Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why 'My Generation' May Be The Breakout Fall Show...

I am a sucker for a good reunion show. Of any kind, really; I don't discriminate! When I was a kid, I lived for things like the Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Vegas, because I knew it would reunite the good friends who went their separate ways for college. These days I tune in eagerly, with a bowl of fresh popcorn, and Twitter on refresh whenever MTV or Bravo airs an interview-style show asking it's Challenge and Real Housewives (respectively) stars to comment on the drama we watched play out on-air all season. I tuned into the new Melrose Place mostly to see the original stars return and share a few scenes on-screen. But furthermore, I even wrote my own draft of a Dance Til Dawn reunion made for TV movie-- one that takes place twenty years after the original and features the Hoover High Class of '88's reunion accidentally getting double-booked with the Class of '08 (which just happens to feature a few of the originals' kids)'s prom. Nothing ever came to fruition with this project, but it was a fun little piece to write because I have been so obsessed for so long with the original. But this fall on ABC, my pleas for a reunion show of some kind will be answered when the network premieres it's new one-hour drama, My Generation.

My Generation reunites the Class of 2000 from a fictional high school in Texas in a faux-documentary style project that takes a look at where these kids-- all who had lofty dreams and a very specific confidence that their lives would be amazing no matter what-- are now. Of course, real life got in the way in many cases, and plans were changed accordingly.

When I first heard about My Generation, I admit I feared it would just be twenty-two weeks of American Teen on television. American Teen, for those of you who have never heard of it was a documentary from Nanette Burstein that followed five seniors from the Warsaw Community High School Class of 2006. It set out to choose one student from each "clique" to follow, including a jock, a geek, an artist, and the rich and popular. But while My Generation does feature a smorgasbord of characters, it goes beyond the stereotypes to show how historical and familial events effected the paths they chose for themselves.


The cast is a diverse group of TV vets, including Michael Stahl-David, Mehcad Brooks, Daniela Alonso, Julian Morris, and Jaime King. All of the actors play themselves in both "archived footage" from their high school days, as well as "modern day," as the documentary cameras return to their hometown. Some have been living there this whole time, like Kelli Garner and Keir O'Donnell's characters who dated in high school but are now just living together platonically as her husband (Brooks) is overseas. Some moved away and returned, like King, who tried her hand at Hollywood before settling down. And others moved away and were never planning to look back (Stahl-David and Alonso), but their plans were thwarted once again. You know what they say: you make a plan and God laughs! That appears to be the motto of this show.

My Generation doesn't force the whole group back together uncomfortably and unrealistically in its pilot. Instead, it shows each person as they catch up in small clusters with those they were closest to "back in the day." Of course old feelings return with the camera crew, as these young adults are forced to confront issues-- and people-- they thought they had pushed out of their minds, along with their lives.

Morris' character, for example, is still in love with his high school girlfriend, though he has married someone else-- someone his family thought he "should" marry. Stahl-David learns he can't just forget his prom night one-night stand because he has a child that has been born out of it. And O'Donnell, who desperately wants a family of his own, is treading a dangerous line of playing house with someone who's baby will never be his.

Pining for old loves may have an undercurrent of soap opera style melodrama, but the weight of what they would lose if they choose to follow their hearts now grounds the characters and keeps their situations very relatable.

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