Third-episode verdict: Life Unexpected

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 3

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

To maintain a sense of consistency with my first-episode review, I’m about a week late with this third-episode verdict. But hell – let’s do it.

So as we all recall, Life Unexpected sees a precocious teenager who’s been through seven foster families track down her birth parents so that she can be emancipated and lead her own life, free of adults. However, despite leading separate lives now, they decide to be ‘Lux’s’ parents for real.

Now, the first episode was actually quite good: it played a little with the darkness of the concept, had some reasonably witty dialogue and moments and the characters were broadly likable. Trouble was, it was pretty much a self-contained concept – where was the show going to go from there?

Episode two proved to be a slight reboot. Lux suddenly acquired a boyfriend and some friends living in a squat. Everyone involved suddenly got personality changes, becoming stupider if they’d been smart, smarter if they’d been stupid. Lux went from being a nice kid stuck in a bad situation to being a bitchy little teenager. Despite being Lux’s parents and having been ordered to take Lux into their care, suddenly our 30-somethings are having to be inspected by a social worker lest Lux be taken back into the foster system – which makes zero sense.

It was basically a way to take the existing concept and make it work as a series, with the unfortunate side-effect of making everyone a whole load less likable.

Episode three continued with this reboot, making the supposed “boy from the bad side of town” Kristoffer Polaha suddenly the son of some very wealthy parents. It also made smart mother Shiri Appleby turn into a complete tool (would anyone, honestly, even think about changing their newly-acquired daughter’s high school without even talking to her about it first?).

We even saw Appleby’s family turn up, everyone go to dinner together and through some kind of bizarreness, make all grandparents unite in trying to take Lux off their children’s hands. Plausible? Not much.

On the other hand, we did get Alexandra Breckenridge as Appleby’s sister, and she was clearly the best thing about The Ex-List and Dirt (and she does voices on Family Guy).

Generally, though, this isn’t as pleasing as the first episode suggested it was going to be. The characters aren’t as enjoyable as they started out, and the plots put the characters through numerous bits of fluffy/dark implausibility and make them behave in odd ways.

I might stick with it, assuming Breckenridge is going to be in it more – presumably, given her liking for Kristoffer Polaha’s character, she’s going to be the other edge of the “love square”, now that Polaha’s fitness-obsessed girlfriend has mysteriously disappeared between pilot and series-proper. But it’s not a must-see.

Carusometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will certainly last a season, maybe even two, but probably not much longer than that


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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