Popular: The Complete Second Season

Here's a question: how come 7th Heaven is currently filming its umpteenth season of melodramatic mediocrity and shows like Popular barely lasted two? Under-watched and underrated, the second (and final) season of the WB's prematurely canned teen dramedy is now available on DVD. Show creator Ryan Murphy (now helming Nip/Tuck, which proves at least someone noticed his potential) improves on the series' freshman year with 21 episodes filled with a highly-stylised, self-aware vibe. When filled with witty pop-culture references, clever parody and so-bizarre-they're-hysterical plotlines, the episodes provide entertainment in a manner that is rare to network television (think Ally McBeal meets Parker Lewis Can't Lose). Centred around feuding stepsisters Brooke (Leslie Bibb) and Sam (Carly Pope), and their respective groups of friends, Popular is actually at its best when its focus turns to the wide array of colourful supporting characters, specifically mega-bitch Nicole (Tammy Lynn Michaels) and rich ditz Mary Cherry (Leslie Grossman), the lovechild of Delta Burke and RuPaul (I kid you not). Popular's main flaw occurs when it strays away from the wackiness that makes it so original and onto extreme and ridiculously clichéd melodrama, such as Brooke's eating disorder or Sam's best friend Harrison's cancer scare. The DVD also lacks any substantial extras, save a weak quiz game called "A Popularity Contest" and a few uninspired audio commentaries. Despite this, the set still remains a gem and it would be in everyone's best interest to waste a Saturday afternoon inside Kennedy High. Though a brief warning: the abruptly cancelled series' final episode is a cliff-hanger of cliff-hangers, and it might slightly anger anyone invested in the 20 episodes that come before it. (Buena Vista)