Monday, January 18, 2010

Liz Tigelaar Stole The Concept Of Her Show From My Eleventh Grade Novella...

I have made no secret that I am head over heels in love with Liz Tigelaar's Life Unexpected. I have followed the developments of the show back when it was a mere pilot script called Light Years. I have seen it through multiple name changes (I quite liked PDA and the capital "X"-in-the-title options but so be it...); I have screened the first three episodes; and I have chatted with cast and creator. Sadly I attended neither fall nor winter TCA, as the good people at CBS TV still do not think I am "big" enough. But I trudge on.

The reason Life Unexpected (then Light Years) first caught my eye when I read about it in the trades was because the premise managed to sound so familiar to me yet so unique and interesting for TV. You see, in Life Unexpected, the main character, a sixteen year old foster care kid named Lux (which means "light" and is ironic and poignant in this show all at the same time), sets out to be emancipated from the system so she can move into an apartment with her best friends (also foster care kids) and begin her own life. In order to do so, she needs to have rights signed away by her birthparents, though, and she tracks down her biological dad, Nathaniel "Baze" Bazile (The Third? It just sounds like he'd have a ritzy number after his name...) who informs her that her mother is Cate Cassidy, local radio star and woman whom Lux has grown up listening to and idolizing.

That all takes place in the first few minutes of the pilot and has been shown on countless trailers, teasers, and promo spots over the past few months as the CW is (thankfully) really pushing for this show. The really interesting stuff is what happens after the court decides to place Lux into the joint custody of her birthparents-- two people who had a one night stand in high school and have not spoken to each other since. It becomes a story about learning to grow up but also about the varying definitions of family.

To me, though, Tigelaar had my attention just with the premise and within those first few minutes. After all, when I was a junior in high school I took an elective creative writing course in which our final "exam" was to write an original novella. Easy-peasy, considering that had been my grade-making project since junior high and in my spare time I had already graduated to feature length film scripts! But I digress... The story I wrote was one of a seventeen year-old girl living in suburbia in New Jersey (not quite the rainy tundra of Seattle but details are always changed!) who, in working on her own school project, finds her birth certificate and learns the mother who raised her is not her birthmother. She sets off for California to find the real woman who gave her life, and lo and behold, she learns her mother is a woman she has grown up listening to and idolizing: her mother is a semi-famous singer. Suspect, no???

Now, of course I'll still tune in tonight. I've seen the pilot twice already but have not tired of it yet. I love the cast (young TV vets, every last one of them!!), and I love Liz...even if she did render one of my more unique stories useless with hers coming out first.

I don't know whatever happened to that novella. I turned it in, got an A-, and never looked at it again. I probably tucked it into a bookshelf in my childhood bedroom, as I had come to do with most of my "school writing" and then promptly tossed it in the trash when I was packing said room to move out to California. It's not like I've been clamoring, trying to sell it all these years and just falling short. But it's just typical that I'm once again a day late and a dollar short. There have been a lot of ideas (for shows, movies, and even technological inventions!) that I have had over the years that others have been able to bring to fruition (and to the tune of millions of dollars in their bank accounts), while I...write this blog.

So, Liz, if you need a co-writer, muse, assistant, or protege, I'm available!

Of course, with any show that is being so hyped in the media and on the network-- not to mention being compared to past fan favorites-- there is the chance that the actual result will fall short of viewers' expectations. I believe Life Unexpected lives up to and deserves all expectations, and more (the following episodes are still strong, proving the season, though short at thirteen episodes, will provide one of the only relatable, universal shows on television today. But tune in tonight and decide for yourselves!!

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