Rita Rocks: Season 1
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Nicole Sullivan (MADtv) stars as Rita Clemens, an overworked wife, mother, and former lead singer of a Bangles cover band who has traded in a life of jam sessions and rock clubs for carpools and PTA meetings. On the verge of a full-blown identity crisis, Rita struggles to maintain romance with her husband, Jay (Richard Ruccolo, Two Guys and a Girl), juggle the demands of her 9-year-old daughter, Shannon (Kelly Gould, Lucky Louie), and discipline her defiant teenage daughter, Hallie (Natalie Dreyfuss) and her ever-present boyfriend, Kip (Raviv Ullman, Phil of the Future). In an attempt to reconnect with her youth and with the hopes of putting some spark back in her life, Rita dusts off her guitar and forms a garage band with Kip, her nosy postal carrier Patty (Tisha Campbell-Martin, My Wife and Kids, Martin) and her unemployed neighbor Owen (Ian Gomez).
RITA ROCKS: THE COMPLETE SEASON 1 features all 20 episodes
DISC ONE: Pilot / Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah-ah / You Gotta Have Friends / Flirting With Disaster / Mother s Little Helper / Nobody Does it Better / Take This Job and Shove It
DISC TWO: The Crying Game / Under Pressure / Got No Time / Love On the Rocks / I Write the Songs / The Girl Is Mine / Old Friends
DISC THREE: It s My Party / I Can t Make You Love Me / Get Off of My Cloud / Killer Queen / What s Love Got to Do With It? / We Can Work It Out / Bonus Music Video
BONUS FEATURE: Music Video Somebody to Worry About Performed by Nicole Sullivan, Tisha Campbell Martin, Raviv Ullman, and Ian Gomez. Lyrics and Music by Kathleen Wilhoite
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Top customer reviews
The premise of the show is that Rita, a late-30s/early 40s mother of two with a working husband, tries to balance her motherly duties with a retail job on top of deciding to pursue a long-stifled desire to have her own band. The resulting story lines alternate between elements of each of these aspects of her life—with the "band" segments often focusing on brief, yet colorful, rehearsals in Rita's garage.
There are several elements that really make this series click, despite the fact that it boasts none of the over-the-top plots or far-fetched comedy that seem necessary to make a sitcom popular these days. One, the writing consistently displays a good balance of true-to-life scenarios with relatable, wholesome humor. Two, the cast members are clearly engaged in their roles, instead of pandering to a certain demographic or trend. Lead actress Nicole Sullivan is remarkably versatile yet understated; Tisha Campbell is sassy yet very likable in her role as Rita's friend/postal carrier, Patty; and Natalie Dreyfuss does a commendable job as Rita's older daughter, Hallie—effectively conveying the amusing temperament of a teenager without turning it into a stereotype.
I use the term "quirky" in my review title because, although Sullivan (as "Rita") is not a bad singer, it seems a little far-fetched that someone of her limited vocal range would be so passionate about forming a band at her stage of life. However, she plays the music-centered scenes with a genuineness that is ultimately more important than knockout vocal skills—showing that it is normal and healthy to desire to engage in one's creative side, even when life's overwhelming responsibilities of work and family seem to suggest that isn't possible. On top of that, Tisha Campbell's awesome singing (which she first displayed over 20 years earlier in the series "Rags to Riches") makes up for Sullivan's shortcomings in that department.
Unfortunately, Lifetime canceled "Rita Rocks" after only two seasons. Interestingly, the network's home entertainment division put out this DVD very quickly afterward—but never followed up with a release of season two. It's truly difficult in the post-Y2K world for a "traditional" sitcom to have longevity. As people's attention spans get shorter (partially due to the networks' pandering to that notion), the chances of a show with thought-out, well-developed stories staying on air for more than a year are quite slim.
I'm thankful that Lifetime released this DVD, as I did not have cable at the time of the original run of "Rita Rocks." Discovering the show has been a welcome retreat from most prime-time fare that currently airs. It's not outrageous; it's not extremely edgy. But it's authentic, funny, and very solidly produced. I recommend "Rita Rocks: Season 1" to any serious fans of the increasingly rare genre of modern-day family sitcoms. (And if you, like me, missed the show's initial airings, but know someone who taped the second-season episodes, do indeed check those out, too!).