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Featured TV on DVD Review: Lincoln Heights: Season One

February 15th, 2010

Lincoln Heights: Season One - Buy from Amazon

When one thinks of the original programming on ABC Family and its target demographic, one normally thinks of shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Make It or Break It, etc. Almost all of their shows are aimed at teenage girls, which makes Lincoln Heights stand out, since it is a drama aimed at African-Americans, starring a predominantly African-American cast. This is not only unique considering the station, it's also pretty unique considering all of television. Serving a neglected target demographic should have helped the show's ratings, but since it was canceled, this obviously wasn't enough. Was there some fundamental flaw of the show that prevented it from garnering a wider audience? Was it just a matter of being on the wrong network? Is it worth checking out if you missed it before? Is it worth picking up if you are a fan? Read on and find out.

Eddie Sutton is a cop working a beat in his old neighborhood, which was a pretty bad neighborhood when he was a kid and hasn't gotten better in the meantime. For example, at the beginning of the series premiere Eddie and his partner, Lund, bust a crack house. At home, Eddie and his wife Jenn are living in a cramped apartment with their three kids: Cassie, Lizzie, and Tay. They've been looking for a bigger place for a long time now and Eddie thinks he's found the perfect place: the crack house he just shut down (it actually makes more sense than that, as there's an incentive program for cops to buy homes in bad neighborhoods as a way of helping turn them around on the assumption that a police presence should help drive crime away). His proposal doesn't go over well with his family, naturally. Now Eddie has to deal with a neighborhood that doesn't take too kindly to cops, his kids have to deal with being the new kids in school, and his wife has to deal with trying to keep the family going amidst all this turmoil.

Season One has a number of ongoing threads, including Cassie getting involved with another new kid, Charles, who is white (I really wish that wasn't a big deal anymore. Loving v. Virginia was more than 40 years ago.). At the end of the first episode, Eddie shoots a kid, Donelle, after the kid tries to rob a deli and takes a hostage. A lot of the season deals with the aftermath of that event. And it's not just IA getting involved, but also Donelle's friends coming back for revenge. Overall there's a good balance between family life and Eddie's life as a cop, with the two intersecting often.

One the one hand, this show is clearly the most adult show from ABC Family that I've reviewed (Middleman is also aimed at adults, but immature adults, while this is a straight-up drama). It is also one of the few dramas out there aimed at African-Americans with a predominately African-American cast. The show tackles a lot of relevant subjects and while it can be a tad heavy-handed at times, it is still compelling. Speaking of heavy-handed, why did they go with split screen so much? It just seems like they were trying too hard to be stylishly edgy. Overall, this was one of the better shows on the network, but it seemed a little out of place compared to the Teen Girl-dominated line up. It was grittier, it dealt with darker subjects, it was more violent, etc. This is likely why it never really caught on like it could have if it was on network that was more likely to attract a sympathetic demographic.

On a side note, Nicki Micheaux and Erica Hubbard, who play mother and daughter, are only 8 years apart in age. That has no bearing on the quality of the show, it's just something that amazed me.

There are absolutely no extras on this DVD, nor are there subtitles or proper chapter placements. There are play all buttons, but that's it for DVD authoring.

The Verdict

Lincoln Heights is a series that showed potential right from the start, but there were some small issues preventing it from being all that it could have been. The Season One DVD release is worth checking out, but without any extras I can't recommend buying over just renting.

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