Unexpected Life in LIFE UNEXPECTED

By Sarah Carbiener

Before the premiere of this show, I would have told you that, after Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey, I was really tired of the tough, pretty, talented woman who can’t commit to a sweet guy who loves her despite her many flaws. But playing AM-radio talk-show host Cate Cassidy on Life Unexpected, Shiri Appleby made me forget all about Meredith and her existential angst.

We meet Cate on the day her loving boyfriend proposes and, after hitting him for springing the question on her while she’s holding a snow ski, she accepts. Fast forward to when Baze (Kristoffer Polaha), the boy with whom she had a one night stand in high school, outs her on her radio show for being the girl who got knocked up on prom night, or actually, “more like winter formal.” She runs out mid-show and meets the daughter she gave up for adoption in the radio station parking lot.

Lux (Brittany Robertson) had hunted down her birth parents purely to get their signatures so she can jump through some legal hoops, escape foster care, and become emancipated on her sixteenth birthday. Things do not work according to plan, and the birth parents end up as her legal guardians.

The extended trailers all over the Internet made the plot of this pilot episode obvious and predictable, but it’s the tone, characters, and details that really sell this show. The chemistry amongst the cast is great, and they manage to deliver even the cheesiest lines—which there were surprisingly few of—with honesty and sincerity. For the most part, the dialogue is very smart, and though not quite up to Veronica Mars-caliber—RIP Neptune—it was much more consistent than the rest of the fare on CW.

The show also did a great job of working through the logic of Lux ending back up with her birth parents. The show’s creator, Liz Tigelaar, who was adopted, obviously knew how important it would be to deal with this setup as honestly as possible. Whatever legality or quirks of the foster care system they fudged, they did it well.

And the details in the relationships are seriously great. My favorite moment was between the cynical Lux, who’s lost all faith in the adults who haphazardly control her life, and Baze, the ambitionless slacker who only owns his own bar because his father left him the building. After Lux declares that she hates YouTube, the two watch the famous clip of Christian the lion being reunited with the British guys who raised him (see video here) and they both end up crying.

Life also has weighty moments, like when Lux alludes to the terrible parent figures she’s had in foster care, or when she goes back to her foster home to find all her stuff packed, but I can already tell it’s going to be memorable for its slightly silly yet touching moments like Lux and Baze crying together over a YouTube video.



  • Reply
    January 19, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I mostly agree with you but have to say the weakest character for me was Kerr Smith’s Ryan. His banter with Cate on the radio show was lame and he outed her pregnancy on the air! Other than that, I did like it and will give it another shot.

    The YouTube video bonding was also my favorite part.

    • Reply
      January 19, 2010 at 11:43 pm

      I COMPLETELY agree with you about Ryan. Like McDreamy, he was way too “I’m perfect, but I love you for all your flaws.” Tired, tired, tired. I just really liked the way Cate handled him in the pilot. But unless his character gets some more depth, it’s going to be way too easy to root for her to dump him and be with Baze.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Oh, I’m so relieved to hear it’s not channeling Meredith. Her character’s issues was one of the reasons I stopped watching GREY’S ANATOMY. I was a little wary after seeing the commercials for this series, but now I’ll have to check it out.

    I’ll be interested to see how and what storylines they use to address the foster care system. I was a fan of JUDGING AMY, and the stories involving Tyne Daly’s social worker character, Maxine Gray, were some of the most thought-provoking for me.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      January 20, 2010 at 11:45 am

      I think I may be the only person I know who doesn’t hate Meredith. She’s had strange issues but in the last two seasons, she’s become way more grounded. It’s Izzie I can’t stand. If Katherine Heigl wants off the show, producers should just let her go.

      I’d be interested to see how they handle the foster care issues, too. I know the system isn’t perfect but I also know some wonderful people who are foster parents.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2010 at 10:46 am

    OK. Seems like another series I’ll be trying to watch as soon as it airs in Mexico. The thing with them is that they often get scrambled among the channels here, and many times is tough to find them (but I will, trust me!).

    Thanks PCN, for this review. You not only increase my TBR pile, but my TBW list.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      January 20, 2010 at 11:50 am

      My contributing writer Sarah wrote this review, Poncho. I’m still deep in admin/tech stuff (the site still has some functionality issues) so I’m lucky to have her and Eric step up and cover some shows for me. Did you see Eric’s review of Human Target? It’s up there in the carousel in the “featured” section. It’s based on a comic book, has lots of action and is kinda fun!

      • Reply
        January 20, 2010 at 9:49 pm

        Sorry PCN & Sarah. Since I read this quickly while I was at work, I didn’t notice the credits. My bad.

        Anyway. It’s a great review, and I’m waiting for this series to come out in Mexico (or perhaps I’ll watch it in Hulu).

        I did read Eric’s review, PCN, but sometimes I have little or no time to answer. I’ll stretch my time to do so.

        Thanks again, both Sarah & PCN.

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          January 20, 2010 at 11:00 pm

          No need to apologize, Poncho! I’m happy you take time to stop by here at all. I just didn’t want to take credit for Sarah’s work.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I can’t stand Kerr Smith. I’ve never seen him a play a likable character. Every time he pops up somewhere, I go, “Ugh!”

    I missed this but will try to watch it online. Doesn’t CW sometimes re-run pilot episodes a few days later? Thanks for the review, Sarah.

    • Reply
      January 20, 2010 at 11:24 am

      The pilot is going to air again tonight at 8pm. I’m not sure how long they’re going to wait to put it on the CW website so I would try to catch it or DVR it.

      • Reply
        January 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

        Oh, thanks, Sarah! Good thing I asked!

  • Reply
    January 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I’m not totally sold on the show yet, but at least it isn’t as vapid as Gossip Girl or the REALLY HORRIBLE Melrose Place revamp.

    I have seen and liked Kerr Smith (Ryan) in plays but he is really unconvincing onscreen as the love interest of Cate. Maybe it was set up that way, though. As in, we’re not supposed to like him, but rather root for Cate and Nate (sorry, can’t call him “Baze,” it’s just too darn silly).

    It’s the normal procedure for networks and studios to have too many hands involved with a pilot so it is hard to judge the series on the first outing. Will tune in again.

    Thanks for the review.

    • Reply
      January 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm

      Or the REALLY REALLY HORRIBLE 90210 reboo. Silly or not, I like Baze, but I’m a sucker for nicknames.

      I usually like to give shows three episodes before I decide to keep tuning it or not. (My dad on the other hand gives new shows five minutes!)

  • Reply
    January 20, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks, Sarah, for the solid review.

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