Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall TV: My Generation

I graduated from high school in 2001, and the characters in My Generation graduated in 2000. I didn't really have a typical high school experience but I came into this show thinking that I'd be able to relate to it in some way, even if it was just the pop culture references from the late 90s that were going to be inevitable. But despite using specific dates and events in the last ten years as part of the storyline, I didn't find too much here to latch onto. There are nine characters from the class of 2000 that some documentary crew interviewed during their senior year of high school and are now catching up with, and I didn't identify with any of them in particular.

Cliches are abound here. Things like the Bush/Gore election, 9/11, Enron, etc. were obviously huge things that happened, but they're used here as direct catalysts in the characters' lives. The "[blank] days later, [character] makes this drastic change" construct is used several times. Brenda ("the Brain") enters college as a science major but switches to pre-law days the election fiasco. Rolly ("the Jock") signs up for the army days after 9/11 and is now in Afghanistan while his pregnant wife Dawn ("the Punk") waiting for him in Texas. Steven ("the Overachiever") has to drop out of Yale because his father was an Enron executive and ends up a surf bum in Hawaii. Kenneth ("the Nerd")'s father shoots himself because his money was tied up in Enron. Then there's Anders ("the Rich Kid") whose high school relationship with Brenda (who's Hispanic) was apparently so disapproved by his parents that he ended up marrying Jackie ("the Beauty Queen") even though he's obviously still hung up on Brenda and Jackie's flirts with everyone else on sight. And Caroline ("the Wallflower") slept with Steven on prom night and got pregnant and had a son and is just now telling him about it.

Oh and then there's Falcon ("the Rock Star") who doesn't yet seem to have a storyline of his own but is just generally annoying.

It's just like, oh, of course the high school couples got mixed up! But of course they're still hung up on their high school loves! Of course no one ended up where they thought they would! Of course their worlds are all now colliding ten years later! You want predictable, you got it, and you're going to get knocked over the head with it!

But you know, despite all this, it was really all very watchable. A lot of the acting was actually pretty good. Rolly and Dawn, the unconventional couple, seem like they really love each other despite only seeing them interact over the Internet. Caroline is pretty believable as the Asian wallflower who gains self-confidence through having a son. And Kenneth -- he's kind of the strangest case, a quiet nerd who declares upon graduation that his goal for the future is to have lots of kids -- I actually got a little misty when he finds out that he's infertile and will never have kids of his own. (Of course it doesn't help that he's letting Dawn, his high school girlfriend who he probably still has feelings for, live with him during her pregnancy. Thanks show, for making everything so obvious.)

I don't know if people are going to like this or not. Critics have blasted it for the problems that I totally agree with, but it's the kind of lazy, soapy television that has the same appeal as like those MTV and Bravo reality shows. These characters are ridiculous and stupid and predictable but you still want to know what happens next. Thursday is an incredibly crowded night for TV so it's off my DVR but it streams online at ABC and Hulu so if I'm bored, it'll be there. Unless it gets canceled that is...

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