PASADENA, Calif. — In the years since The WB and UPN were combined into The CW, the kind of shows that helped make The WB, well, The WB have pretty much disappeared.
Offbeat family shows about offbeat families. Shows like "The Gilmore Girls," "Everwood," "7th Heaven," "Jack & Bobby," even "Dawson's Creek."
And now "Life Unexpected" (Monday, 8 p.m., Ch. 30) tries to fill that void. This is a show that is trying really, really hard to be one of those old WB shows. Specifically, it's trying almost desperately to be the new "Gilmore Girls."
And it's sort or successful. Not entirely, but sort of.
"Life Unexpected" centers on terrifically cute Lux (Britt Robertson), a 15-year-old who has been in the foster-care system since the day she was born. About to turn 16, she wants to become an emancipated minor and goes to the birth parents she never met to get them to sign off on it.
Her birth father, Nate "Baze" Bazile (Kristoffer Polaha) is pretty much the ultimate slacker. He opened a bar in a building his father gave him; he lives above it and hang out with his slacker friends.
Lux's birth mother, Cate Cassicy (Shiri Appleby), is a successful morning radio personality with both a boyfriend/co-host (Kerr Smith) and a fear of commitment. Plus, she's not real fond of Baze, whom she hasn't seen since high school.
The "Unexpected" part of this "Life" is that, instead of granting her emancipation, the judge puts Lux in the temporary custody of her birth parents. And, in a lot of ways, the daughter is more mature than the parents.
"This is very much a story of Lux having this fantasy and in some ways it really coming true," said creator/executive producer Liz Tigelaar. "Her mom is this super successful, glamorous radio deejay, and her dad is this pretty cool guy who owns a bar and lives with friends and lives in a sweet loft."
"I think the idea is that just because people are kind of cool fantasy people, doesn't actually make them fantasy parents. So that's something Lux has kind of had to learn."
Lux is clearly Tigelaar's doppelganger. Both are high-energy, diminutive blondes. Both were adopted. But Tigelaar's experience was clearly different — she was adopted by great, loving parents.
"They made me feel so special and so wanted, and what I want to tell a story about was about a girl who doesn't get that. She didn't get to feel special and wanted," Tigelaar said. "I look at things from my own life and I will think how to make them TV-worthy."
"Life Unexpected" is a coming-of-age story, but not just for Lux. Baze and Cate have a whole lot of growing up to do, too.
"What are 30-somethings today? In our parents' generation, 30-something meant maybe 401(k) plans and mortgages and suburbs and dogs," Tigelaar said. "And for me, and maybe some other people, 30-something can mean a person who really has prioritized their professional life over relationships or whatever.1 comment on this story
"Or a guy who still lives like a frat guy and lives with his buddies and plays video games and drinks Coors Light, and that's cool. And I just think it's like a whole different thing."
In the show, "the grown-ups are the people that need to come of age, and Lux is the catalyst for them to do that."
"Life Unexected" is clearly trying to be a throwback to those fondly remembered WB shows. Episode 3, in particular, just screams "Gilmore Girls."
It's not there yet. The pilot is good; Episodes 2 and 3 aren't as good.
But it has potential. It's nice to see The CW remember some of its roots. And it's worth rooting for "Life Unexpected" to work.