Review: Life Unexpected 1×1

When fostering goes bad, you get a happy ending

Life Unexpected 1x1

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, The CW

I know, I know. I’m about a week late on this one and episode two has already aired. But we watched episode one last night, so what the hell.

Anyway, this was a relatively pleasant surprise. I say pleasant but we’re talking about a show in which a a 15-year-old girl called Lux tracks down the birth parents she’s never met so they can sign away their parental rights – apparently, the seventh foster home she’s in wasn’t any more up to scratch than the previous ones, so she’d quite like to live by herself.

Bleak, huh? But, given this is The CW, the home of programmes for teenage girls/young women/family audiences, you can bet it doesn’t turn out too horrible.

Plot
After spending her life bouncing from one foster family to another, 15-year-old Lux has decided to become an emancipated minor. Her journey through the legal maze leads Lux to her biological father, 30-something Nate “Baze” Bazile, who lives like an aging frat-boy and is astonished to learn he has a daughter. Lux is equally astonished to learn that her mother is Cate Cassidy, a star on local radio, along with her boyfriend, Ryan Thomas. When a judge grants temporary custody of Lux to Baze and Cate, they agree to make a belated attempt to give Lux the family she deserves.

LIFE UNEXPECTED is produced by Mojo Films in association with CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Television with executive producers Liz Tigelaar (“Brothers and Sisters,” “What About Brian”) and Gary Fleder (“October Road”). Gary Fleder directed the pilot.

Is it any good?
What our Bob says pretty much hits the nail on the head: it’s pleasant and filled with people who are a touch too knowing, given their various lots in life, or a touch too dim, given their various lots in life.

So Lux (what kind of name is that? Was Candela already taken?), despite having been threw a lifetime of foster homes and medical procedures, is largely well balanced, loquacious and smart with only minor issues, largely around adults not being there for you. Over-grown frat boy Nate (played by Kristoffer Polaha, last seen on the CW’s now-defunct Valentine) is way too contemplative about his lot in life and failed relationships for an over-grown frat boy who runs a bar.

However, given this is a show aimed at girls, most of the show’s attention is on Lux’s mum, Cate Cassidy (they clearly wanted a slightly older Joanna Garcia-alike from now-defunct CW show Privileged, so hired Shiri Appleby from Roswell) and her relationships. There’s the obvious will-they/won’t they (again) between Nate and Cate, who has a slightly inept fiancé (Kerr Smith from Justice/Eli Stone), with whom she runs a talk radio show, in which they pretend to spar with one another. Smith’s character proposes to her while they’re cleaning up the house, so he’s already depicted as not being a great catch; the fact that Nate’s girlfriend gets one defining characteristic (she likes to jog in a revealing top) makes me think this is going to be a love triangle rather than a love square, and one with a particularly flaky third side.

But most of the script, once Lux is on the scene, deals with Cate’s commitment issues and feelings about having given up her child, rather than Nate’s discovery that he has a daughter that Cate didn’t tell him about. As much is done as possible to make this particular decision as palatable as possible to the audience – Lux not quickly finding an adoptive family, as Cate was promised, is down to her having a heart condition, which required three years of operation, after which she didn’t seem so attractive to potential adopters (ie it’s not Cate’s fault Lux’s life was rubbish). I don’t know whether the plan is to look at Nate’s side of things more, but it feels a little off-balance at the moment.

Conclusion
As a show, it works quite well. There’s a satisfying amount of time spent on the thirtysomethings and their lives, rather than simply on Lux’s situation. The show pulls its punches a little when it comes to foster families, but not much (there are hints at attempted sexual abuse by some of the foster fathers, but not in any serious way, and one family dealt drugs). The characters, while not desperately well defined or plausible, are at least moderately real and interesting, and the performances are reasonable enough.

Nevertheless, as Bob says, where does it go from here? Presumably Lux goes to school. Is it going to be soul-searching about what happened in biology every week? Is Lux going to be drawn back into the shady side of things by former foster families? Does she have more issues that need dealing with? Will Smith and Appleby split up, end their radio show, and Nate and Cate get it together – presumably not until the last episode?

It’s a good enough set-up, but it feels more like a Lifetime movie than a series at herat. I’ll keep watching to find out where it goes.

Verdict: Not bad.