January 30, 2010

new show review: life unexpected

While I'm on the subject of show's I think I will like (see below), let's talk about Life Unexpected. If The Deep End was a show I was supposed to like, Life Unexpected was a show I was basically required by law to like. I really had no choice in the matter.

Prior to actually seeing the show, I knew three things: critics were comparing it to Gilmore Girls (an untouchable show in my book), executive producer/director Greg Fleder was involved (whose work I loved on October Road), and the show deals with an adolescent's experience in the foster care system, a story I feel goes grossly untold in this country.

Knowing all of this, I did my best to keep an open and cautious mind watching the first two episodes. Afterall, a show about a 16-year-old girl in foster care who tracks down her parents seeking a signature for emancipation only to find a home seems a little schmaltzy, no?

Thankfully, good characters and strong writing keep this show on the right side of the dangerous schmaltz line. 16-year-old Lux is played by Brittany Robertson, a young actor who you'll recognize from shows like Swingtown and movies like Dan in Real Life. A lot rests on Robertson's shoulders to play this character in a way that's both realistic and likable. She's does it with ease.

Lux was given up for adoption at birth by Cate Cassidy, who (at 15) was told she would find an adoptive home easily. Unfortunately, Lux had a heart condition that had her in and out of surgery until the age of three - a much more difficult age to find an adoptive home, especially with a medical condition. She's been in and out of foster homes ever since. We meet her the day before her 16th birthday when she's about to apply for emancipation from the system. Before doing so, she needs a signature from her birth parents. Not trusting the system to obtain these signatures in a timely fashion, she goes in search of her parents on her own.

First, we meet Baze or Nate Bazile played by Kristoffer Polaha, who's had roles in a handful of short-lived series and guest appearances on shows like Mad Men. Baze never knew Cate went through with having the baby after getting her pregnant in the backseat of his van after the prom. Baze has a bit of a Peter Pan complex living with his two best friends above a bar that he owns and operates. Lux showing up at his door is a huge surprise, but he handles it relatively well and tries to help her out by contacting Cate (Shiri Appleby, who you'll also recognize from a bunch of things like ER and Roswell).

Cate is a local radio personality, co-hosting a morning show with her fiancee (Kerr Smith of Dawson's Creek fame), who's more than disturbed to hear from Baze in the middle of her show one morning. When she finds the reason for his call, her world is turned upside down with the news that Lux never found a family. It's apparent that Cate never got over giving her up, dealing with some trust issues of her own.

In the first two episodes, we see this odd little family come together. Cate and Baze convince Lux (and the courts) to let them share custody (Lux living with Cate) for the time being. Lux deals with learning to trust, leaving her plans to move in with her best friend and boyfriend - thereby abandoning the family she built for herself in order to take a chance on a "real" family.

Cate and Baze certainly have their issues (made more complicated by their decision to drunkenly sleep together the night they find out about Lux), but they are able to put aside their differences and residual feelings aside to try to do the right thing for Lux. It's pretty apparent that Lux will often play the role of adult in their life together.

We still have a lot to learn about the characters, and also whether or not this show will find an audience, but I have high hopes for both. Call me a hopeless optimist.

Check it out Mondays at 9:00 on CW.


Post a Comment