While nowhere does anyone actually say it, Caroline In The City is obviously inspired by/ripped off from the popular newspaper comic strip Cathy. Each episode, for a time anyway, would begin with an animated scene from one of the “Caroline” strips. The topic mostly deals with the pitfalls of being a single New York City girl. From these roots there was an often awkward attempt to create a warm and fuzzy romantic comedy that never seemed to find its own focus, let alone footing. It didn’t help matters that the title character was played by Lea Thompson, best known for her role as Michael J. Fox’s mom in the Back To The Future films. Here as she was there, Thompson is relatively unemoting, a tragic flaw in a romantic character. She’s a good enough actress, but she does appear to be missing charisma in the role. Caroline was joined by her comic strip colorist, Richard, played by Malcolm Gets. Here again we have a pretty reserved actor. Now we’ve got a couple of very low key actors playing a couple where sparks should be flying, and it never works. Most of the laughs, in fact, don’t even come from our leads. Instead Amy Pietz has most of the funny lines as intrusive next door neighbor Annie. Annie’s a cast member in the then huge Broadway production of Cats. She would often barge into the apartment where Caroline and Richard are working/sniping at each other and offer the comic relief in this situation comedy.
What’s most disappointing about the show is that it comes from minds like James Burrows, who brought us so many great moments on Cheers. On the surface there really isn’t anything wrong with Caroline In The City. There are many funny moments, but most of the time it simply hangs there leaving you waiting for the punch line, until you realize you’ve already heard it. I found the characters somewhat charming, but there’s no dynamic or chemistry there to suck you into these characters’ foibles. In the end it neither pleases nor displeases; it was merely just there. Gone soon and as quickly forgotten.
The show found its voice a little more in season two. While I still think it doesn’t live up to the expectation of the talent on board, there’s no question that I laughed a little more often in the second season than I did in the first. As the first season ended fans were thinking there might have been a cast change. Richard had quit and gone off to Paris to be a real artist again. The second season begins with that premise moving forward. Caroline in looking for Richard’s replacement, but Richard’s not making it too well in France. The episodes, Caroline And The Younger Man and Caroline And The Letter serve to right the ship once again and get us back to the show’s familiar grove. A love letter Richard wrote from Paris to Caroline is a running joke throughout the season. Annie has a great episode in Caroline And The Cat Dancer. Annie is promised she won’t ever have to pay taxes again in her life if she can get her ornery auditor an audition for Cats. Of course, she tries to scam the guy, and of course, it backfires. It just wouldn’t be funny otherwise, would it? Richard’s inadvertent doodle of a porcupine leads to an offer of a strip of his own based on the character in Caroline And The Freight King. Will Richard compromise his artistic integrity, any more than he already has, that is? Caroline convinces Richard to fake his death to get more interest in the art community for his work, in Caroline And The Dearly Departed. Caroline’s new neighbor is driving her insane and then suddenly asks for help in removing her husband’s dead body from the apartment, in Caroline And The New Neighbor. The season ends with a three-part story that brings about changes to the lives of the entire cast.
Each episode of Caroline In The City is presented in its original full frame broadcast format. As sitcoms go, this one looks pretty good. Colors are pretty consistent and relatively natural. Black levels are pretty much average. I was impressed by an unusual (for sit-com releases) lack of compression artifact.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track serves merely as an adequate delivery system for dialog. You can hear everything with no audible distortion.
Promos: These are very short syndication station promos for the series.
The show found its legs and will have a tendency to grow on you in its sophomore season. If it were not for the need to set the characters up I would suggest you start with this set and not the noticeably inferior first release. There’s more character chemistry here, and it expands into the other characters more, allowing for a better variety of stories. So, even if you weren’t really sold on season one, give the show one more chance and “rock till you plotz”.