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Life Unexpected’ tackles heavy issues with warmth and humor

Brandy Cerne | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Do you spend your nights watching reruns of the deceased “Gilmore Girls” and “Everwood,” thinking, “Why don’t they make shows like this anymore?” If so, the answer is that they do. Or at least the CW does, with its newest show “Life Unexpected.” Mixing clever dialogue with heartfelt drama proves a winning combination for the show, just as it was for those former WB shows.

“Life Unexpected” revolves around the reunion of 16-year-old Lux (Brittany Robertson) with her birth parents. She only wants to find them in order to get their signatures for her emancipation form. Her mother Cate, played by “Roswell” alum Shiri Appleby, gave Lux up for adoption after she became pregnant in high school by quarterback Baze (Kristoffer Polaha). Baze is an irresponsible bar owner who tries to accept the fact that he has a daughter he did not know about, while radio-host Cate is forced to deal with her own issues of giving up her child, pushed to the back of her mind for many years.

Lux is also forced to tackle her own emotional problems that coincide with meeting her birth parents. Instead of granting Lux emancipation, the judge gives joint custody to Baze and Cate. Lux struggles with accepting this decision, as the rejection from being given up for adoption still stings. After living her life jumping from foster home to foster home, Lux must adjust to an entirely new family situation that is quite different from what she is used to. With the entrance of just one teenage girl into their lives, all parties involved, including Cate’s fiancé (played by Kerr Smith, formerly of “Dawson’s Creek”) and Baze’s friends, must change their perceptions of how they expected their life to be (hence the title of the show).

While the description sounds fairly serious, the tone of “Life Unexpected” is lighthearted and warm. The dialogue is humorous and believable, filled with references from the 1990s. It is reminiscent of favorite characters from older WB and CW series, giving the hour-long show a nice pace and familiarity. It is easy to imagine Cate getting along well with Rory from “Gilmore Girls,” or Baze with Bright from “Everwood.”

Also similar to the WB shows of old is the unique location of Portland, Ore. Quickly becoming known as a hip, artsy and beautiful place to live and visit, it is a perfect setting for these quirky and young characters. By the end of the pilot, you will probably find yourself wanting to live in Portland and be friends with the good-looking and fun characters who have awesome jobs.

Everything comes together well in “Life Unexpected,” from large parts like the dramatic storyline and genuine characters to smaller ones like the alternative soundtrack and trendy wardrobe choices. “Life Unexpected” should appeal to a broad audience. Teenagers will be able to relate to Lux, who is just trying to be accepted. Older adults will see their own struggles to be a good parent reflected in the actions and feelings of Cate and Baze. At its core, “Life Unexpected” is about what is means to be a family, whether conventionally or not.

It may not be as great as “Everwood” or “Felicity” just yet, but “Life Unexpected” does have potential. And with the absence of the real thing, it is a more than suitable replacement.
After premiering on January 18, “Life Unexpected” is two episodes into its season, but it is worth catching up on.