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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Life Unexpected: The Complete First and Second Seasons
Life Unexpected: The Complete First and Second Seasons
Warner Bros. // Unrated // April 5, 2011
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted June 27, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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I didn't know what to expect what I started "Life Unexpected;" if anything I thought it might be another melodramatic teenage drama, but it turned out to be something more. The first episode on its own is worth watching for the smart writing, storytelling, characters and performances that bring it all together. It was emotional without being sappy, and it certainly set high standards for the episodes to follow. Not all of the episodes are as compelling and full of potential as the first, still there was something there, especially in the first season that made the show not only watchable, but enjoyable.

Lux (Britt Robertson) has been in foster homes her whole life, and at fifteen she's just waiting for her sixteenth birthday so she can be emancipated and finally get out of the system. She sets off to find her biological parents, Nate "Baze" Bazile (Kristoffer Polaha) and Cate Cassidy (Shiri Appleby) to get their signature so that she can officially be a legal adult. Only, when she finds them, she discovers that her mom is someone she loves to listen to on the radio, and her dad didn't even know she existed.

Baze opened a bar and has his apartment above it, living what he calls his dream, which is drinking for free. Radio personality Cate Cassidy doesn't believe in marriage and she certainly doesn't like it when her boyfriends call her things like "the one." Her co-host and boyfriend, Ryan Thomas (Kerr Smith) wants to get married and he's the one who she's finally ready to say yes to. Only, his proposal is followed by a call from Baze who's looking for Cate to let her know that their daughter just showed up.

Baze and Cate slept together once in high school, and years later they're still no closer. Still, once they meet Lux, they are forever changed. At the emancipation hearing, both Cate and Baze show up and end up being guardians for Lux. From here the story of their lives begins and new complications arise, as well as new triumphs. The first season of "Life Unexpected" is more solid than the second. It follows the changes in a more natural manner, without feeling rushed or the need for too much unnecessary drama. The series works best when it involves all of the characters learning to adapt to each other, and realize how they fit into each other's lives.

Some great examples from season one include: "Home Inspected" where Lux struggles with the fear that Cate and Baze may not keep her, especially when her social worker pays a home visit and questions their parental abilities. In "Rent Uncollected" Baze, his parents, Lux, Cate and her mother and sister all get together for a get-to-know you dinner party that doesn't go so well. After being put in her parents former high school, Lux gets suspended in "Bong Intercepted." In "Father Unfigured" Cate takes off with Lux and Baze to find her father who abandoned her when she was younger.

In the season one finale, "Love Unexpected" Lux encourages Baze to tell Cate that he has feelings for her. The romantic relationships are interesting, as Baze and Cate have this sort-of will they, won't they thing, but at the same time, there's Ryan and Cate who you're also watching carefully, wondering how their relationship will turn out. Season two picks up as Cate, Ryan and Lux return from Las Vegas. While the second season isn't as memorable as the first, there are some episodes that standout. In the season opener, "Ocean Uncharted," Lux meets Eric Daniels (Shaun Sipos) and the two instantly hit it off only to realize that he's a teacher at her school. Elsewhere, Baze goes to look for work at his dad's law firm and eventually starts dating his boss, Emma (Emma Caulfield). Cate and Ryan's marriage has several rocky moments, not to mention the fact that the radio station makes several changes, including hiring a new female, on-air personality.

"Life Unexpected" starts off really well. It did a nice job of combining comedic moments (like when Lux and Baze watch videos on Youtube) and emotional ones (like when Lux finds out that Cate never considered keeping her). What initially helped "Life Unexepcted" stand out from other CW shows, was its ability to weave together a set of characters, emotion, and circumstance without making it feel heavy handed. The characters are all multidimensional and imperfect, while remaining likeable. The performances are all believable and delivered in a way that comes across as sincere and heartfelt. However, as the series continued, it lost some of it's charm. Still, despite those moments here and there, more-so in the second season, "Life Unexpected" remained well acted and overall well written throughout. Unfortunately the series was cancelled after only two seasons, however the series does wrap up in a nice, and yes, unexpected way.

Seasons One and Two:

1-01 18/Jan/10 Pilot
1-02 25/Jan/10 Home Inspected
1-03 01/Feb/10 Rent Uncollected
1-04 08/Feb/10 Bong Intercepted
1-05 15/Feb/10 Turtle Undefeated
1-06 22/Feb/10 Truth Unrevealed
1-07 01/Mar/10 Crisis Unaverted
1-08 08/Mar/10 Bride Unbridled
1-09 15/Mar/10 Formal Reformed
1-10 22/Mar/10 Family Therapized
1-11 29/Mar/10 Storm Weathered
1-12 05/Apr/10 Father Unfigured
1-13 12/Apr/10 Love Unexpected

2-01 14/Sep/10 Ocean Uncharted
2-02 21/Sep/10 Parents Unemployed
2-03 28/Sep/10 Criminal Incriminated
2-04 05/Oct/10 Team Rebounded
2-05 12/Oct/10 Music Faced
2-06 19/Oct/10 Honeymoon Interrupted
2-07 02/Nov/10 Camp Grounded
2-08 09/Nov/10 Plumber Cracked
2-09 16/Nov/10 Homecoming Crashed
2-10 30/Nov/10 Thanks Ungiven
2-11 07/Dec/10 Stand Taken
2-12 18/Jan/11 Teacher Schooled
2-13 18/Jan/11 Affair Remembered


The DVD

VIDEO: Clean, well-defined 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation with pure, crisp colors.

SOUND: The show's Dolby 2.0 audio offered warm, well-recorded music and clean, natural-sounding dialogue.

EXTRAS:
"Gag Reel" A brief, but enjoyable collection of the cast flubbing lines and goofing off.

"Life In Portland: The Making of Life Unexpected" An interesting look at the inspiration behind "Life Unexpected," and the overall making of the series from the script and storylines, to the cast, filming locations and more. Interviews and footage from the series and behind the scenes help round out the feature.

"Lux, Cate, Baze, Ryan and Math: The Casting of Life Unexpected" A nice look at the characters of "Life Unexpected" and the process of casting those characters. With interviews about the process, the actors, and audition footage, this feature is an enjoyable addition to the DVD.

Final Thoughts: "Life Unexpected" was able to weave together a set of characters, emotion, and circumstance without making it feel heavy handed. With memorable characters, writing, and strong performances, it's too bad that the series didn't make it past a couple of seasons.
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