Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sadly The Sensational Won Over The CW For Fall...

The first thing that struck me when the creators of The Beautiful Life addressed a crowd of bloggers who just watched their episode one cutdown (ie: a hype package full of fast cuts, pretty people, and loud music) was how much Karey Burke looks like Leslie Mann. She could be on this show as one of the model mentors! The second thing was that Mike Kelley, who also worked on The O.C., wasn’t going to give us the truth behind Mischa Barton’s troubles because he was still giddy over being called “airport guy” in paparazzi shots of her returning to New York to shoot the series.

The Beautiful Life preview was full of as much smoke and mirrors as the actual catwalks and photo shoots the characters encounter in the show. But behind the circus act is trouble. Trouble for the characters, such as Barton’s, who will dabble in drugs because that’s what’s real but also because “it’s very smart for [her] to acknowledge the situation,” said Kelley. But also trouble for the production, as the episode that will kick off the show’s premiere on September 16th has not even been shown, in full, to the creators. Scenes were re-shot, storylines altered to the point where an ousted character is actually going to be brought back as recurring, and one character’s exposition completely rewritten. The latter is High School Musical star Corbin Bleu, who was originally only a guest star in the pilot—a guest star whose model character did a lot of drugs. The show’s producers were so taken with the young star, though, that they rewrote him so he could stick around—this time as “kept” boy for an older woman who trades him modeling jobs for…”companionship.”

The budget also seemed to spell audible trouble for Burke and Kelley, who admitted they had to greatly scale back on songs used in the episodes, despite promos running all over the network featuring well-known artists like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. However, the one biggest elephant in the room was that Burke called Entourage one of her greatest influences for The Beautiful Life, and Entourage is the one show that has been criticized of late for being of too many outdated references and no substance. Unfortunately, it seems like The Beautiful Life is doomed to follow in those footsteps.

Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer’s revamp of Melrose Place is not the typical primetime soap that Aaron Sorkin made so famous and Marc Cherry is now carrying on. Though the address is the same—4616 Melrose—the creators admitted they have given quite a few things a facelift. “It’s like when you go home to your parents’ house, but they’ve remodeled, so everything is the same but so much more beautiful,” Slavkin explained.

Where cancer and fires and pregnancies used to run rampant now reside a med student-turned-high paid escort, a filmmaker who happens on a scandal and profits from it, a try-sexual publicist (in that she’ll try everything at least once), a bad boy drug dealer, and of course the once-believed-to-be-deceased who is about to become really dead in the second episode. Familiar faces will be speckled in with the newcomers, of course, including Josie Bissett-- who Slavkin promised would not be the victim she once was-- and Dapne Zuniga, who left her courtyard apartment to photograph wartorn Bosnia but who won't come back with a diatribe on Iraq (she'll most likely fit into Ella (Katie Cassidy)'s fashion publicity storyline.

Though this new version of Melrose Place shares a writer with the first season of the new version of 90210 (Caprice Crane), Slavkin didn't think a cross-over would be coming any time soon. He is certainly busy enough juggling all of these new kids and their superficial problems. "They're the kinds of kids who love to put debt on their credit cards," he laughed. "They're just like everyone in LA: they like to spend on nice things [perhaps a bit beyond their means]." And of course, there's the new murder mystery that starts at the end of the pilot. Life in West Hollywood is never going to be boring!

Liz Tigelaar got her start as an intern on the then WB popular teen drama, Dawson’s Creek, but her debut show, Life Unexpected, is being compared to another one of their hits, Gilmore Girls. Like GG, Life Unexpected features a teenage girl (Britt Robertson) who was born while her parents were still in high school. However, these particular parents (Kristoffer Polaha and Shiri Appleby) gave her up for adoption, and now this teenager wants to become an emancipated minor so she and her foster care friends can get a place together and start their “real” lives. Of course the judge thwarts her plans and instead places her into the joint custody of her two off-beat guardians who appear to be suffering from Peter Pan syndrome themselves.

Life Unexpected is one of those rare shows that only come around once every other season or so: it focuses on true moments, in which characters are forced to have a meaningful dialogue, learn something about each other and maybe even themselves, and evolve, even if in bits at a time. Lux comes to realize that though she spent her whole life trying to grow up before her time, she actually enjoys the “traditional” teenage things—like school dances and extracurriculars—once she is given the chance to settle down in one place with two parents.

The CW seems to be an unlikely place for such a show that does not feature bright lights or bright colors (it takes place in Portland), which these days, relies on the draw of its shows’ stars (see Supernatural) or the glitzy, glamorous, flashy aspects (see the other two new fall shows aforementioned here). Life Unexpected takes the medium back to pure storytelling as an art form, and The CW has always been about business and trying to become one of the power networks (or at least being able to compete with one of the power networks). Maybe that explains why Life Unexpected is only on the schedule as a mid-season replacement. Production on the series will begin at the end of September, with the cast and the crew in limbo as to when (or if) they will get an airdate, but in my humble opinion, it is exactly the kind of show The CW, and the television industry in general, could use right about now. I’m not saying I’m rooting for The Beautiful Life to fail so Life Unexpected can find a timeslot, but…oh hell, that’s exactly what I’m saying!!

To read some more quotes from the creators of the aforementioned shows, check out my live Twitter feed from yesterday's screenings/Q&As.

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