Wildfire has all the subtlety and charm of an ABC After School Special. Truth be told, the pilot episode reminded me a lot of Showgirls, but instead of becoming a pole dancer, this girl is becoming a horse trainer. The basic elements are still the same, though. A girl with a rough past gets an entry-level position at her dream job, and must work her way up the ranks. Only this show is on ABC Family. Gone is all the glitz and flash that tried to cover up the horrid plot of Showgirls. Withou… all those distractions, the viewer is sadly left only with lame, tired dialog and incredibly predictable plot lines to keep them warm.
If this was a dog show, and you asked me what I thought, I’d say “woof”. However, it’s a horse show. Therefore, I say “neigh”.
The audio track here is just a big mess. First off, the levels are all over the place. Even in the same scene, some actors’ dialog will be loud, while others’ are at a whisper-level. This causes the viewer to constantly adjust the volume level, which now that I think about, will at least give them something to do while the show is running.
Another problem comes up with regard to the score. One of the big topics of contention among TV-on-DVD buyers is the issue of music licensing. While some shows feature trendy music in their television broadcasts, the music is often times changed for the DVD release for rights reasons. The problem here, however, is that the music wasn’t changed. This show is stuffed full of lame sound-alike artists that really drag the show down; and let’s be honest, it was pretty low to begin with. Music should support the story, but it only serves here as a constant reminder that everything about this production is second rate.
As goes the audio, so goes the video. Kudos go to Lion’s Gate for presenting this show in widescreen, even though it is not a true High Definition program. However, that’s where my bragging ends. For me, problem #1 is the color. While I am certain this was done for thematic reasons, the colors on these episodes is way, way too warm. Flesh tones skew heavily toward orange and red, which is not only unnatural, it is distracting. Along with color issues, lighting is also a point of contention. Shadows are much too dark, obscuring many of the actors’ facial features, and washing out any emotion they may have brought to the story. What’s more, there is grainy footage scattered throughout these episodes. The entire presentation is just bad from start to finish.
I must admit, there are some pretty nice commentaries on this disc. There are both cast commentaries and crew commentaries included, and it seems pretty clear to me that these people really enjoy working together, and they are genuinely funny, pleasant people. Truth is, the commentaries are infinitely better than the episodes themselves. If you are ever forced to watch these discs )like I was), do yourself a favor and watch them with the commentaries turned on whenever possible.
Other extras include a stable of deleted scenes (stable… get it?), which vary in quality, and are all non-anamorphic. These are tied to the menu for their corresponding episode, so viewers won’t get to the last disc and think, “now which episode did this scene go with again?” Also here are two featurettes; “Building the Raintree Ranch” and “The Horses of Wildfire”. Both of these segments play out just as they sound. Unfortunately, when the show itself is so lame, it’s hard to get excited about what goes into making the half-hearted affair. Cast bios and a trailer round out the discussions.
I can just see the production meeting now. “We need a new hour-long drama that is family friendly. Black Beauty was popular when I was a kid. Let’s do that, but throw in some of that teen romance stuff like The O.C. that all the kids seem to be going for these days.”
Why do products that intend to be wholesome and family-friendly have to be so bad? The answer is, they don’t. For some reason, though, studios seem to make an exception in their quality standards when it comes to family faire. Providence got it right, so I know it can be done. I know that ABC Family is trying, but mediocre shows like this one are not the way to success. The key is not to make a successful family show, the key is to make a great show that just happens to be family-friendly.
Special Features List
- The Horses of Wildfire
- Creating Raintree Ranch
- Audio Commentaries
- Deleted Scenes