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By Randee Dawn
In Lake Wobegon, as Garrison Keillor tells his radio listeners eachweek, “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking andall the children are above average.”
With the CW’s “Life Unexpected,” it is now official: CW Drama Landis, in fact, Lake Wobegon.
That’s because once again a new CW drama features two impossiblyhandsome young adults who are intimately connected with impossiblyadorable younger teens. And those teens? Wiser than any of theso-called grown-ups in the room. It’s a formula that often fallsflat, coming across as unrealistic and condescending (at least tothe grown-ups).
Despite such early strikes against it, however, “Life” is theopposite, an unexpectedly warm and heartfelt introduction tocomplex relationships and complex people.
Portland, Ore., teen Lux wants out of her foster homes with anemancipation agreement, so with cool efficiency, she tracks downher biological parents, who had a one-night stand in high school;Mom (Shiri Appleby) thought she had been adopted, and Dad(Kristoffer Polaha) never knew she was born. She enlists them forhelp with her independence day, but things go awry.
That’s enough plot for a whole Jason Reitman-directed film, buthere it’s just the start. Lux is immediately sympathetic; BrittRobertson makes her identifiably no-nonsense but with just theright dose of wary vulnerability buried beneath ugly-prettyhomemade wool caps.
The joke, such as it is, is that Lux is all ready to be grown up,but her parents — Mom is a DJ engaged to her co-host; Dad is aboy-man who owns the bar he lives above — are floundering in theirown immaturity.
That a family coalesces out of this mishmash of cutie-pies is nosurprise (this is a TV series, after all), but creator Liz Tigelaar(“American Dreams”) has a delicate, spot-on feel for dialogue andisn’t afraid to color in her characters’ darker shades. (Dad Nateto Mom Cate, “Some of us peak in high school.”)
That doesn’t mean they can’t be ridiculous. Lux is too “together”considering her lousy upbringing; Cate’s fiance is too accepting ofthe upending of his life. And when Lux tells Cate she was herheroine even before they knew of their genetic link (thanks toCate’s local-celeb DJ status), the saintliness congeals intotreacle.
Still, “Life’s” clean, clear storytelling is worth a go-around. Whowouldn’t love a show that makes radio hosts sexy? Talk about retroappeal.
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