossed, cardboard slipcover

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By Kelvin Cedeno

There are only so many ways to set a teenage drama apart from television's vast sea of other teenage dramas, especially on the same network, no less. ABC Family found one of them in the rarely-tapped world of gymnastics for "Make It or Break It".

While this series is essentially an ensemble, it focuses slightly more on Emily Kmetko (Chelsea Hobbs). Emily's life is not an easy one. She's forced to be the responsible one at home, caring for both a flighty young mother (Susan Ward) and a wheelchair-bound younger brother (Wyatt Smith).
Emily's dream is to be an Olympic gymnast, and when the opportunity arrives for her to train at Boulder, Colorado's prestigious The Rock, she takes it. There, she soon discovers that she has much to prove to the seasoned scoffers whose ranks she joins.

Not that the other girls have everything under control in their lives. Lauren Tanner (Cassie Scerbo) is grimly determined to be the best gymnast around. However, she grows increasingly more distracted as her father (Anthony Starke) forms a relationship with his personal assistant (Candace Cameron Bure). Kaylie Cruz (Josie Loren) has a secret to hide in the form of boyfriend/teammate Carter Anderson (Zachary Abel). Should their relationship be exposed, both could be booted off the team. Finally, there's Payson Keeler (Ayla Kell), whose entire life revolves around the sport, so much so that she's willing to take drugs for her increasing back pain without parental consent.

Chloe (Susan Ward) for once is able to play the role of adult and ease her daughter Emily's (Chelsea Hobbs) anxieties. Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) may feel threatened, but Kaylie (Josie Loren) and Payson (Ayla Kell) are impressed by Emily's gymnastics skills.

One thing in the show's favor is its subject. While gymnastics have been depicted elsewhere, it hasn't been done to death. That gives "Make It or Break It" a bit of fresh air as it's presenting something a little out of the ordinary. While it's obvious that doubles are used for the actual stunts, one can't help but be drawn into impressive feats on display here. Also in the show's favor is how it deals with high school students without ever stepping foot inside a school. That apparently won't be true of future episodes, but at least here at the start, the constant change in scenery helps keep it from feeling claustrophobic.

Unfortunately, that's about as much praise as can be given to the series. The gymnastics scenario helps to serve as a distraction, but eventually even that can't mask how clich้d this is. The character arcs for the four leads each feel very familiar, bringing back to mind anything from Sixteen Candles and The Little Mermaid to a dozen underdog sports stories. It isn't even so much an issue of using tried and true formulas. Some of the most respected films and television series of all time have utilized classic plot elements and premises. The problem is that "Make It or Break It" has trouble making anything its own.

Carter (Zachary Abel) plays the dumb card when Lauren makes certain suggestions about the two of them in front of Kaylie. Emily, Payson, Lauren, and Kaylie perform leg raises as part of their day-long punishment for attending a keg party.

The gymnastics feel oddly detached from everything else, almost as if two different shows were being fused together. The performances across the board are solid, some even exceptional, but they can't mask how shallow everything feels. There's obviously an effort to make these characters well-rounded, but most of the attempts at emotion feel forced and phony. Because of that, "Make It or Break It" comes across soapier than most soap operas. It's full of contrivances and coincidences all linked by false drama. If all this were done with a wink and a nudge, that's one thing, but the program takes itself seriously to an astonishing degree.

It may sound like this is a terrible show. To be honest, it isn't, but it's guilty of mediocrity, which could be interpreted as a greater sin. Some truly interesting gymnastics and an avoidance of the overused classroom setting aren't enough to shake up the relentlessly ordinary plots and shallow characters. One could find much worse fare in the world of teenage dramas, but one could also find much better, even from ABC Family.

Note that while this Volume One DVD of "Make It or Break It" is labeled an Extended Edition, only the batch's final episode ("All That Glitters") is prolonged and only by a mere two minutes.

Payson (Ayla Kell) tries to convince Sasha (Neil Jackson) to stay as their coach after he’s been disillusioned by their parents. Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) surprises everyone at the fashion show with a knock-out appearance on the catwalk.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (44:05) (Originally aired June 22, 2009)
Newcomer Emily's arrival at The Rock gymnastics training facility causes a stir amongst the other athletes. Lauren attempts to get her booted so that she has a better chance at the Nationals.

2. Where's Marty? (42:36) (Originally aired June 29, 2009)
With their coach Marty (Erik Palladino) and their teammate Lauren gone, the girls and parents of The Rock try to sort through the mess left.
Emily, Kaylie, Payson, and Payson's sister Becca (Mia Rose Frampton) travel to Denver to find Marty and get some answers.

3. Blowing Off Steam (45:10) (Originally aired July 6, 2009)
Lauren returns to The Rock with former-gymnast-turned-coach Sasha Beloff (Neil Jackson). Emily, Kaylie, and Payson sneak into a keg party despite strict guidelines forbidding it.

4. Sunday, Bloody Sasha, Sunday (44:57) (Originally aired July 13, 2009)
Sasha finds out about the girls' party and puts them through a day of intense training as punishment. This threatens Emily's job at the pizza shack.

5. Like Mother, Like Daughter, Like Supermodel (44:23) (Originally aired July 20, 2009)
To raise money for the trip to Nationals, The Rock hosts a mother-daughter fashion show. Lauren attempts to bring down everyone around her to elevate her self-esteem and get Carter's attention.

Carter (Zachary Abel) and Kaylie (Josie Loren) spend a moment together in secret. Emily (Chelsea Hobbs), Kaylie (Josie Loren), Payson (Ayla Kell), and Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) all have a lot on their minds and need to sort it all out before their big competition.

Disc 2

6. Between a Rock and a Hard Place (44:37) (Originally aired July 27, 2009)
Sasha invites a rival gym, led by Marty, over for a local competition to help the girls prepare for Nationals. Kaylie and Carter's attempts to keep their relationship a secret grow harder and harder.

7. Run, Emily, Run (44:22) (Originally aired August 3, 2009)
After being kicked out for her lack of obedience, Emily is determined to prove to Sasha that she has what it takes to go to Nationals. Payson tries to get herself an agent to help with her family's finances.

8. All's Fair in Love, War and Gymnastics (44:47) (Originally aired August 10, 2009)
Kaylie's family throws the team a party before they head off to Nationals, but everyone's problems hamper the evening.
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Among them are the Kaylie/Carter/Lauren love triangle and Payson's underhanded methods of curing her back pain.

9. Where's Kaylie? (44:18) (Originally aired August 17, 2009)
Carter finally admits to Kaylie that he slept with Lauren, causing her to run away the day before Nationals. The girls conduct a search in order to talk some sense into her.

10. All That Glitters (46:59) (Originally aired August 24, 2009)
The girls finally arrive at Boston for Nationals, where their personal woes get in the way of their performances. This is the one episode that earns the set its Extended Edition moniker. With no commentaries to elaborate, it's unclear what has been added, but the episode plays seamlessly, regardless.

Kaylie performs an impressive for the judges in hopes of being one of the lucky few to compete in Nationals. Summer (Candace Cameron Bure) reveals something from her past to help set Lauren on the right path.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Make It or Break It" comes to DVD in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio of its HD broadcasts. For the most part, the transfers are strong. Colors appear bold, yet natural. Sharpness is reasonably concise, and the image is free of any print defects. The only thing hampering the presentation somewhat are compression artifacts scattered throughout the episodes, but these aren't severe enough to be a major distraction.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtracks are also adequate. Speech is clear and intelligible, and the variety of music, while a bit loud in comparison to the dialogue, gives some life to the tracks. Surround effects, though, seem fairly non-existent as they are firmly front-centered with the dialogue. Still, given subject matter, the sound gets the job done.

Show creator, writer and executive producer Holly Sorensen explains why she chose this subject matter in particular for this show in "Making It." Ronnie (Rosa Blasi) and Chloe (Susan Ward) share a rare laugh and drink together in this deleted scene. Chelsea Hobbs' cover shot shares the screen with a proud Emily pose on Disc 1's animated main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Even for an ABC Family DVD, "Make It or Break It" comes with a lighter than usual slate of supplements. The first of these is "Making It" (8:54), a general featurette whose topics include the actresses' gymnastic experiences and training, and the use of stunt doubles.
A fair amount of behind-the-scenes footage is shown, but the interviews remain pretty superficial and promotional.

Next are six deleted scenes (10:01). Outside of one scene in which a character discovers something much earlier than in the show itself, the scenes were obviously cut for time. While they wouldn't have harmed anything if left in, they were good choices to lose as they merely emphasize plot points and motivations already clear in the final cuts.

The first disc opens with trailers for When in Rome, "10 Things I Hate About You": Volume One, and "Gary Unmarried": The Complete First Season. Additional previews can be found on the Sneak Peeks menu for The Last Song, "Greek": Chapter Four, Blu-ray Disc, The Boys are Back, Surrogates, and "10 Things I Hate About You" on ABC Family.

Both discs feature the same animated main menu showing a rotation of lead actress stills and relevant character clips behind each one. The instrumental theme music accompanies this. Other musical pieces join the static submenus that contain headshots of supporting characters.

The translucently-colored discs come in a clear keepcase of standard width, which slides into a slightly embossed cardboard slipcover. The interior of the artwork reveals promo stills and episode listings. Booklets advertising Blu-ray discs and ABC shows are also included.

Emily (Chelsea Hobbs), Kaylie (Josie Loren), Payson (Ayla Kell), and Becca (Mia Rose Frampton) arrive at the new home of their old coach but have second thoughts about going in. The girls play innocent when rival gymnast Kelly finds a few embarrassing items in her gym bag.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Make It or Break It" has an interesting theme and some good sequences to back it up, but these get swallowed up by the mundane aspects. Seemingly unsure of how to mine drama out of gymnastics, the creators instead rely on tried and true teenage backstabbing and hormones. The DVD is likewise quite ordinary with serviceable picture and sound and a brief sampling of extras. There's nothing here that should turn established fans away from this release, but everyone else is better off seeking teen drama from someone like John Hughes.

More on the DVD / Buy Make It or Break It: Volume One from Amazon.com

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The Cast of "Make It or Break It":
Josie Loren: Hatching Pete | Candace Cameron Bure: Full House: The Complete Seventh Season | Neil Jackson: Push

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Reviewed January 13, 2010.



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