Camden family fanatics will be pleased with the release of 7th Heaven: The Ninth Season on DVD. The following for the show was huge during its 11-season run on the WB network. It was, in fact, the most successful show the network ever aired. But the inspiration was clearly running low by the ninth season, making this one strictly for the hardest of hardcore fans. Though the show had grown stale, those who consider it a guilty pleasure will still find morsels of cheesiness to feast upon.
Season nine finds Lucy Camden (Beverly Mitchell) pregnant by her husband, Kevin Kinkirk (George Stults). Kevin has the patience of a saint as he deals with Lucy's demands. All the pregnancy cliches are touched upon: odd food cravings, sudden mood swings, and a general bitchiness that makes Lucy utterly intolerable. Kevin is a police officer, and likely the laughing stock of his precinct due to how whipped he is by his wife. What qualities he ever found in the supremely self-centered Lucy will remain one of the show's great unsolved mysteries. Beverly Mitchell's characterization had become so reflexive by this point in the show, a seasoned viewer will easily predict her every reaction.
A reasonable amount of interest builds as some minor complications crop up late in Lucy's pregnancy. Her older brother Matt (Barry Watson) is on hand for select episodes, offering guidance and a helping hand. Their parents, Eric (Stephen Collins) and Annie (Catherine Hicks), continue in their struggle to adjust to the fact that most of their children have reached adulthood. In the previous season, Simon (David Gallagher) accidentally killed a pedestrian while driving. The psychological scars remain as Simon struggles with a variety of issues. Ruthie (Mackenzie Rosman) has started high school and is yearning to begin dating, much to her parents' horror. With Jessica Biel having moved on to greener pastures following her controversial departure several seasons earlier, Mary is the only Camden offspring missing in action completely.
That leaves, of course, the youngest of the Camden brood — twin brothers Sam and David. Real-life twins Nicolas and Lorenzo Brino portray the tow-headed tykes and I will not blame them for their disastrous performances. 7th Heaven, at its best (i.e. the first three or four seasons), was a show that involved all members of the family and allowed them to have realistic characters. These kids grew and changed in those early years, which I believe was the key element to the show's popularity. Once the children became teenagers and young adults, the producers obviously wanted to introduce some new young characters in an effort to retain the widest demographic possible. Sam and David are never allowed to have their own personalities. They are forced to walk around like little robots, finishing each other's sentences and seemingly sharing every thought and opinion. The other family members seem to regard them with a curious detachment.
When Ruthie and Simon were very young, they were not treated simply as cute props. They were given their own story arcs, complete with interesting dialogue. The Brino boys are never integrated into the family in a believable way. Their relationships with their older siblings are practically non-existent. Even their parents treat them as if they had showed up one day on their doorstep, with no instruction manual on how to handle them. Early in the show's run, Eric and Annie were depicted as realistic parents making a concerted effort to raise their kids to the very best of their abilities. But they're on autopilot when it comes to Sam and David, to the great detriment of the show.
The show kept rolling along through this ninth season (and two more after it) because the loyal following was so used to spending Monday nights with these characters. There just wasn't much left to do with them. Time gets spent on characters like Martin (Tyler Hoechlin), the boy who became a permanent resident at the Camden household a couple seasons earlier. Martin's father is a Marine stationed overseas and his mother is deceased. So he invited himself into the Camdens' home one day, eventually becoming practically one of them. He's not a very interesting character, in fact he's extremely self-righteous. His romantic life, and Ruthie's growing crush on him (now that they're both in high school), is a recurring distraction throughout the season.
Packaged in a standard keep case, as with the previous seasons, the five-disc set is presented as simply as possible. The case is the same width as a single-disc release, making it a very economical for storage purposes. The audience for 7th Heaven: The Ninth Season is clearly those who have purchased the previous eight seasons. If you own all of those, there's no sense in stopping now. But I doubt many new fans would be earned by starting with this season. It sputters along in search of a strong arc, but never really finds it.