Watching 7th Heaven — The Seventh Season, now available on DVD, marks my first sustained experience with the Camden family. With a total of eleven seasons to its credit however, I couldn't help but have some awareness of the show. Until now, that awareness though was limited to catching a random episode here and there. After a few of the seventh season episodes I got hooked. Yes, the show gets corny and sappy at times – but that's part of its charm. No matter how over the top the cutesiness can get, the warmth and love amongst the many members of the Camden family remains genuine.
Over the course of these 22 episodes, various plot lines are interwoven. Not being a regular viewer of previous seasons wasn't much of a hindrance. To my dismay, Mary (Jessica Biel) appears in only a five episodes. Biel and her bodacious body would have provided sufficient eye candy regardless of whether or not I grew to like the show. Mary, working as a stewardess, had left home in the fifth season so I guess I was lucky she was included at all. Also no longer living at home is eldest son Matt (Barry Watson), who turns up for a few cameo appearances. As usual, the remaining regulars are Reverend Eric Camden (Stephen Collins) and his wife Annie (Catherine Hicks). Their children, from oldest to youngest, are: Lucy (Beverly Mitchell), Simon (David Gallagher), Ruthie (Mackenzie Rosman), and twins Sam and David (Lorenzo and Nikolas Brino, respectively). Beyond that there are a number of boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, in-laws, and hangers-on. Suffice to say that this show has no shortage of characters upon which to base new plots.
The dual foci of the seventh season are Lucy's impending marriage to longtime boyfriend Kevin (George Stults) and Eric's heart surgery. Beverly Mitchell does a good job of conveying the self-centered immaturity of Lucy. Throughout many of the episodes, she pesters Kevin to propose to her — even at the hospital as her dad undergoes a double bypass. Kevin is a policeman with an attractive female partner, Roxanne (Rachel Blanchard). Lucy can't stand her fiancé working so closely with her, and obsesses over whether Roxanne has designs on him. Kevin has to put up with so much crap from Lucy, I found it a little unrealistic that he actually wants to spend the rest of his life with her.
Much more emotionally rewarding is the story of Eric's mid-life crisis following his surgery. During his recovery, he takes an extended hiatus from the church and gradually loses interest in being a minister. This shakes the Camden family to its core, especially Annie. Eric tries his hand as a talk radio host and even writes a romance novel. Basically, he has tired of helping others exclusively and wants to focus on himself for a change. Complicating matters is Chandler Hampton (Jeremy London), the substitute pastor filling in for Eric. Chandler handles his duties so well that Eric worries his parishioners might prefer his replacement. One reason this plot thread works as well as it does is the excellent work of Stephen Collins. Easily the best actor in the series, Collins is truly sympathetic as he struggles to regain purpose in his life.
Of the supporting cast, Mackenzie Rosman fares best in her portrayal of Ruthie. Though only 12, Ruthie comes off as the most grounded and mature in her family. Interestingly, she is the only character with more than a perfunctory relationship to the youngest children, David and Sam. The rest of the family, parents included, seems to regard these two young boys as if they stepped right out of Village Of the Damned. Seriously, I'm not one to bag on child actors, but I can't decide if these Brino boys act more like aliens or robots. At least Ruthie attempts to treat them with some level of respect and kindness. Speaking of Ruthie, the start of her menstrual cycle provides a late-season plot development (apparently it is a running theme with the Camden females).
Chances are you already know where you stand with 7th Heaven. It is a conservative-minded, religious-themed family show — about as far from edgy as television gets. But none of that is necessarily negative, especially if you're looking for something the whole family can watch. Even if it's wholesome nearly to a fault, the show tackles some thoughtful issues along the way. For those who grew up with these characters, this five-disc set is obviously worth adding to your collection. But even if you're not a Camden junkie, give it a chance and you might find yourself jonesing for more based on the show's compulsive watchability.