Or why I’m a sucker for Life, Unexpected.
The beauty of Life, Unexpected is that there hasn’t really been a show like it since the days of My So Called Life and Party Of Five. A show that’s as interested in the grown ups as it is with the kids. Master stroke number two is the casting. Two of the said adults (Shiri Appleby and Kerr Smith) came of age in 90s teen staples Roswell and Dawson’s Creek, and now they’re playing the parents. (This isn’t a totally new trick, Rufus and Lily in Gossip Girl have been pulling the same shit for seasons)
The reason that Life, Unexpected harks back to the 90s more than anything I’ve seen in the last decade are the unapologetic earnest levels of tear-inducing schmaltz. This is the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures. Do not attempt to view this show with a cynic (or indeed a boy) it’s safest to watch alone, ideally in bed or at least under a duvet to maximize the effect.
The premise of the show is simple. 15 year old Lux shows up at the home of her biological father who she has never met to get him to sign papers for her emancipation. From her father, the dashing Baise, she discovers the identity of her mother Kate. A girl Baise impregnated age 16 after the winter formal. Kate is now a successful talk radio DJ in a relationship with Ryan. Through a couple of twists of fate the judge ends up not granting Lux her emancipation after all, but instead releasing her in to the joint custody of Kate and Baise. Hilarity ensues, right?
Not really. Instead of taking the early 90s sitcom angle a la My Two Dads, Life, Unexpected opts for the more sensible route. The interesting thing here though is the none too subtle subtext. The only way our arrested development ridden generation (x) can cope with a family [tv show] is too have it sprung upon them with no choice. Throughout the course of the first season Kate and Baise have both been forced into growing up and dealing with getting their lives in order, albeit in different ways. Realistically they’re only supposed to be 5 years younger than Graham and Patty in MSCL, but they’re a world apart.
The thing is, I feel way comfier with this, I can understand a world where 3o something parents own bars and are still living paycheck to paycheck in Portland. Life, Unexpected makes me feel better about growing up, eventually. And I think that might be why I love it.
Oh, and Baise.
Dysfunction never looked so good.