From Jon Harmon Feldman, former executive producer of the short-lived Tru Calling, comes a new television series which, to the naked eye and based on promo spots alone, seems to be mostly directed to the audience who loves the frothy teen dramatics of its lead-in The O.C., but given a chance to sit through the entire duration of the pilot for the unique FOX drama Reunion, your opinion will change immediately. This isn’t just a frothy teen drama…it’s a heart-wrenching growing up tale that also involves an interwoven murder-mystery aspect, told throughout a period of twenty years…each episode serving as a different year in the timeline in which our characters are living.
We begin the series by pushing into a funeral set in present day. The spectacled man giving the eulogy tells a story of six friends who, throughout high school and twenty years afterward, were practically inseperable. That is until one of them is tragically murdered here in the present. Flashback to their high school graduation in 1986 as we’re introduced to each of the six friends. There’s Carla (Chyler Leigh, Not Another Teen Movie), the typical girl-next-door type who — as we’ll see twenty years down the line — will change drastically after the events involving her friends; Jenna (Amanda Righetti, North Shore), the beautiful and somewhat promiscuous wild child who has aspirations of making it in Hollywood; Aaron (Dave Annable, Little Black Book), the shy guy who completely overlooks Carla’s crush on him for his own feelings for Jenna; the teen power couple Craig (Sean Faris, life as we know it) and Samantha (Alexa Davalos, Angel), who may soon experience an unexpected pregnancy; and rounding out the group is Will (Will Estes, American Dreams), Craig’s best friend who’s secretly had an affair with Sam behind Craig’s back.
Within the first few minutes of the episode, we’re taken to a party in which we see many of the characters drinking while Samantha nervously awaits the results of a home pregnancy test which Carla got for her by taking it from her father’s pharmacy. The results come up positive and when Carla suggests that Sam tell Craig that he’s about to be a father, she reveals that he may not, in fact, be the actual father of the baby she’s carrying before returning to their friends in the other room.
After the party, we cut to Craig and Will driving home. Having drank quite a bit at the part beforehand, Will urges Craig to slow down but instead of listening to his friend’s suggestion, he continues speeding and the two get slammed into by another car on the road. Even though both passengers end up being okay, Craig starts getting questioned by the police after they discover that his blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit to be driving. Scared out of his mind, he convinces Will, who had been sober on the way home, to take the fall and tell the cops that he was the one driving his friend home…not the other way around. This turns out to be a grave mistake when on the way back from the hospital to meet the rest of their friends, Will is arrested for vehicular manslaughter after the man who had been behind the wheel of the truck that slammed into their car wound up dying from his injuries. Craig promises to get his dad on the job and that they’ll get everything cleared up and that they’ll come clean so that Will won’t have to be punished for Craig’s mistake, but instead, Craig’s father ends up convincing Will to go along with it since he’ll more than likely wind up with nothing more than parole since he was sober while he was driving, unlike Craig, who would more than likely get locked up. Craig’s father ends up being wrong about the outcome of Will’s trial after he’s sentenced with a maximum of 12 months in a state correctional facility, completely shocking everyone who thought he would get off with parole.
On top of all of this, Samantha eventually ends up approaching Will when Craig isn’t around and discussing the night that they had spent with each other. Will expresses regret for having an affair with his best friend’s girlfriend, but at the same time, doesn’t regret it because he’s in love with Sam. Sam reveals to Will that she’s pregnant and that the baby would more than likely have to be his…knowing that there is no possible way that it could have been Craig’s, only further adding stress to Will’s life. Afterwards, Samantha decides that instead of going through with an abortion and not letting her child have the chance to live, she’ll go to London on a scholarship instead of throwing it away and have the baby there. Inspired by Sam’s decision, Carla decides that she’s not going to just sit around and stay the same forever and finally tell Aaron how she feels about him.
Meanwhile, Aaron is growing increasingly jealous of Jenna’s affairs with older men that lie to her in order to get her to sleep with them. Eventually having had enough of it, he winds up yelling at Jenna and telling her that the other guys don’t love her, no matter whether they tell her they do or not. Jenna coldly retorts that at least she’s been laid, unlike Aaron, who’s still waiting around for any girl who will possibly have sex with him. Later that day though, Aaron and Jenna end up not only making up for the harsh words that they exchanged, but also making out, finally giving Aaron what he’s been waiting to experience for so long…but unfortunately in those final moments, Carla spots the two of them kissing and we can practically see her heart shatter. This development leads her to decide to tag along with Sam to London instead of sticking around town after all.
The episode leaves you with Will’s friends saying goodbye to him as he heads off to prison as Carla narrates in present day to a police officer who suspects she may have had something to do with the murder of her deceased friend (which friend that is still remains to be seen) that none of her friends wound up exactly where they thought they were going to be at the end of the summer of 1986. Sam and Carla both wound up in London together, Aaron staying behind as his newfound love with Jenna seperated as she went off to try and make it in Hollywood, Will spending 12 months in prison for a crime that was actually committed by his best friend, Craig.
In addition to the regular woes of love and lust and baby mama drama from shows like The O.C. and other teen dramas before it, Reunion successfully mixes in topics like lies, betrayal and murder effortlessly. Each of the six members in the young ensemble cast bring a different quality to the series and it’s interesting to watch them fit into the skins of their characters as they change and grow over twenty years, which we’ll see pass in only twenty episodes. The music is also set in each time period as well, tonight’s episode alone featuring the likes of ’80s musicians Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Mr. Mister…a unique touch that adds depth to an already interesting series. Much like a few other shows on the air this season, there is a bit of concern about the longevity of this show, should it be successful and make it to a second season, how would they go about it doing it? It looks like they’ll have to cross that bridge when they come to it. For now though, the friendships of this character-driven drama look to only get more and more intriguing as it goes, so be sure to stay tuned.