Life Unexpected - Review

On the one hand, there's a strong desire to root for "Life Unexpected" -- a throwback to the CW's WB days, before the network merged with UPN and eventually opted to define itself through a series of slick Aaron Spelling retreads and wannabes. "Life" tilts more toward "Gilmore Girls" territory in both tone and topic, but despite a first-rate cast and some heart-warming moments, the first three episodes seldom rise above tired teen angst and adoption-politics melodrama. It's the scripted version of ABC's "Find My Family," and not much more substantial.

About to turn 16, foster child Lux ("Swingtown's" talented Brittany Robertson) learns she must obtain signatures from her biological parents in order to become emancipated. So she hunts down her dad, Nate (Kristoffer Polaha), who is now running a bar, has a bit of a Peter Pan complex and is understandably flummoxed to meet the girl he fathered with the unfortunately named Cate Cassidy (Shiri Appleby) in high school.

Cate now co-hosts a local morning radio show with her boyfriend, Ryan ("Dawson Creek's" Kerr Smith), and she's equally flustered when Lux waltzes into her life. Yet the plans for a quickie emancipation conveniently evaporate (or else there would be no series), and Cate and Nate reluctantly assume shared custody of their long-lost seed.

Series creator Liz Tigelaar ("What About Brian") falls back on all the tired tropes of the genre, from the squabbling between Nate and Cate (nope, it doesn't sound any less silly that way) to Lux's alternating precociousness and neediness. What makes a family is a potent theme, but "Life" never gets much beyond glib banter and after-school special territory.

For all that, Robertson and the still-adorable Appleby (a graduate of "Roswell," which played on both WB and UPN) nearly save things with their moist eyes and innate likability. If only the show didn't keep stumbling into cliches like Lux's tough friends and Nate's disapproving parents at each new episodic turn -- or empower Lux to repeatedly lecture adults about the art of parenting, which will likely make anybody out of their teens want to throw up.

So despite its modest merits, "Life" ultimately spends most of its time paddling in the shallow end of the dramatic gene pool. And based on the CW's recent track record, that wasn't entirely unexpected.

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Jan 20, 2010 1:28AM EST

Well, say as you want, but I like it!

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Feb 3, 2010 12:35AM EST

hey u god damn rite this stuff is trying too hard. uhm, yea i was actually disappointed with the cliches in life unexpected.
i also agree with every cliche u mentioned above. u gotta hate it that... it wrapped up so nicely too. i mean cmon. really? cate says im sorry on the radio and basil has to step up his game or he will lose his daughter? i wish this show would move past this predictable push and pull crap. i guess im trying to say i hate the pacing of this cutesy stuff.
i thought this show would honestly be a little more real. gossip girl had the same bang sizzle effect. trust mfing CW to be scared to jump in the water and swim.
lux hasa sick ass room tho- band posters on the wall, freakin attic window, and uh lots of useless lamps and trinkets- and the bong lamp. tell me how to make one, seriously. anyone. uh yea no tv tho. so i guess im still watching life unexpected. i WILL take bets on this show getting axed. seriously.

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