An upfront admission: having been completely unfamiliar with “Kyle XY” before its arrival on DVD, I was totally blindsided by just how good a show it turned out to be.
Blame it on low expectations, and accept my apology for making a broad generalization about an ABC Family original series, but, honestly, while the network has some damned fine taste when it comes to choosing what shows to re-run (“Gilmore Girls,” “Grounded for Life” and “Smallville” can all be within their line-up), their first-run programming has never done much for me. Their original movies are generally romantic comedies so light that a slight breeze would send them flying, and their original series tend toward either angst-ridden teen melodramas like “Falcon Beach” and “Wildfire,” or family dramas like “Lincoln Heights.” While I’m sure they’re all considered great programs within their respective demographics, they don’t necessarily stand out from the pack as anything out of the ordinary.
“Kyle XY,” however, manages to maintain a teen-friendly feel while interjecting a mystery that proves legitimately enthralling. Matt Dallas plays Kyle, a high-school-aged young man who wakes up naked in the middle of the woods and can’t remember a thing about how he got there. Now, while this is a surprisingly common occurrence for high-school-aged males, particularly those who enjoy a tipple or three on the weekends, Kyle’s situation is a bit different: he can’t remember anything at all from prior to the moment he awakened, not even his name. He quickly finds himself in a home for wayward teens, a.k.a. a detention center for juvenile delinquents, where he offers little indication to the case workers that he speaks English, or, indeed, that he can speak at all. Kyle’s voiceover clarifies to the viewers that he’s slowly but surely picking up on what’s going on around him, but, then, it also reveals that he’s such a blank slate that he’s not even familiar with the simplest of concepts, like eating, drinking or going to the bathroom.
Kyle – who’s gifted his name by one of the case workers, by the way – ends up in the care of psychiatrist Nicole Trager (Marguerite MacIntyre), who takes him into her care to prevent his naiveté from getting him into trouble at the center, much to the disconcertment of her husband, Stephen (Bruce Thomas), and their two children, Lori (April Matson) and Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau). As you’d expect, he manages to get into trouble within the Trager home, but he also reveals that he’s smart as a whip, has been absorbing information all along, and can indeed speak English. He’s also got moves that would put Bruce Lee to shame, with amazing physical dexterity. Within the pilot episode, you will be unsurprised to learn that Kyle more or less wins the hearts of the entire Trager family and soon moves into their home on a semi-permanent basis. From there, the mystery of Kyle’s past slowly begins to unravel.
Of course, it isn’t all about answering the question, “What’s the deal with Kyle?” There are subplots involving the solidity of Nicole and Stephen’s marriage, Josh’s attempts to find a woman, Lori’s attempts to win the heart of her dream man, Declan (Chris Olivero), without losing the friendship of her best bud, Hilary (Chelan Simmons). Additionally, it’s hard to determine which is less surprising: that Kyle falls for the girl next door (Kirsten Prout), or that the girl next door already has a boyfriend (Corey Monteith). Thankfully, however, the element of mystery is never hovering far out of reach. Josh is constantly spouting off his theory about how Kyle is an alien, but that’s the lighter side of the situation; far more ominous is Tom Foss (Nicholas Lea), the guy from the Trager’s security company who clearly knows much about Kyle’s past.
The Season Two premiere is just around the corner, so if you want to get in on the “Kyle XY” saga, now’s the time to pick up “The Complete First Season.” You might never forget that you’re watching an ABC Family program, but given the producers’ consistency about not dumbing things down for a younger audience, by the season finale, you’ll find that your expectations for the network’s original series have risen considerably.Special Features: Thankfully, the producers of this DVD set have taken into account the enormous popularity of “Kyle XY” and have put together a solid collection of special features. In addition to an alternate premiere episode (one with a few noticeable differences) and an extended version of the season finale, we also get audio commentaries from Dallas and Matson, along with Julie Plec, one of the show’s writers. Additionally, there’s a solid featurette about the creation of the show, entitled “‘Kyle XY’ Declassified.”