Last season, I was charmed by the sweet tale of a 16-year-old who sought out her birth parents so she could get emancipated and ended up finding a family. Well, charmed for one episode, before Life Unexpected turned into a ridiculous love triangle between Cate and Baze and Ryan that just went around and around until I felt like I was going to puke from the whole tilt-a-whirl of it all. And Lux (the initially adorable teen) ended up being a totally selfish and unrealistic ass who dated a guy named Bug and was mainly good at turning people against each other. By the time Cate and Ryan's wedding rolled around at the end of the season, which Baze tried to crash and Lux tried to manipulate, I was completely over this show. But, being the masochist that I am, I decided to give the Season 2 premiere a look. The result: I only wanted to punch the screen some of the time, which is a marked improvement. Here are what I hope are the signs of good things to come this year:
New Characters Introduced
Not that there's anything wrong with Math, but he doesn't exactly add much drama to the show. Instead, they've brought on a sexy, newly re-virginized radio co-host who looks like she wants to eat Ryan alive, a self-involved waitress who burns bars down and happens to be related to Ryan and, last not least, a Melrose Place refugee (Shaun Sipos) as Lux's teacher and potential new love interest. (Cough, Pretty Little Liars.)
They Squashed Bug
He proposed to Lux and then seemed shocked when she didn't actually think it was a great idea for a teen girl still in high school to promise herself forever to a dude with a giant neck tattoo. Then Bug found out that Lux had spent the night traveling to the ocean with some other guy, so he immediately dumped her and headed out on his motorcycle for parts unknown. He's done this before and returned, but I'm hopeful that this time it actually sticks.
They Fired Cate
They didn't fire the character from the show (much to my dismay), but they did shit-can her from her radio talk show. The boss lady told Cate in no uncertain terms that she found her "grating and abrasive." I wanted to reach through my TV and give that woman a great big high five. I feel the same way: there's no way that I would listen to Cate in the mornings. She's completely annoying and holier than thou and I just can't buy that she'd actually be part of a "popular" radio talk show in any town. Getting fired serves her a heaping helping of humble pie, which she definitely deserved.
They Made Ryan Less Perfect
In addition to the tension added by Ryan keeping his job and having a flirtatious new co-host, he also has a secret lady Cate knows nothing about who likes to make mystery phone calls and give ugly (if expensive) vases as gifts. Giving Ryan his own storyline could actually make the show more realistic since his flaws would help explain why Cate might consider Baze a viable option over her considerate, more attractive and doting husband.
Lux is Moderately More Likeable
I'm not going to say that I actually like her yet. I didn't love the premiere that much. However, she getting a sense of the world around her after traveling to Vegas (of all places) and having the ability to realize that marrying her boyfriend, or even planning to marry her boyfriend, was a bad idea seemed like a moderate amount of progress in the personality department. Hell, I was even sort of touched when she hugged Baze and realized that someone else had actual feelings and cared about her well being. Now if she could just ditch the stupid hats...
The show still has a long way to go to make it into my regular DVR rotation, or to even reach the level of its promising pilot. I mean, how long can they play the Baze/Cate- as-unrequited-lovers-card without me wanting to immediately reach for the delete button? But maybe that will be toned down, or less overused this season. And maybe the show won't force-feed me stupid and unrealistic dialogue (bitchy boss lady excluded). And maybe the Sarah McLachlan-filled, One Tree Hill crossover episode extravaganza won't be as bad as it sounds. And maybe the show will remember that these are interesting characters in an unconventional situation instead of shrewish caricatures. If so, this series might be watchable on occasion.
Watch TWoP's editors discuss this fall's best returning TV shows in this segment airing on the New York Nonstop cable news channel:
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