Last year, the CW presented a little-watched show that was a surprise pick-up for a second season this year. Life Unexpected was incredibly charming, and I was thrilled when it got renewed, well after I thought it dead. I was even more surprised, and disappointed, to watch the season premiere, “Ocean Uncharted.” It wasn’t that it was a terrible hour of television; it’s just that I know from past efforts that LU can do so much better than this. My biggest complaint is that the show just feels like it’s trying too hard. It’s stunt storytelling to bring in ratings. The show needs more viewers, but it won’t get them if it replaces good writing with shock factors.
The three most important characters all face earth-shattering events in the premiere. Baze (Kristoffer Polaha) is wondering what would have happened if he had only shown up at the church earlier. Would Cate (Shiri Appleby) have left Ryan (Kerr Smith) at the alter if Baze had arrived before their vows were exchanged? The self-reflection isn’t bad, and actually shows Baze’s maturation. Nor do I fault him for looking twice at the hot new waitress at his bar, Paige (Arielle Kebbel, Gilmore Girls). It’s what happens because of Paige and why Paige will be sticking around for a while that I have a problem with. Don’t worry. I won’t spoil the surprises.
Cate and Ryan have just returned from their honeymoon when the premiere episode begins. They took Lux (Brittany Robertson), so that she could have a vacation. Obviously, this did not allow them a traditional post-wedding trip, and we’ll see if that has any consequences. Back at work, they learn that a new co-host will be joining them in the mornings, author Kelly Campbell (Amy Price-Francis, 24). She gives marriage advice, without being married herself. And Kelly is there to do more than just join the pair. Not only that, but Ryan seems to be hiding something significant from Cate. I know there needs to be suspense, hooks, and shakeups to get people to watch, but look how many things I mention in that short paragraph for just one episode. Trying way too hard.
Lux doesn’t have it any better than her parents. As soon as she arrives back in town, her boyfriend Bug (Rafi Gavron) wants something very big from her. As Lux has done before, she starts to fall for another boy (Shaun Sipos, Melrose Place) while pulling away from Bug. Even though the guy was new, the plot felt stale. And his twist has been done on many television shows before.
There is a bright spot on the horizon, though. Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills 90210) will soon be joining the cast as the new boss of one of our main characters. Emma sure brought a breath of fresh air to Buffy when she joined the show mid-run. Let’s hope she can deliver the same for Life Unexpected.
Life Unexpected premieres this Tuesday at 9pm on the CW.