Good thing: while watching the premiere episode of Life Unexpected, I had to check the little network watermark at the bottom right just to make sure that it is indeed CW. The lack of club anthems accompanying characters when they walked had me suspicious: is this really CW?
Those who've seen the opener that introduced us to Lux (Brittany Robinson) will probably agree that it is a brave venture and departure for the netlet, to say the least. After all, the primacy of Gossip Girl and its ilk as the in/cool/hot thing should raise doubts if something like Life Unexpected can attract and sustain an audience. Judging from the premiere, it can, and it should (the ratings are promising, 2.74 mil on opening night).
It is, however, right what most critics are saying: Life Unexpected is not Gilmore Girls. While from it does emanate a sort of vintage WB feel, the chuckles it produced are limited and the writing not nearly as excellent as GG (no matter how greeting cards-y or prescriptive it got at times). The show's saving grace - Brittany Robertson as Lux.
I always judge the interestingness of characters on one thing: do I want to sit down and have a little chat with this person, maybe get to know him or her a little better? If he or she is a little distraught and disturbed, do I want to give him a little hug? If he or she is a little evil, do I want to know if he or she's had a horrible childhood?
Lux bites the cake. At 15 years old, she was bounced around in seven foster homes. She meets her birth parents finally but, sensing their discomfort at the idea that she exists, chooses to go back to her foster family, as horrible as it is. Too bad her bags are packed and she essentially told her foster mom to suck it (her words, not mine), so she is reduced to sleeping on the sidewalk outsider her daddy's bar/house.
She figures her parents - Baze (Kristoffer Polaha) and Cate (Shiri Appleby) - aren't exactly well-adjusted adults, unfortunately, and when they bicker right after a judge grants both of them joint custody of her, she lays it on them thick: "Just let me go. You've done that already. It shouldn't be that hard."
Oh, Lux. The spunky-kid-trying-to-cover-up-her-pain act has existed since time immemorial, but you bleed it. Lux is wittier and more sarcastic than some 30-year-old's I know, and it's not a faÃÂ§ade. You kind of believe in it because you know what she's been to.
So when the two parents actually get their act together briefly and throw a birthday party for Lux, you don't see the cheesiness and the and-they-lived-happily-ever-after drivel it proffers. Instead, you just feel happy for Lux, and you hope it lasts.
As for wrapping up its opener, Life Unexpected is too proud/confident that it decided it doesn't need a cliffhanger to keep viewers in, like most of its CW brethren are wont to do. It goes full circle and things get resolved, but still, you want to see if Lux will continue to be happy with her new home. Of course, she doesn't. And that's why we will tune in next week.