The Secret Life Of Us took critics on a field trip, as a new Australian drama to take over from the likes of Home and Away and Neighbours. Finally, something better than that nightly load of twaddle...
You got that one right! The Secret Life Of Us focuses on a tight-knit group of nine friends and their lives in the bustling metropolitan confines of St Kilda. This is so far away from Ramsey Street and Summer Bay it’s not funny. For starters, we actually have bloody good scripts performed using bloody good actors and filmed with solid and realistic sets... OK, bloody good sets! With production values that make each episode appear more like a 45-minute film, this series really sets new standards for television drama.
The best improvement by far with this second series release on DVD is the number of episodes per package. The first series released by Shock had a total of seven discs with three (and one with four) episodes per disc. Each disc was (originally) priced at $29.95, totalling nearly $210 for the entire series - this isn’t cheap, especially compared to other series' on DVD. Liberation Music DVD and Warner Vision have decided to boost the package, with seven episodes per package spanned over three two disc sets. Sure, the price is now $34.95, but this time the fans will only be up for $105 for the entire series as opposed to over $200.
The packaging leaves a little to be desired, with the only image being the front cover with the “strips” of faces similar to that used in the opening titles, including one face not introduced in the first seven episodes... The back cover is missing any image of any description, only to host episode synopses. But oh well, it’s the content we really wanna see...
The second series picks up exactly where the first left off. Now, lets refresh your memory with that:
Evan (Samuel Johnson) got accepted to an arts school in the United States; Gab (Sibylla Budd) quit her job to find a greater meaning to life; Jason (Damian De Montemas) and his new girlfriend are about to have a baby, right in front of Jason’s ex, Gab; Kelly (Deborah Mailman) is head over heels in love with Nathan, and still clinging to bizarre concepts and ways of life; Alex (Claudia Karvan) has taken a year off from the surgery program and shared a passionate kiss with Evan on the taxi ride to the airport; Miranda (Abi Tucker) and Ritchie (Spencer McLaren) have broken up, with Ritchie coming out; Will (Joel Edgerton) lost Sam in a tragic car accident and still isn’t the same; and Simon (David Tredinnick) still owns the Fu Bar. At least the things that really matter never change...
OK, now that we are back up to date, lets get started.
Episode 1: A New World Order
This episode welcomes you back to the lives of the group, and simply continues where we left off. In case you missed it, just scroll back up, we don’t need to go through all that again! Now that you’re back with us, Alex and Kelly receive a postcard from Evan in the US, with a simple one-line message. From this point, Alex decides not to wait and to seize every opportunity that she can. The first ‘opportunity’ has a name, Rex (played by Vince Colosimo). Gabrielle surprises everyone by returning home from touring with Evan, and gives Alex a video tape made by him, yet like the postcard it holds little more than a vague message. As the title suggests, there is a new order to the life of these people, with new relationships, new jobs, new housemates, new friends and new views on life, and for some, new love.
Episode 2: Free Will
After cheating death at work, Will believes he is invincible and bumps into a clown who passes on a mysterious flyer telling him he is free. Will believes this, and in his state of shock after Sam’s death, wanders around with an altered personality. He collects Julie along the way and shows her the “other” side of Will. Alex and Rex still hit it off hard and heavy... with Rex being "hard" daily with an eerie precision... 2:45pm to be exact! Kelly decides to contemplate her future, and decides to look at TAFE courses as an alternative to full time work at the Fu Bar.
Episode 3: The Dance
With Evan back in Australia and jealousy between he and Alex greater than ever, he starts to feel like a nosy prick (as he has also previously done) and decides to create havoc between Rex and Alex. Gab’s new job interview turns out to be more of a bizarre form of “dating,” and Will and Miranda start to hit it off with a chance of something developing that's more than just friends.
Episode 4: An Ill Wind...
With the ill wind comes the peculiar personality of Lauren, the book publisher. After an unsuccessful and embarrassing first meeting, Evan is left in a hole about his book and still can’t find that right girl to discontinue that long line of one-night stands. The biggest drama is Ritchie coming out to his homophobic father, which can only mean problems, as well as Rex unveiling his four letter swear word to Alex. Yes, that’s right, that scary little word that starts with an ‘L’...
Episode 5: The Grand Delusion
Evan has strike two with Lauren, the book publisher. This time he hits a home run but a slighty “small” (heehee) problem stops it from happening. Julie and Miranda (old enemies) are cast together in the same stage performance, and the cat fight to end all cat fights begins, with an interesting “yellow” tinge to the outcome. Kelly is starting to panic about the “Sixth Month Itch” with Nathan, as she thinks that he is starting to lose interest. The honeymoon period must end sometime...
Episode 6: It’s Not Easy
Kelly and Nathan have their first fight, after Kelly drags Nathan to a party of old school acquaintances (not even close to friends) where he is shown around like a “designer handbag.” Jobs, honesty, friendships, fights, sex, bets, unrequited love, old flames and cooking all get their fair screen-time in this instalment, delving deeper into the issues surrounding the tight little group, including Gab and her new *married* boss, 14 ½ years her senior.
Episode 7: A Fine Line
There’s a fine line between lots of things – insomnia and early rising for example, as Evan (Johnson) suggests. This fine line also works for love. One small step either way can spell disaster all around. Evan’s book launch starts the episode flying, but ends it crashing when Alex’s world falls down around her.
But what happens next? Well, just keep an eye out for the next two disc sets through the exciting new Liberation Music during November...
Presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this 16x9 enhanced presentation leaves a strong flavour in your mouth and blasts the way for Liberation Music DVD into the world of DVD.
While not the finest transfer around, this does still boast a high quality and great vision compared to a fuzzy out-of-reception TV picture. It is consistently sharp, yet isn’t always clear. The lack of clarity can clearly (ha ha, no pun intended) be seen during the opening credits at the beginning of each episode.
Traces of compression artefacts can be seen consistently throughout the transfer. At times, minor background blocking can be seen, and at others some more major artefacts are visible. None of these artefacts distort the actual picture, rather they distort the colours that make up objects.
Posterisation would be the biggest problem of the transfer, again with some minor and some major cases. These issues aren’t terribly annoying, yet are apparent during many scenes, and notably more so on the second disc.
Colours are bright, rich and vibrant, with an energetic electricity passed through them. Skin tones are plump and lifelike, and all colours hold a harmonious vibe. Blacks are solid and black, with no low-level noise, yet shadow detail is a tad murky at times, and slightly solid. This is due to the production technique, yet is slightly distracting on DVD.
There is a slight problem with grain, as the entire picture seems to be covered with a fine “wash.” This grain varies in problems from the purest, clearest image, to the multi-grain of DVD. Film artefacts are very rare, with only one occurrence on disc two even worthy of mention.
Both discs are dual layer, with no layer change detected on disc 2, as it has been placed between episodes. However, a brief pause occurs at 44:17 in Episode 2 (on disc 1), which is similar to a layer change, but doesn’t actually stall the player in the same way. Sadly there are no subtitles on this disc, which at times could have been of use for some of the more unintelligible dialogue.