‘Life Unexpected‘ had one of the last television season’s strongest pilots. But over the course of its thirteen episodes, the show about a foster child reuniting with her biological parents lost its footing. In retrospect part of the problem was that teen lovers Cate (Shiri Appleby) and Baze (Kristoffer Polata) slept together in the first episode, diluting their sexual tension. The season ended with her marrying Ryan (Kerr Smith), giving the starcrossed couple an actual obstacle.
The season premiere picks up with Cate and Ryan returning from their Vegas honeymoon. They brought Lux (Britt Robertson) along, which must have made for a less than romantic trip. Upon returning to work at the radio station, they meet their new co-host Kelly (Amy Price Francis), a marriage expert who has never been married and fancies herself a born again virgin. She hilariously opines, “Jane Goodall didn’t have to be a chimp to write about them.” Cate bails on the radio show to look for an AWOL Lux, and gets fired. Ryan makes no effort to save her job. Ryan’s halo is further tarnished when he places a call to a mysterious woman named Julia who sent them a wedding gift. His character was too perfect, so making him a bit of a jerk is a good thing.
Bug, worried he is losing Lux to her new family, proposes to her. She reluctantly accepts. While working behind the bar, she serves a cute Portland newcomer named Eric (Shaun Sipos). He thinks she is in college in part due to her engagement ring. She blabs about how she does not have enough life experience to get married, citing never having seen the ocean as an example. He offers to take her because he is an idealized rom com guy. When they run out of gas, they find a billboard with a picture of the ocean, climb it and kiss. It’s almost too cute to be romantic. She tells Bug she is not ready to be engaged. He breaks up with her. At school Lux learns that Eric is the new English teacher. This is the exact same storyline as ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ only with less sex and more angst. It seems like it will get old fast.
Cate has no interest in talking to Baze, but he insists on telling her that he loves her. She rightly tells him that she is married and it will never work out between them. She drops the bomb that Lux told her to marry Ryan. He ends up getting drunk and hooking up with his hot new bartender Paige (Arielle Kebbel). The next morning, she sneaks out of his bed, tosses her lit cigarette in the bar’s garbage can as she goes. The whole bar catches on fire. Baze runs into the burning building desperate to save his daughter. Fortunately, his injuries are minor. Lux should be in a world of trouble for lying to everyone about her whereabouts while she went ocean hunting, but nobody on this show is an effective parent so she skates. Cate,moved buy his bravery, mends fences with Baze. It turns out that the bar destroying Paige is Ryan’s sister. Nice twist.
The premiere did a good job of setting up a bunch of new characters and storylines, but ‘Life Unexpected’ still is a sweet, well written show that falls a little short of must see status.