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Kids Today: More on the Summer Series

Summertime is a truly wonderful time, isn't it? I know I've written on this topic before, but I cannot stress enough how much I enjoy even just the idea of the summer series. Our regularly scheduled programming, like school and the rest of our real life, is on hold for the three months when we're more likely to spend time outdoors than hovered around the glow of the television set. It's too nice to sit inside and watch TV, right? Wrong! Says the summer series. It's never too nice outside to waste a couple of hours in front of the TV. However, it might be too nice outside for anything very heavy. Popcorn flicks are not just for the theater blockbusters--they're also for ABC Family.

For a network that specializes in "light," the summer series should its time to shine. And in some cases, the network has delivered. However, I've also come up pretty disappointed (see SLAT). Now that the summer is already half over and most of these shows have had their chance to impress me, here's a little run-down.

Only two episodes in, and I'm hooked. No, it is not MSCL--I don't think anything ever will be. It still, at times, has that ABC Family "feel" that I don't really enjoy. Overall, though, I think it's pretty honest and that the characters and dialog feel fresh and more age appropriate than other ABC Family shows.

There was one scene in particular in this week's episode that stood out to me. Will (our hero) writes a letter home to her parents, which we hear through a voice over that could have been delivered by Claire Danes herself, and through this letter we get the first real glimpse into her character. Something about that scene really struck me as having the same kind of awkward teenage insight that seems both stupid and brilliant at the same time quality that made My So-Called Life so great. There was also a scene in which we find out that the really awkward boy and the snotty girl are brother and sister (maybe twins?) when they meet in the woods and the girl gives her brother his part of the care package sent by their mother. That scene made me so angry and sad and sympathetic at the same time, because I remember what it's like to be a young teenager and so embarrassed by someone else that you just cannot stand to be around him, but at the same time I'm watching this show as a 27-year-old woman and want to scream "don't be such a jerk, he's your brother and he just wants to hang out with you!" In these little scenes, tucked into some of the silliness that is more typical of most teenage dramedies, make me think that as this series continues and finds its voice it could really end up as something that stands out.

One thing that I really disliked in both the first and second episode was the introduction of a side character who has a serious problem, then as soon as that problem is revealed, the character is gone. In the first episode we find out that one of the girls has been forcing herself to throw up, which briefly touches on the serious side of body image and teenagers, but she's sent home and her character sort of goes away. In this week's episode, a new girl is introduced, but at the end of the episode she has some sort of nervous breakdown and is sent home, and that's the end of that. I suppose, though, that's more realistic...as kids at camp, if another kid has a problem, that kid is more likely shipped away and forgotten than used as a reason to discuss eating or anxiety disorders. As teenagers we really only get a glimpse of other people's problems before we're absorbed once again in our own little worlds. I wonder whether there will be a new character introduced each episode, which could be either annoying or really interesting, depending on how that rotating character is used to reveal things to us about the main characters. I can't wait for episode three!

I encourage you to watch this week's episode, if you haven't already, here.

Pretty Little Liars
Getting better! Last week's episode started to get scary, not just boring, and I was really looking forward to this week's episode. However, as I settled myself in to watch it, my DVR had other plans...it had already been erased. :( Hopefully we'll get some more comments from an anonymous 20something male who did watch it this week.

Because PLL had been deleted, I decided instead to watch the documentary that aired July 5 as part of HBO's Summer documentary series, called No One Dies in Lily Dale. This hour and a half documentary tells he story of a town in New York, Lily Dale, which boasts the largest concentration of mediums in America. I have to imagine that it was more interesting than this week's episode of PLL probably was...and then I started to wonder what a medium could do for the plot of PLL. Crossover?? A medium could totally solve the mystery of Alison's death, and would probably expose the evil doer who has been spilling all the girls' secrets and threatening them through texts and lipstick on mirrors. If only I was the showrunner. Dear ABC Family...

Make it or Break it
I haven't been keeping up with the new season, but the snippets I've seen here and there look...not so bad. The inherent problem with shows like this one is that it centers around a very specific event: will this group of girls make it on the National Gymnastic Team and represent the USA in the Olympics? I don't think that shows that are so plot driven can really last because eventually, the plot runs out, and then what? There is some character development, but honestly, I don't care about the characters, I care more about whether they'll succeed as gymnasts. But if nothing else is on, I'll still watch it.

Secret Life of the American Teenager
I cannot stress enough how terrible this show is. And now Bristol Palin is the guest star? Really? Really?

I feel that I get all the SLAT I need these days through previews, glimpses of the last minute or so as I'm waiting for Huge to start, and youtube videos. Now, if that short clip doesn't prove that Bristol has a bright acting career ahead of her, I don't know what will! She's a teen mom, you guys! She didn't sell that line to me at all...I didn't believe it even though I know she actually is a teen mom. Poor Bristol. Though, she does make the other kids look like better actors than they usually do by comparison, so that's something. Way to go, Bristol! Everyone's a winner.

Of course there are other summer series that go beyond just easy entertainment: True Blood (though some might argue that with me), Huge (again...not exactly high art but definitely "better" than ABC Family), Futurama, and of course the summer series which breaks all molds, Mad Men. And if all else fails, there are always Lifetime movies...I look forward to watching The Client List in just a couple weeks!

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  1. Blogger Papa Thor | 7:28 AM |  

    Bristol Palin is a worse actor than her mom!

  2. Blogger chris | 4:29 PM |  

    Okay, I, err, my FRIEND watched this week's Huge and PLL. Comments:

    - The new-camper-coming-to-camp-for-a-day-and-then-leaving-due-to-after-school-special-message-of-the-week thing on Huge will be annoying if they continue to do this, but will be declared genius if they end it here. Because that's kinda like what being a teen was like. Something terrible happens, then something annoying happens that makes you feel more terrible but aware of your selfishness, but then you're happy again, but then it's pulled out from under you and you feel terrible again. But if they continue to repeat this cycle, then Huge will officially be a one-trick pony. I have hopes though that the bunk now will just remain empty or that next week we'll get a much juicier 3D character than the "dropouts of the week" from the first two eps.

    -PLL went back to plodding this week unfortunately, so you didn't miss much. Still entertaining though and if they alternate back and forth between plodding and hilariously eventful each ep I'll be happy. My (least) fave part: Spencer's dad suddenly is a character and turns out he's the one who influenced her to always be a winner no matter what the cost, even if that means cheating (even though stealing your sister's Russian Lit paper is very much not the same as letting a prospective client lose at tennis because it will help secure their business).

    -Absolutely no forward movement on the 'Who is A?' front this week other than the one-that-used-to-be-fat seeing the blind girl put on the same color lipstick that was used by whoever wrote 'It's not gonna be that easy BITCHES!" on their mirror.

    -The lesbian neighbor wasn't in the ep at all; now the Persian-Looking One is all into the Boo Radley-esque guy because he made her a mix CD featuring "bands I should turn you onto if you're into Circa Survive" even though she won't let herself be seen with him in public, because you know, he's weird and likes reading Catcher in the Rye by himself at the diner.

    -The pedo-teacher read a short story at a bar's open mic (because that happens) and Rob Lowe's brother's daughter showed up, as did the pedo-teacher's college roommate who "found out about on the web site" (whatever 'the web site' is). Here, he deduced his ex-roommate was hitting that, and said "I get it, she's hot and smart, but at the end of the year, she'll end up with a diploma and you'll end up with a pink slip." Words of wisdom.

    -Also, Rob Lowe's brother's daughter left her cell at the pedo-teacher's apartment and it kept buzzing so the pedo-teacher looked to see who it was and it was a text from A saying something to the effect 'most girls have to do their homework tonight - you get to do the teacher!' and so he banned her from letting her in to make fettuccine for the two of them, but not until after she says "I hope you have an EXTRA DEEP pan!" in a way I can't help but extrapolate to mean something completely different.

    All in all, great shows!

  3. Blogger chris | 4:30 PM |  

    I'm lucky that last comment actually went through because after I pressed publish, I got a weird "TOO LARGE TO PROCESS" message.

    Spoiler alert: I wrote a lot.

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