'Life Unexpected': Unexpectedly good

life-unexpected-320.jpgThe CW's new offering "Life Unexpected" is surprisingly charming.

I have to confess -- original programming from the CW doesn't get the benefit of the doubt from me anymore.

"Vampire Diaries" aside (which is surprisingly good), I have not been that impressed with the shows on the WB-UPN hybrid network. "Gossip Girl" lost me after season one, "One Tree Hill" never had me and the "90210" and "Melrose Place" do-overs are disappointingly bad.

However.

"Life Unexpected" is here to save the day. Both the stars of the show and critics are calling it "old-school WB" and that is a spot-on assessment. It harkens back to the day of "Dawson's Creek," "Felicity," "Gilmore Girls" and "Popular" with sharp writing, raw emotions and compelling charcters.

"Life" begins with 15 year-old Lux, a product of the foster care system who must track down her birth parents in order to become emancipated. When the judge won't grant Lux's emancipation, her new-found parents step in.

All is not "happily ever after," though, and that's where the show gets its heart. Lux's parents are young (hence the giving her up for adoption as a baby) and don't know how to be parents to a teen. Watching Nate (Kristoffer Polaha) and Cate (Shiri Appleby) straddle the parent/older sibling line is both sweet and awkward and Britt Robertson as Lux is fantastic as she struggles with wanting independence yet finally having adults around who care about her. Also, Lux is in many ways more adult than her actual parents and Robertson manages to convey that without coming across as precocious.

The supporting cast is also great, with Nate's two goofball friends Math (Austin Basis) and Jamie (Reggie Austin) providing comic relief and Cate's significant other Ryan (Kerr Smith) providing good drama in the Ryan-Nate-Cate relationship plus another parental figure for Lux. I'm excited to watch the tension play out between Ryan and Nate, as current/past love interests of Cate plus current father-figures to Lux.

I have high hopes for "Life Unexpected" and so do stars Polaha and "Dawson's Creek" alum Kerr Smith, who goes so far as to say he's completely confident it will get picked up for a second season.

I certainly hope it does.

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Photo credit: CW

 
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