Soul Food: The Third Season
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (28th March 2008).
The Show

Here's how I went into this show: I didn't know anything about the 1997 movie and I've never seen one of the show's episodes. As such, going into the third season, I had no prejudices and no preconceptions. I also had no idea of what has going on. I soon discovered the show relies very heavily on continuity and having missed the first two seasons, I didn't know any of the characters, any of the relationships or any of the history between everybody.

The show centers around three sisters, Teri (Nicole Ari Parker), Tracy (Malinda Williams) and Maxine (Vanessa Williams). Tracy's husband, Lem (Darrin Dewitt Henson), and Maxine's family, husband Kenny (Rockmond Dunbar) and son Ahmad (Aaron Meeks) round out the core of the show. (Maxine and Kenny also have a seldom-seen girl, Kelly (Taylor Love).) The trials and tribulations they follow are both real, but the razor's edge is that if you're not a part of their family, you can't really experience all their emotions.

One thing I couldn't understand is that the show has a narrator, Ahmad Chadway, who talks about his life and experiences with his family. One would assume this show is his past, or his present. The problem with this is that, if he is the narrator, why does the show have so many scenes in which he doesn't take part? If the show is not his life, why have narration in the first place? It's character development without any development.

On the other hand, the characters and situations seem real. This is honestly not close to my personal experience, but the situations are very down to earth and there's nothing that couldn't happen to anybody. The season opener, for example, has a couple trying to reconcile. Though I don't know their past, they now try to either fix things or let things go. It's not clichťd or chintzy. It does, however, feature hard decisions by real people. Some of the decisions don't show the most forethought or intelligence, but every television show has these, so this is not a problem specific to this show.

The acting is very good, and with guest stars such as Faye Dunaway, Terrence Howard and James Avery, the guests are also very competent. A few don't give off the same air of comfort as the stars, but overall the acting is very strong. The music is perfect the mood of the show and it gives off the right atmosphere.

Episodes like 'Out with the Old' and 'Child Safety' are very good and really help ground the show and pull you into the 'Soul Food' world. The ups and downs of these families are never too out of the ordinary, but they're never particularly bland, either. The fights and arguments have some resonance for everybody, regardless of who you are and where you live.

Here is a breakdown of the season by disc.

disc 1:
Tonight at Noon (47:25)
Maxine and Kenny try to patch things up, while Teri gets a new job at a very prestigious law firm. Faye Dunaway guest stars.

Ultimate Power (50:56)
A break-in at the Chadway household triggers a possible reconciliation between Maxine and Kenny. Teri gets accustom to her new offices. Ahmad also gets in trouble for not listening to his teacher. Rip Torn guest stars.

Past Imperfect (54:27)
Tracy meets her old algebra teacher, which may or may not lead to something more. Ahmad gets invited to a very high-class birthday party. Meanwhile, gossip at Kennyís towing company leads to nowhere good.

Out with the Old (53:09)
Lem meets an old friend who has an offer he doesnít know if he can refuse. Meanwhile, Tracy enters a hair styling contest, the same week her nephew makes a documentary about her beauty parlor.

disc 2:
Empty Spaces (46:13)
Lemís idea from a few episodes back (ĎPast Imperfectí) seems to pay off, though it causes problems with Keny. Teriís pseudo-fling leaves her confused about how to handle her friendship.

Stranger Than Fiction (47:05)
Teri has a lot of trouble with the huge case sheís handling. Tracy (thanks to ĎOut with the Oldí) is now going to be on television, and does a pretty big faux-pas a couple of days before the big day. Ahmad has a strange dare for her mother.

Child Safety (47:52)
Ahmad sees one of his friends gunned down on the street.

Letís Do It Again (50:21)
Kenny and Maxine are in couples counseling and decide to renew their vows. Tracy and Lem have new neighbours.

disc 3:
Big Dreams in Small Places (45:59)
Because of ĎEmpty Spacesí, Tracy decides to remodel the house. Ahmed seems to want to join a sports team, but he has his eyes on something other than the football.

Emotional Collateral (49:19)
Maxine discovers that her work isnít all fun and games. Tracyís new found popularity may not all have perks. Kenny also agrees to cook Sunday dinner for Maxine, which, for him, isnít as easy as it may seem. Terrence Howard guest stars.

All Together Alone (54:31)
Ahmad sees his parents having sex in the kitchen. Teriís boyfriend/colleague, Damon Carter, gets arrested for drunk driving. Tracy gets some flowers from someone that doesnít make her happy. James Avery guest stars.

Life 101 (51:16)
At Lemís surprise party, Teri has a bit too much to drink, but her problems run a bit deeper. Her constant work may be increased, and she considers a part time teaching position. Tracy learns that she might be pregnant. Ahmedís ex might want to start something again.

disc 4:
The New Math (53:04)
Damonís client, Benny (from ĎAll Together Aloneí), isnít the best client. Teri also keeps teaching the law class, overloading her already full schedule. Kelly also scores very low in her standardises test scores.

Truthís Consequences (49:42)
Teri prepares for her wedding. Ahmedís aunt comes to visit.

Shades of Grey (48:19)
Ahmed and his friend make a project on Bar Mitzvahs. They joke about serious subjects and their mothers donít seem to like it. Kenny hires a new guy to help fix cars.

My Brotherís Keeper (45:58)
Damon has picked his ring, but itís not the nicest one. Ahmed is having trouble with a student at school. Kennyís new employee learns some bad news.

disc 5:
Attracting Opposites (48:02)
Damon gets a promotion, and Ahmed gets a wet dream. Also, Tracyís ideas for her television segment may get bigger. Lemís business ideas are growing.

Sacrifice Fly (48:55)
A loaned object leads to minor problems between Lem and Tracy. Damon is being watched very closely by the higher-ups at the sports agency he works for. Usher Raymond guest stars.

Nobodyís Child (48:06)
One of the children of one of Maxineís cases is found in their home, alone. Repercussions from Lemís business deal are now being had. Ahmad embarrasses himself in front a few girls.

Falling from Grace (50:11)
Itís Teriís bachelorette party! The mother from last episode comes to talk to Maxine. This is a nice way to finish the season.

Video

1.33:1 full screen. For a fairly recent show, the picture is very good. Colours are bright and accurate, showing very nice contrast and sharpness. The level of detail isn't spectacular, but it's more than acceptable. There's also a very slight sheen of grain, giving the show a nice look. Skin tones may look a tad off, but this may be a by-product of the cinematography. There are very few specks, and scratches are non-existent. Compression is also very strong, never showing edge enhancement or pixilation.

Audio

The only track is the original Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track in English. The show is basically a drama, and so doesn't dazzle with this sonic experience. It does reproduce the music very well and gives the songs a really nice kick. The dialogue is always clean and clear. Every word is audible. The various foley effects Ė doors, cars and such Ė are mixed in very well. It's a nice track for the show.
There are no subtitles.

Extras

There are no real extras, apart from a few Previews on disc one.

Packaging

Somehow, Paramount managed to cram all five discs into a standard-size amaray keep case. I'm impressed.

Overall

The Show: B- Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: F Overall: C+

 


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