Newlyweds: The Final Season review by Mike Long

It has been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That must be what Paramount Home Entertainment is thinking right now as the release of Newlyweds: The Final Season looms on the horizon. With the Thanksgiving Day announcement that Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson were separating, most likely to divorce, their names were suddenly back in the news and the tabloids were scrambling to get more information on the subject. Now that the final ten episodes of the couple's MTV show are now available on DVD, the curious can scrutinize the show, trying to find a sign that the marriage was in trouble. If you ask me, those clues were evident on the very first episode of the show.

For those of you who have managed to avoid Newlyweds (and trust me, part of me doesn't blame you), the show focuses on pop singers Nick Lachey (formerly of the boy band 98 Degrees) and Jessica Simpson (older sister of Ashlee Simpson). The couple married in late 2002 and MTV set up cameras in their home, capturing the newlyweds as they discovered what marriage was really like. The show quickly garnered national attention for the incredibly dimwitted exploits of Simpson.

The fourth and final season captured on this DVD collection opens with the couple celebrating their second wedding anniversary, where they, of course, shower each other with extravagant gifts. As with much of Newlyweds, the remainder of this season focuses on Nick and Jessica's struggles with being away from one another (is this a clue to the break-up?). She flies off to Louisiana to film The Dukes of Hazzard, while Nick stays in Los Angeles to do boring things like set up an in-home recording studio and take a vacation to Cabo with his buddies. We do get treated to some domestic situations, such as the couple attempting to potty-train their new dog and the Valentine's Day episode in which Nick imposes a spending limit of $20.

I've stated before that I'm not a fan of reality shows, and actively avoid most of them, but there's something about the train wreck that is Newlyweds that I find irresistible. (If it helps shed any light on my psyche, the only other reality show that I'll even start to watch is Cheaters.) I'm sure that many watch the show because they are interested in seeing how the rich and famous live, and there are certainly they poor souls who tune in because they are actually fans of Simpson and/or Lachey's music. But, for me, I watch the show to catch the human tragedies taking place there. I find it fascinating that someone as ignorant (note that I didn't say stupid, that would be mean) as Jessica Simpson can not only survive in this world, but be a multi-millionaire as well. As noted above, the show became a hit partly because of Simpson's lack of knowledge on the most obvious things, and the show never fails to produce a "How could she not know that?" moment on each episode. And all the while, there's Nick, who appears to be a fairly intelligent and infinitely patient person, by her side, attempting to be supportive.

So, yes, I get some perverse pleasure from watching the show, but how can I not, with the camera trained on this couple? MTV has managed to get amazing access to Simpson and Lachey's lives and we get (what we assume) is a good picture of who these people really are. And the result is two characters which many screenwriters would only dream of producing. Jessica remains the spoiled daddy's girl who loves to spend money. (She mentions on the Valentine's Day episode that she never looks at price tags.) I don't know much about Simpson's up-bringing, but growing up the daughter of a minister in Texas, I doubt she was rolling in the dough. And yet, she's totally bought into the glamorous life and only wants the finer things. On the other hand, we have Nick, who clearly enjoys the finer things in life as well, such as nice cars and plasma TVs. But, Nick is still very down-to-Earth, as evidenced in the Christmas episode where he winces at the price of a Christmas tree in New York City. This is just one example of the personality clashes on this show, and will serve as a good staring off point for those who are merely interested in why Nick and Jessica didn't stay married. For the rest of us, Newlyweds is like a demented social experiment, showing that money can buy a big house, nice cars, and lots of clothes, but it can't buy marital bliss, nor can it buy common knowledge of the world.

Newlyweds: The Final Season comes to DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The two-disc set contains all ten episodes from this fourth, and final season. The shows are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The show was shot on high-end video and the image is always very clear. Due to the fact that this is a reality show, there are some occasional problems with the image being too bright or too dark, but it is usually very stable. The pictures shows some video noise at times, but there is little artifacting and no defects from the source material. The episodes are accompanied by a Dolby Digital stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue. The stereo separation is only noticeable during the incidental pop music which accompanies the show. This music also provides a nice bass response from the front channels.

The Newlyweds: The Final Season DVD set carries a few extras. "Behind the Scenes: Nick and Jessica" (32 minutes) is an interesting featurette which shows how the show is made. The crew members shares their thoughts on following Nick and Jessica and discuss how realistic Jessica's behavior on the show is. Specific episodes are examined here. "The Good, the Bad, and the Mess-ups" (25 minutes) is essentially a continuation of the last episode of the show, as Nick and Jessica look back on some of their most memorable moments from the show. Finally, "Newlywed Moments" (4 minutes) simply shows highlights from the final season.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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