Life Unexpected (CW)
Premiered January 18 at 9pm
This pilot, however unexpected and original it may purport to be, is anything but. Its characters reek of stereotypes and convention, and its story is obvious, predictable, and slow. A spunky teenager, Lux, who knows far more than she should about the way life works seeks to gain independence from the endless cycle of foster care she’s had to endure by hunting down her birth parents to demand their signatures in support of her emancipation. The story goes downhill from there, as Lux’s parents reveal themselves to both be idiots. Her father, Nate “Baze” Bazile, sleeps all day and bartends all night, and his ratio of booze intake to ambition in life is devastating. Her mother, Cate Cassidy, works as a local radio personality who professes her disbelief in true love and all things romantic, though her sparring partner is her real-life boyfriend. Shockingly, the high school prom dates don’t get along. At all. When Lux presents herself, all three lives are torn apart and must inevitably be fused back together with all three of them starting a life as one highly dysfunctional family. All three are equal caricatures of their respective roles, and it’s hard to pick which one of them is more obnoxious. The two actors chosen to play the parents don’t inspire much hope in the show. Kristoffer Polaha, whose laidback nature seems a perfect fit for his ambitionless character, has single-handedly steered two abysmal shows to their speedy demises (“Valentine” and “North Shore”). Shiri Appleby appears not to have grown up at all since starring in “Roswell” a decade ago, and she’s hardly believable as an adult. Lead actress Britt Robertson really only has her limited performance on “Swingtown,” but she’s plenty annoying in just the first hour of this series. The dialogue is this show is laughable, but that’s no surprise. This kind of quality isn’t exactly unexpected from a pilot on the CW, a network which has really ever only had one half-decent-pilot, and that was “Reaper” way back in 2007. Now, this show does fit in perfectly with the current crop of teen dramas of the CW, like “One Tree Hill,” “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” and “Melrose Place,” so it might do fine with its target audience. Looked at as a legitimate show, however, it’s a monumental, miserable embarrassment.
How will it work as a series? This episode is only the setup, so it’s hard to tell what the show will be like after this. It’s likely that they’ll try many ill-fated ways of living together and apart, and lovers will get in the way of this family becoming inevitably happy. Just because it’s predictable doesn’t mean that its familiar formula won’t immediately click with viewers and make this show irresistible to its target demographic.
How long will it last? The CW judges its shows on a much more forgiving basis, and the amount of promotion it threw behind this one spell a bright future for the show. Somewhat decent reviews and generally acceptable ratings should keep this one on the air for the next few months, especially behind “One Tree Hill” and in the usual timeslot of “Gossip Girl,” but I wouldn’t count on a second season just yet.
Pilot grade: F