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Featured DVD Review: Make It or Break It

January 9th, 2010

Make It or Break It - Volume One - Buy from Amazon

Make It or Break It was one of two new series that debuted on ABC Family last season, 10 Things I Hate About You being the other. I reviewed that DVD recently and I was pleasantly surprised. Also, I quite enjoy Greek, which is another ABC Family show. On the other hand, their highest rated show is one that I can't stand, while the network recently canceled Kyle XY and my favorite show they've aired, Middleman, was canceled after just one season. so I have a bit of a mixed track record when it comes to this network. Because of this, and because I am not part of the target audience, I went into this review with a bit of trepidation. Then again, I was doubtful about 10 Things I Hate About You and was proven wrong, so hopefully that will happen again.

Make It or Break It tells the story of the ladies of the Rocky Mountain Gymnastics Training Center, or The Rock, as they call it. The top three are Payson Keeler (Ayla Kell), the most dedicated of the three; Kaylie Cruz (Josie Loren), whose father was an athlete and mother a pop star so she was born into privilege; and Lauren Tanner (Cassie Scerbo), whose father practically runs the place and gets her what she wants. The three have been training for years and it has been assumed that all three will go to the nationals, which is the first step to getting on the Olympic team. However, their plans are thrown for a loop with the arrival of Emily Kmetko (Chelsea Hobbs). Emily isn't a classically trained gymnast and was discovered by the head coach and given a chance to train, with a scholarship. That last part is important, as her mother, Chloe Kmetko (Susan Ward) can be a bit of a flake, especially when it comes to money. At first the three girls decide to freeze out Emily hoping she will crack, at least Lauren decides that what the three of them should do. But when Lauren slips at an important event and Emily takes her spot on the team, we quickly learn that the bonds between the three were not as strong as they thought. But perhaps this shakeup will help them rebuild as a team.

Just a quick warning that there's plenty of spoilers ahead. There's almost no way to adequately describe the show's plot without revealing too much. If you want to skip the spoilers, click here.

This is a complicated show with a lot of relationships to deal with. Each of the four main characters have issues with their parents. For instance, Kaylie Cruz's father is trying to relive his glory days through her, which is putting a strain on his marriage. Lauren's mother abandoned her due to an addiction and her father has tried to compensate by giving her everything she wants, but his relationship with his personal assistant is a little more personal than they've let on. Additionally, there is conflict amongst the parents, including Alex and Ronnie Cruz, who consider themselves above the working class Kmetko and Keeler families. Also, Steve Tanner's desire to see his daughter succeed drives him to do some despicable acts, which obviously hurt relations later on when she re-joins The Rock. Finally, there are plenty of boy troubles, including two love triangles (one between Kaylie and Lauren and the other between Emily and Razon, Damon and Leo. Okay, that's a love tetrahedron). This is an even greater problem, as none of the gymnasts are allowed to have boyfriends. (It has something to do with male gymnasts peaking at a much later age than females. Also, as we see in this show, boys are a distraction.) And we haven't even gotten into the politics of top class gymnastics. Any time you have the potential to make a lot of money, especially in sports, there will be politics behind the scenes.

So we have four main characters, each one having family to deal with, most having boy(s) in their life, plus there's the coach(es). With such a massive list of characters, each of whom tends to have a sometimes strained relationship with every other character, there is absolutely the potential for this show to slip into soap opera territory. Fortunately it manages to avoid this pitfall more often than not, but this is not always the case. (This is not always the writer's fault. After all, Emily's love tetrahedron was the result of one of the actors leaving the show for another series, The Beautiful Life, only to have that series canceled.) The show is aided in this quest to avoid soap opera tropes by having characters that feel a lot more real and not simple one-dimensional clichés. Granted, you could describe some of them in simple terms (the outsider, the mean girl, etc.) but they have more layers. That said, I think the show works best when the four leads were working together, but this is rarely the case. In fact, this is only really the case in two episodes. Two. And it isn't the two final episodes either, so there's an episode in the middle of the run where I was thinking, "Finally. The pettiness between the four of them is over and the really interesting part of the show will shine." But it didn't last. This makes it frustratingly close to being a very good show. It is still worth watching, but going forward I hope that there's more an emphasis on the sport and less on the rest.

The season is split into two parts, the summer run and the spring run. Volume One includes just the summer run, obviously, as the spring run didn't start until January. All of the extras on the 2-disc set are found on disc two, starting with an extended "season" finale, which is only a couple of minutes longer. I haven't seen the broadcast version, so I don't know what was added. Making It is a 9-minute making-of featurette, hence the name. It focuses on the cast and the training they had to go through to portray gymnasts. Finally, there are six deleted scenes that run a combined 10 minutes. I would have loved an audio commentary or two, but this is acceptable.

The Verdict

The world of competitive gymnastics is interesting enough that it doesn't need soap opera relationships to clutter it up. That said, even if Make It or Break It treads into that territory on occasion, the show is well written enough and the characters are compelling enough that it is worth watching. Add in extras that are good, if a little sparse, and the two-disc DVD is a solid rental, leaning toward a purchase. I look forward to seeing Volume 2 and hope the high note that Volume One ends on continues.

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