The Brief: Fifteen year old Lux is trying to escape the foster care system and go it alone as soon as she hits her birthday in a couple of days. But to do that she needs the signatures of her birth parents, who had a one night stand when they were sixteen and never really looked back. Inevitably they find they need each other and end up forming a very strange extended family group.
The CW is an odd network, it’s targeting the pretty specific female 18-34 demographic and has a collection of shows that are completely unashamed about what they. While there’s a lot of stuff I don’t care for (America’s Next Top Model, Melrose Place) and there’ve been some real clunkers (The Beautiful Life, about New York models only lasted two episodes), there’s also some real gems like Gossip Girl, Supernatural and Smallville. It also used to broadcast Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls, and Life Unexpected clearly owes a debt to both of those shows.
Sixteen years and nine months ago Cate and Nate (ugh) had a one night stand after a prom, she got pregnant and put the baby up for adoption, Nate thought she had an abortion. Now she’s a breakfast host on the local radio station and he owns and lives in a bar. Lux was never actually adopted and has been bouncing around foster homes and is petitioning to be granted emancipation on her sixteenth birthday, but for contrived reasons needs her parent’s signatures. Hijinks ensue and they all end up reconnecting and needing each other. It’d be a pretty short show if they didn’t.
The themes are all pretty clear and simple, the ‘parents’ generally have less of a clue about life than the child does, but she in turn isn’t nearly as grown up as she thinks she is. They’re all busy proclaiming too loudly that they’re fine and happy with their lives – Cate’s whole on-air persona is about being bitter and lonely, Nate is a 32 year old living like he’s in a fraternity and Lux screams that she’s self-sufficient and doesn’t need anyone. It’s cheesy and obvious, but it makes sense and forms a good foundation.
The characters are all really nicely crafted and introduced. When Cate is asked if she even thought about keeping her baby, she answers ‘no’ with complete honesty. She wants to do the right thing by her daughter, but she doesn’t spontaneously become an all knowing mother figure, you can see her thinking things out and just trying really hard. The relationship between Nate and Lux is a little different, he doesn’t have the same feelings of guilt, but he sees the opportunity to embrace the responsibility for a change.
The pilot is enjoyable and touching without being too smaltzy. There’s a lot of spirit in the characters and the gang of supporting side-kicks adds a lot of humour. I liked the look of the show as well, set in Portland, Oregon and has a sort of grungy lived in feel to it. I doubt it’s going to be a surprising show, I suspect I could predict the plots of half a dozen episodes based on the pilot alone, but the show has a spark to it that made me want to watch more.
I can’t find any info about a UK channel showing this.