In the US: Available on Freeform
It’s a little hard to critique the reality of fairy tales. Should an overworked maid join a union, go on strike, become an economic migrant or lobby for an increase in the minimum wage to alleviate her condition? Or she should hope that a fairy will grant her a beautiful outfit and that a handsome prince will end up wanting to marry her because she dances well? Logically, option one is the better, more realistic one, option two the anti-feminist, passive one. Yet we all know that option two pans out for Cinderella whereas option one would have consigned her to perpetual indenture.
Watching modern TV fairy tales The Arrangement and Famous In Love, it seems that “hoping to be catapaulted to fame and fortune by becoming an instantaneously successful movie superstar when another hot major movie star takes a fancy to you during an audition” is the current US equivalent to holding out for that pumpkin carriage. They’re also about as realistic.
The Arrangement, it has to be said, is by far the better of the two shows, while Famous In Love is a great big slap in the face to aspiring actresses everywhere. It sees Bella Thorne (the long-time star of Shake It Up but last seen as the unsuprising ‘surprise’ death in the first episode of MTV’s Scream) playing a slightly bored, but otherwise happy economics student who’d much rather be an actress. Despite apparently having had no acting training, she still goes with bestest gal pal Georgie Flores to an audition to star in a movie franchise guaranteed to be the ‘next Harry Potter‘ and wows everyone, including star Carter Jenkins, with her unparallelled acting skills and highly kissable lips. Before she and the audience know it, she’s hired to play the lead.
But does being rich and famous bring you happiness? Flashforwards to the future successful Thorne seem to suggest otherwise. But what makes her so miserable? Well, there’s the rub. Is it just the lack of private life? Is it a doomed future real-life relationship with Jenkins? Is it a potential estrangement from her still-struggling actress pal Flores? Is it the possible loss of hottie bestest boy pal/romantic interest Charlie DePew, who can’t compete with superstar Jenkins? Or is it something else to do with the machinations of Hollywood?
Time will tell, I’m sure.
Famous In Love is billed as the replacement for Pretty Little Liars, so don’t be surprised that about 50% of the plot is actually about various possible pairings of the assembled characters, as well as rivalries between friends and enemies. Similarly, there’s also a mystery to be solved – namely what happened that estranged Jenkins from his former best friend Keith T Powers and caused popstar Pepi Sonuga to disappear from the public eye – and a closeted lesbian (no, no clues).
However, it’s not even close to the quality of PLL and The Arrangement shows how pretty much every part of the show can be done better. Thorne is likable and quirky enough for sure, but the dialogue and scripting causes it to be so forced, you start to feel sorry for her, given the acres of supposed ‘nervous rambling’ she has to wade through every other scene. The fact she gets to go to the top of her profession without having served her dues in dead-end waitressing jobs or even trained in her art, unlike The Arrangement‘s Christine Evangelista, makes pumpkin-based transportation seem like an earned plot development. Hell, she hasn’t even had to sit in the audience enduring Inside The Actors Studio before she made the big time.
Perhaps the only thing of note about Famous in Love, apart from it being one of the few TV shows to actually have the female lead in the infamous ‘Friend Zone’ at its outset, is that there’s a British showbusiness reporter in the thick of things. Literally an hour before I watched the episode this morning, I suddenly wondered to myself. “Whatever happened to Nathan Stewart-Jarrett from Misfits? He was always complaining there weren’t any acting jobs for middle class black Britains, just gritty stuff set on gang-run estates. Maybe he went over to the US to seek his fortune.”
Guess what, reader. Stewart-Jarrett plays that very same showbusiness reporter. How spooky.
If you have to watch one show like this, watch The Arrangement. But you probably don’t have to watch either, to be honest, so maybe watch Misfits instead.