tek's rating: ½

Life Unexpected, on The CW
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streaming sites: Paramount+

Caution: spoilers.

Well. The critics have said things like "It's Juno meets Gilmore Girls." Which is quite the recommendation, to my way of thinking. Also one of the stars is Shiri Appleby, of whom I've been a fan since Roswell (and and in season 2 of this show, there was a reference to that which I found amusing). So anyway... I was compelled to check it out, but somehow, I wasn't expecting much. And yet... I don't know if it was the fact that I had a fair bit of wine in me when I watched the pilot, but I thought it was kind of beautiful and heartwarming. And cute. And funny. And kinda quirky. But more than anything else, I think of it as melodrama.

Anyway, it's about this girl named Lux Cassidy (Britt Robertson). In the pilot, she turns 16, and just before her birthday, she seeks out her birth parents. She's been in several foster homes throughout her life, and it's never been a good situation. So now she wants to be emancipated, but she needs to obtain signatures from her parents. The first one she meets is Nate "Baze" Bazile, who owns a struggling bar (actually, he's renting the space from his father, with whom he doesn't have a great relationship). Baze had assumed the girl he had knocked up in high school had had an abortion, so he was thrown for a loop to meet his daughter. But he (and his roommates in the loft above the bar, Jamie and Math) immediately bonded with her. Baze helps her find her mother, Cate Cassidy (Appleby), who is a radio talk jockey. (She had been under the impression her baby would have been adopted fairly quickly, so was fazed to learn of Lux's troubled reality.) Cate is rather cynical, doesn't really trust anyone, but her cohost, Ryan Thomas, with whom she engages in amusingly argumentative banter on the air, proposes to her in the pilot episode. And after a bit of hesitation, she agrees. Though it's clear the relationship will hit some snags, he does seem good for her. She wants to become the kind of person who deserves him, as well as Lux.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Baze and Cate support Lux in her effort to become emancipated, but the judge denies Lux's appeal, and grants her birth parents temporary joint custody. (She ends up splitting her time between Baze's loft and Cate and Ryan's attic, though she sometimes goes elsewhere, and may lie to each of them about being with the other.) Of course it's weird for them to suddenly have to try to adjust to having a 16-year-old daughter in their lives, as well as being brought back into contact with each other after all these years. And it's weird for Lux having to deal with them, especially considering that in many ways, she seems more mature than either of them are. And yet, I really did feel like there was an immediate chemistry between the three. Ryan also is supportive of Lux, and is definitely more stabile than her parents, so she can sometimes turn to him when she's having trouble with them. And Math (a teacher at Lux's new high school) is also rather helpful. (Though I should mention he's always had a crush on Cate, and isn't happy to learn that Baze had hooked up with her in high school, when he knew Math liked her.)

I also need to mention that Lux has a couple of friends, who also don't live with their parents, for whatever reasons, including her boyfriend, Bug, and her best friend, Tasha. They've both had lives just as troubled as Lux, so they understand her better than her new family can, and they remain an important part of her life. But Lux also struggles to fit in with the kids at her new school, including a jock named Jones, which is complicated, and can cause problems between Lux and her old friends. Oh, and then there's Cate's sister, Abby, who has always had a thing for Baze. And there's Alice, who is Cate and Ryan's boss at the radio station, as well as Cate's best friend. The recent addition of Lux and reintroduction of Baze into Cate's life makes Alice's job complicated, because of the public's idea of Cate & Ryan on the air... which goes through some changes, and Alice has to try to keep the radio show working.

Well, I'm sure I'm leaving out some characters and lots of plot details. It's all just really complicated, and a constant struggle for everyone. There's lots of melodrama, as I said before. Everyone makes mistakes, and gets upset, and there's always the concern that Lux's social worker, Fern, could end up taking Lux away from Cate and Baze, and putting her back in the system to find a new foster home, which is something neither Lux nor her parents want for her, even when they're not getting along. But there are also plenty of moments when we get to see how much the family care for each other. And by the end of the first season, Cate and Baze officially have their full parental rights reinstated, so the three of them really are a family. But... there's also the matter of Cate and Ryan's impending wedding, and the question of whether Cate and Baze have feelings for each other. (It really isn't a simple plot point, because whatever Cate might feel for Baze, she truly does love Ryan, who really is this amazing guy that's good for her and for Lux.)

I don't want to say how season 1 ends, but I should say a bit about season 2. There are more problems for Cate and Ryan to overcome in their relationship (though even saying they still have a relationship constitutes something of a spoiler, I won't get any more specific than that). Though their work situation also changes, when Cate gets replaced on air by Kelly Campbell, the author of a relationship book, and Cate ends up producing the radio show. We also meet Ryan's sister, Paige, who can be... troublesome. And there's a fire in Baze's bar; he and Math and sometimes Lux still live in the loft above the bar, but Jamie moved out, needing to find a new job since he could no longer work at the bar. Also, Lux's relationship with Bug falls apart, and she meets this new guy named Eric Daniels, who helps her get over it... And then she learns that he's a new teacher at her school, and he learns that she's a student (he had assumed she was a bartender, having met her at Baze's bar before the fire). The two of them end up seeing each other secretly, which troubles him because he knows it's wrong, but he falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Baze gets a job at his father's firm, and eventually starts dating his new boss, Emma (Emma Caulfield). And Jones starts dating Tasha when she starts attending high school, after moving in with a new foster family. However, this is a family who Lux had once lived with, and we eventually learn some things about them that cause a great deal of drama for everyone.

And... I'm leaving out a great deal, actually, to avoid too many serious spoilers. But I will say that at the end of the second season finale, there's a flashforward to two years later. Lux, Tasha, and Jones are graduating, and Lux is giving a speech. For the most part, I was happy with... things in general, I guess, but I was not happy about the romantic pairings that were revealed. A lot can happen in two years, of course, so it's possible that if we actually saw all that, it would make more sense. And I'm not saying it makes no sense as it is, just... it feels kind of sudden, after everything we have seen for the last two seasons. I'm not saying it comes out of nowhere, just... sigh. Never mind, I shouldn't even talk about it. It's not a bad ending. And the series was good. I used enough adjectives to describe it in the first paragraph, so I guess I don't need to say any more. Oh, except that I like the theme song, which is just a few lines from the beginning of "Beautiful Tree" by Rain Perry....

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