Review: 'Life Unexpected' season two on the CW
Why the family drama has hit "That's it for me!" status
When "Life Unexpected" debuted on the CW last spring, I admitted that I liked the show as much for what it represented - the style of shows like "Gilmore Girls" and "Everwood" from CW parent the WB - as for the show itself, which told the story of 16-year-old foster kid Lux (Brittany Robertson) reconnecting with the birth parents (Kristoffer Polaha as Baze, Shiri Appleby as Cate) who had her after a one-night stand in high school.
But as that first season went along, I quickly realized that nostalgia wasn't enough - that too many parts of the show (particularly the repetitive nature of the stories) frustrated me for the "Gilmore" echoes to compensate. When the show moved to a more competitive timeslot midway through its run, I began skipping some episodes, and didn't even make an effort to see the finale, in which Baze was too late to stop Cate's wedding to radio co-host Ryan (Kerr Smith).
When the CW sent me a screener of the season two premiere, which airs tomorrow at 9, I figured I would give the series one last shot, only to realize that "Life Unexpected" had now come to represent a different kind of show altogether, and one I have little patience for.
Season two opens with Cate and Ryan and Lux returning from a family honeymoon to Vegas, and already there's trouble for everyone. Baze is still hurt by the wedding and mad at himself for not trying sooner. Lux is caught in the middle of that. And Cate and Ryan's boss at the radio station is not at all happy with their new situation.
"We don't want a show about boring people," she tells them, "and marriage is boring."
So of course there's quickly conflict on both the work and home fronts for everyone, much of it awkwardly manufactured and phony.
In other words, "Life Unexpected" has become just another drama without an obvious TV "franchise" (cops, doctors, lawyers, etc.) that knows it needs to generate conflict but isn't quite sure how to do it in anything but loud, annoying fashion.
Whatever radio execs - and their counterparts in TV, for that matter - may think, marriage isn't boring, but too many TV shows freak out about happy couples and have to start driving in wedges immediately, and that's dumb. I don't particularly like Cate (one of the more shrill and self-involved lead characters on any primetime drama), but it might have been nice to see the show go at least a week or two of letting her and Ryan enjoy marriage before throwing silly obstacles in their way. (One of these obstacles is a caricatured new, Dr. Laura-esque co-host who claims to be saving herself for marriage, "Like Jessica Simpson, and Jesus.")
Too many things happen on this show just because creator Liz Tigelaar was afraid of being boring - too many characters making dumb decisions, or withholding information, or turning up where you might least expect them to - and so it becomes impossible for me to invest in any of the characters and their stories, because I know consistency and a throughline will be sacrificed the minute Tigelaar or her CW bosses think things are getting slow.
I like Polaha. I like Robertson. I like those moments (which feel increasingly rare) that make me feel like it's 2002 and the WB is still going. Just not enough for the rest of it.
That's it for me, "Life Unexpected." It was a pleasure - for a little while, anyway.
News From Our Partners
- Box Office Guru Wrapup: Star Trek Softer Than Expected at #1 Weekly Ketchup: Will Smith to Star in Wild Bunch Remake? Critics Consensus: Star Trek Into Darkness is Certified Fresh
- What to Watch Tonight: The Season Finales of Rectify and Hawaii Five-0 and the Series Premieres of The Goodwin Games and Motive Mad Men "The Crash" Review: Uppers Give You Wings! Hey TV.com, Should I Watch The Goodwin Games?
- The Telefile - Veep: The Episode's Best Insults The Telefile - Saturday Night Live: Straight Outta 8H The Telefile - Game of Thrones: Our Weekly Westeros Scorecard
- The Women TV Is Still Missing Jason Isaacs Reveals The One Co-Star He Won't Work With Again WATCH: La Toya's Tearful Break-Up Phone Call
- 'Star Wars Rebels': New Animated Series Will Take Place Between 'Episode III and 'Episode IV' James Badge Dale, 'Iron Man 3' Star, Is Also in 'World War Z' and 'The Lone Ranger' 'Blue Jasmine' Poster Debut: Cate Blanchett Is Strikingly Stoic (PHOTO)
- 'Star Trek Into Darkness': What's Next For J.J. Abrams And The Cast? 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Spoiler Special: Burning Questions Answered 'Anchorman 2' Trailer Had Us At 'Hello': Watch Now!
- One Direction Thank Their Fans for 2013 Billboard Music Award Wins Drake + Jay-Z Working on New Music [Pic] Taylor Swift Gets Grossed Out When Selena Gomez + Justin Bieber Kiss Backstage at 2013 Billboard Awards [Pics]
- Why Do I Own This?: A pint glass nicked from Forks, Washington, a.k.a. “Twilight, U.S.A.” Scenic Routes: A quiet scene from The Matrix demonstrates how to make exposition compelling Nerd Curious: Why the essential collection Bradbury Stories explains how to live forever
A police procedural that doesn't bother with whodunnit, but doesn't replace it with anything interestingMonday, May 20, 2013
The paperback is being re-released tomorrowMonday, May 20, 2013
Don and Stan get a special shot, the agency loses a leader and Sally meets her 'Grandma Ida'Monday, May 20, 2013
The Lannisters throw a wedding, Daenerys faces a new army, and Stannis meets GendrySunday, May 19, 2013