H2OcoverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  Yes

2008, 26 episodes (650 min.), Color
Unrated (would be PG for thematic elements)
New Video
Aspect ratio:  1.78:1
Featured audio:  Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features:  C+
Trailer

This Australian-made TV series aimed at teens and ‘tweens has turned into a worldwide phenomenon, and I can see why. The plots may be as straightforward as you’d expect from a 30-minute comedy-drama, character development is basically a composite profile gained from spending time with these people week after week, and crises tend to be resolved fairly quickly. But there’s an addictive quality to H2O: Just Add Water that’s hard to pinpoint.

Only two seasons with a 52-episode arc were planned, but fan demand forced the producers to come up with a third series—this final installment.

As with the first two seasons, these are not stand-alone episodes, but rather a continuing storyline. H2O: Just Add Water is about three Gold Coast teens who end up transformed by an event at Mako Island, so that every time water touches any part of their skin they change into mermaids. It sounds gimmicky, but the mermaid angle really adds a fun level to an otherwise typical teen and family comedy-drama.

In this series, as in Lost, there’s a mysterious island that holds a secret, and like Bewitched those with powers use them secretly and try to conceal them from others. That leads to both comic situations and also tension over whether they’ll be discovered. And of course there’s a bit of The Little Mermaid and Splash in this series.

Two new characters are introduced this season. Bella (Indiana Evans) replaces Emma (Claire Holt) as the third mermaid, and of course that means a new love interest has to come into the picture. Enter Will (Luke Mitchell), a competitive free-diver whose passion is collecting rocks and shells and other bounty from the sea. Mermaids Rikki (Cariba Heine) and Cleo (Phoebe Tonkin) return, as do their sometimes boyfriends Lewis (Angus McLaren) and Zane (Burgess Abernethy). 

H2oscreen2This season Phoebe’s family takes center stage, with Phoebe getting a new position at Sea World as an assistant dolphin trainer and her father finding romance. But the big difference is that the show’s producers really ramp up the sci-fi/fantasy aspect and special effects this final season, creating the water equivalent of Lost’s smoke monster. The explanation behind the monster may not be totally satisfying and the series end can seem a little rushed, but again, this show has enough going for it that it makes up for any shortcomings. Our whole family enjoyed all three seasons.

Season 3 contains a fun behind-the-scenes feature that exposes all the secrets of filming and really gives aspiring actors a sense of what’s involved. Those mermaid outfits? They’re made up of waterproof material with 5000 individual scales applied by hand to each suit. And they’re so heavy that the girls had to train to be able to swim with them.

A word of warning, though. The show’s theme song—“No Ordinary Girl”—is so catchy it’s tough to get it out of your head. This last season the song is sung by Evans, who performs with a band at the re-imagined JuiceNet (now Rikki’s) during several episodes.

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