Premiering only days into the new year of 2007, Dirt had plenty of buzz surrounding it before the pilot aired, what with word of a certain “dirty” sequence with star Courteney Cox. Even after the episode in question aired, the show kept a steady audience and quickly became a standout in FX’s lineup. With the first season having long since finished airing, Buena Vista held back the first season set for a closer launch date with the series return to television in 2008.
Dirt focuses on magazine editor Lucy Spiller (Courteney Cox), who is constantly fighting with the darker side of the LA scene, always assuming the worst at first. Her two magazines have such a strong influence in Hollywood that she can boost or ruin a celebrity’s career by what she decides to print in the magazine, winning her a ton of enemies and allies in the process. With the first season we learn just how much an impact the magazine can have on the lives of a select few individuals in the business. Lucy’s biggest ally in all of this is her paparazzi photographer friend, Don Konkey (Ian Hart), who suffers from a manageable form of schizophrenia.
It’s easy to see why Dirt was such a critical success. It’s a well written drama that focuses on one of America’s biggest obsessions: Hollywood. Every element of the show is masterfully written and laid out and it easily envelops the viewer into the dirty world of tabloid magazines. While their world is far from clean, there are easy justifications for their work and for the lives they inadvertently ruin by printing the things they do. It’s a heck of a drama and one that I’m completely baffled by. Why am I baffled? Because I didn’t enjoy watching it.
I love watching drama’s—some of my favorite television shows and movies are dramas, so it’s not a whole genre dislike aspect going on. There’s just something about the world that Dirt exists in that I find completely unappealing. I was eager to watch the show due to its incredible reviews, but I was ultimately disappointed—I was more depressed watching each episode than anything and while there were a few episodes that had me entertained, rarely was I really into the show.
Like I said, it’s easy to see why the show is good; it’s just the element of it all I find depressing. I’ve never been one to read tabloid or gossip magazines and seeing the inner workings of one just didn’t gel well with me. Unless you’re a huge fan of the rags and a flurry of half naked bodies and countless scenes of sex, then Dirt may be best to avoid. I don’t feel I can recommend or denounce the show, simply because I’m not the audience for it. It’s not the smut factor in the show that deters me, lord knows that FX’s Rescue Me is loaded with it, but the fact that the show is so humorless. The world that the characters live in is so drastically dark that I can’t watch it without some wave of depression washing over. By the large these are all unhappy characters, with the only true happy moments occurring between Lucy and Don, both of who have great scenes with one another throughout the series.
Overall this show is really something that the viewer has to decide by watching it themselves, rather than reading reviews. If it’s your cup of tea you will likely eat the show up—I just need a dash more humor in my dramas.
The packaging for this release is a very luxurious mix of high-gloss and matt printing. Characters, objects and text shine with the slick printing, while backgrounds and a few other elements are of the matte variety. It’s a very well done package, with deep reds and blacks popping out at you. If anything, the package will catch eyes on shelves this holiday season. Inside the slipcover is a foldout digi-pak set, with two dual layer trays holding the four discs. Each disc features a character from the show (in the fourth discs case, two characters) and on the far left is a little pouch. Why they included a pouch to hold a single sheet of paper (which is only single sided) advertising the upcoming second season, I’m not entirely sure. Printed outside the pouch is a list of the episodes and their corresponding discs. Art featuring Cox’s face is spread throughout the set, along with a shot of Don, who honestly is the real highlight of the entire series.
Video and audio quality for this release is an excellent 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that looks and sounds great. There are only a few episodes in which the surround elements are used, but the audio remains clean and clear throughout. Video is truly a great transfer, with the rich and deep palette of the show coming through in every frame. No interlacing, ghosting or serious compression was detected—Buena Vista really did a great transfer of the entire season.
Moving onto the extras we have a strange mix of short and to the point clips. For some odd reason all of the extras are widescreen in a 4:3 image—if they’re shooting it in widescreen, why are the extras not in anamorphic widescreen? I’ve seen more and more DVDs putting their extras in a widescreen format—even Buena Vista’s other December 11th release of Lost: Season 3 had extras in anamorphic widescreen. These extras here are really so short it doesn’t really matter in the end, however.
“Celebrity Couple Gets Dirty” (5:08) is a short extra on the original conception of the show and Courtney Cox and David Arquette’s decision to do it. “Through a Lens, Darkly” (6:34) focuses on the character of Don Konkey and “Tabloid Wars: Totally True Stories from the Celebrity Trenches” (6:33) has real tabloid journalists talking about just how much of Dirt’s world is accurate. Not surprisingly, quite a lot of it is.
A quick bloopers reel (1:34) is included, as well as eleven deleted scenes with introductions by executive producer, writer and director Matthew Carnahan. Annoyingly, the deleted scenes have no play-all feature and the intros are all forced.
Whether you like the show or not will be the main decision in purchasing the set. While the technical and presentation of the set is remarkable and one of the best I’ve seen this year, the extras are quite weak. No commentaries mixed with a handful of short extras in 4:3 and no play all scenes for the eleven deleted scenes? Kind of a disappointing turn out for one of 2007’s hottest shows. If you like the show, the set comes Recommended, otherwise Rent It.
Dirt: The Complete First Season is now available on DVD.