It is said that what we learn from television can be formative to our growth as individuals. If this is true, then much of what I learned growing up was courtesy of The WB. A network like no other, The WB had a unique brand and voice that spoke to a younger generation without alienating older viewers. A few years back The WB merged with UPN, an ethnically aimed network that aired unimpressive programming, to form The CW. Unlike either of its predecessors, The CW has struggled to find a voice. Rather than substance, The CW has relied on hype to buoy it while ratings have continued to sink lower and lower each year. Last May, I had the good fortune of attending The CW’s Upfront Presentation where President Dawn Ostroff explained her vision for the network. Ostroff preached about the strong female following the network had, and the gains that each show had when DVR numbers were accounted for.
The CW had 6 pilots in development last season, which is a relatively small number for a broadcast network. One of the few that did get ordered was Life Unexpected, though CW was calling it “Parental Discretion Advised” when I first saw footage from it back in May. The show was quaint and sweet and reminded me of everything I loved about The WB network. Ostroff claimed that of all the pilots, Life Unexpected was her favorite. This made her decision to hold off on airing it until the midseason utterly puzzling.
Centered around a 15 year old girl named Lux, whose been victimized by the foster care system, the show explores the true meaning of family. Brittany Robertson stars as Lux and offers the perfect mix of snark and vulnerability in the role. The rest of the cast is made up of network veterans. Shiri Appleby was the star of The WB’s Roswell, a show that would eventually move over to UPN. Here she plays Cate, a Type A person dealing with the news that a daughter she never thought she’d see again has reentered her life. Kerr Smith stars as Appleby’s coworker and love interest but to many he’ll always be Jack of Dawson’s Creek. Finally, Kristoffer Polaha plays Lux’s reluctant father Baze, one year after he stared in The CW’s Valentine.
Life Unexpected officially made its debut on Monday January 18th to an audience just shy of 3 million viewers. However, every airing since then have shown the program's ratings have declined to the point where it is in jeopardy of being canceled. Earlier today, The CW renewed several of the series, including Gossip Girl, 90210, and Supernatural. Life Unexpected was not among these renewals due in part to last night’s ratings, which were under the 2 million mark.
The better that Life Unexpected does, the more likely The CW is to develop program in the same vain; programs from young enthusiastic creators like Liz Tigelaar, who worked as an intern on Dawson’s Creek. Tigelaar understands what The CW could be; she grew up on The WB just like I did. With Life Unexpected she’s created a series with real heart.
The show airs news episodes every Monday night 9pm on The CW and the network reairs those same episodes on Wednesdays 8pm, at least for the time being. Soon, Life will move into the 8pm slot on Mondays to make room for the return of Gossip Girl, and vacate its Wednesday airing for a new season of America’s Next Top Model. So, I beg of you, jump in while you still can and enjoy this wonderful show.