A few greats come to mind when watching Eli Stone: "Ally McBeal", "Heart and Souls", and "Wonderfalls". While "Eli Stone" isn’t of the same caliber, it certainly manages to provide a likeable character worth rooting for. Eli Stone (Jonny Lee Miller, Hackers, Mansfield Park) is a lawyer living a seemingly normal life in San Francisco, that is until he starts seeing things. Things like George Michael singing in his living room, his boss and colleagues singing and dancing in his office, small planes chasing him on the streets, rain falling from the ceiling and so much more. Eli is given two explanations for his visions: His doctor/brother, Nathan (Matt Letscher) discovers that Eli has a small brain aneurysm, but his acupuncturist, Dr. Chen (James Saito) thinks Eli is a prophet whose visions just might help make the world a better place.
So begins Eli’s quest to try and balance his life as a fast-paced lawyer with his life as a could-be prophet. Whenever Eli has a vision, he seeks the advice of Dr. Chen who often helps him figure out ways to interpret the unusual glimpses and apply them to his cases and personal life. As the season progresses, there are several obstacles in Eli’s way as he tries to come to grip with his situation including possible disbarment in the episode “Something to Save”, relationship trouble with initially unsupportive fiancé Taylor (Natasha Henstridge), and trouble at work with boss Jordan Wethersby (Victor Garber, Alias). But the one thing that continues to pop up in Eli’s memory is his relationship with his father (played in flashbacks by Thomas Cavanagh, ED) who had the same visions/aneurysm when he was alive. It’s the relationship Eli had with his dad, that makes his quest all the more interesting. While the show has its heavy moments, there’s plenty of singing, dancing and quirky moments to keep the show from becoming too serious. There are also several wonderful, comedic characters like, quirky junior associate Maggie Dekker (Julie Gonzalo) and Stone’s assistant Patti Dellacroix (Loretta Devine, Boston Public, Grey’s Anatomy) that add some relief.
Created by Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters, Dawson’s Creek) and Marc Guggenheim (CSI: Miami, Brothers & Sisters), "Eli Stone" has moments of sincerity, wit, the absurd and the great. It’s always interesting to see how Eli’s hallucinations will guide him to help the people that need it most. The lawyer aspect of the series is fairly similar to most law shows and follows a go-to formula, however it’s the cast that provides quality performances–especially Garber, Miller, Saito, Cavanagh and Devine–that make Eli Stone an enjoyable, hour long program. The series starts off extremely well with the “Pilot” episode and continues to create believable moments around the absurd. There are a few misses that seem to reach too far for a connection between Eli’s condition and the cases/events that are happening around him, however the season wraps up interestingly in “Soul Free”. Eli Stone was picked up by ABC for another season.
VIDEO: "Eli Stone" is presented by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The series was certainly given terrific treatment on this first season DVD set, as the episodes looked better than I remember them appearing when they were first broadcast. Sharpness and detail are superb, and the image remained clear and well-defined throughout. While a few minor instances of shimmering were noticed, the picture otherwise was free of flaws. Colors had a very nice pop at all times, looking well-saturated and spot-on accurate.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While the show's audio presentation isn't astonishing, it is definitely a few steps beyond the average TV show sound design. Surrounds are used on plenty of occasions - and sometimes fairly aggressively - for various sound effects and ambience. Audio quality was terrific, with full, bassy tunes and crisp dialogue.
Extended Pilot Episode Creators/Executive Producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, actors Jonny Lee Miller, Natasha Henstridge, Sam Jaeger and Director Ken Olin offer commentary. There are some lags in conversation, but they do reveal that what you see out of the windows is CGI San Francisco. We also find out that Jonny Lee Miller had to have his several tattoos covered up by the makeup department. The commentary is more straightforward with very little way of behind the scenes stories, but there is a lot of discussion about how the pilot was made and how the actors prepared. There are a few laughs here. As for the Extended Pilot, there’s not much difference here between the pilot and the extended version.
As with most deleted scenes, they are better left on the cutting room floor. While some may have been cut for time, the show ran perfectly well without them. No necessary information is included here.
Turning a Prophet: The Creation of "Eli Stone"
A behind the scenes look at how Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim came up with the idea for "Eli Stone". Guggenheim starts off by saying, he and Berlanti always envisioned Eli as a superhero, which makes sense when he explains it. There some laughs from Jonny Lee Miller and several other cast members who clearly seem to be having a good time on set. The cast talks about their characters, as well as what the show means. A lot of the interviews are filled with congratulations on jobs well done, but it’s still an interesting look at how a series comes to life.
Acting on Faith: Eli and George Michael
Interviews with George Michael, creators and cast members help add light to which George Michael songs are chosen and why. It’s an interesting insight into how the songs add meaning to the show, as well as how it was working with him on the show. George Michael also talks some about his music.
Creating Visions: The Effects of "Eli Stone"
This is a look at all of the CGI that was used to bring Eli Stone’s visions to life. We’re taken behind the scenes to see the difference before CGI and after CGI used in a car scene. There’s actually a lot of interesting bits of information about ways in which technology is used, and is definitely recommended for fans of special effects.
Inside the Firm: The Natasha Henstridge Tour
Natasha Henstridge takes the audience on a tour of the firm’s set. She walks you through the set and talks about some moments that occurred there from earthquakes to discos. While showing certain areas of the firm/set, some clips are shown for visual reference. There are some background actors that get some recognition.
A blooper real with some flubbed lines, goofy faces, and silly dances moves. As far as bloopers go, this is a fun collection of outtakes that generally show people having a good time, not to mention a difficult time remembering lines.
Episodes with Commentary
“Soul Free” - commentary by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Jonny Lee Miller, Natasha Henstridge, Matt Letscher, Sam Jaeger, Executive Producer/director Chris Mislano and writers Andrew Kreisberg and Courtney Kemp Agboh. There’s some interesting discussion here, despite the large group.
“I Want Your Sex” - commentary by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Jonny Lee Miller, Natasha Henstridge, Victor Garber, Sam Jaeger, and writers Leila Gerstein and Wendy Mericle.
Also included are previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: A charming fantasy series, "Eli Stone" is an entertaining new series, with solid performances and fine writing. The DVD presentation offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a solid helping of supplements. Recommended.