And the Fall TV season begins
I spent my high school years traveling in a variety of cliques and I prided myself on how easily I moved among them. My oldest, closest friends from elementary school were starting to drift into different interests so we weren’t as tight as we used to be. By 11th grade, I got myself straightened out academically and fell in with a crowd that was largely the theatre group. I made some very serious, deep friendships there, crushed on one in the worst way. They were the ones I thought of as graduation approached and college loomed larger in the distance.
That summer between high school and college we spent a lot of time together, some staying on for their senior year, others readying to go far away. Our issues were what to do with long term romantic relationships, summer jobs, the shopping and packing, time with family and so on.
I was reminded of them all when I heard about the new Fox series, Reunion, which debuted last night (and the pilot is being rerun tonight for those interested). The premise, each episode focused on a year in the lives, from 1986 through 2006, was intriguing, the cast visually appealing (it is, after all, a Fox show). I was predisposed to like it.
Then I watched it.
For some reason, the creators felt it necessary to create a murder mystery as the thread to tie things together, as if they didn’t have enough dramatic material from six characters who, in theory were tight friends. So, valuable time is being spent flash forwarding to the present as a cop questions one of the six and we’re left to wonder which one of the five others, shot another.
These six people are ill-defined and clichéd and the same time. We have the spoiled rich kid Craig who is best friends with someone at the opposite end of the economic spectrum, Will. Craig’s been dating Samantha for, like, ever, except when they had a rough patch which allowed Will to move in and shag her. And now she’s pregnant. So, that’s triangle number one.
Then we have Jenna the aspiring actress who is very proud of her body and flirtatious and incredibly dim about other people (and she’s the blonde). Aaron loves her and watches wistfully as she flirts with everyone else. So he’s blind to the obvious infatuation from Carla. So, that’s triangle number two.
We know four of the six are not virgins which on a percentage basis defies the demographics of the day. Of the two women, one gets pregnant which beats the demo and is way too clichéd for belief. Five are college bond which, for Bedford, NY, sounds about right. Why Carla is not going to college is never addressed and suddenly by the end of the first ep, that changes.
There is much left to be explained. For example, what brought these disparate souls together? What kept them together? Craig is portrayed as such a jerk it’s hard to understand why anyone hangs with him. Again, going back to my experiences, my tight circle of friends had several things in common, starting with theatre but extending to other things. And we didn’t always see eye-to-eye be it politics, movies or love. None of these things got portrayed. Instead, we were given a hackneyed story where a drunk Craig gets into an accident, the other guy dies and Will agrees to take the fall.
Parents, such a large part in our lives as we ready to leave home, are seen here sketchily. We have Craig’s manipulative rich dad and Carla’s single parent who doesn’t quite know how to help his daughter (maybe he should try watching the dynamic over at Veronica Mars). (Aside: why on Earth does prime time television always have to portray the wealthy as arrogant snobs? Some are, sure, but not all but that’s what we’re shown series after series.)
Sorry, the writing is terrible. They speak like they’re 30 year olds, not 18 year olds, the things that concern them are absent as are things to make them deep, rich and interesting characters. The things that are at issue here don’t at all resonate with my own experiences so it feels artificial. Compare this pilot with Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing or even David Kelly’s The Practice. And right away we get characters, conflict and something compelling.
While I admire the premise, both Deb and I were not intrigued enough by the writing or characters to make this appointment television.
If anyone else saw the show, I’d be curious to know what you thought.