Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The New TV Show Review Challenge: Reunion

FOX's Reunion has one of the most interesting premises of the fall season. When one of a group of friends is brutally murdered in the present day, we are shown flashbacks into their lives with each episode representing one year, beginning with 1986, the year the group graduated from high school. By seeing what happened to this group over the course of 20 years, we're supposed to learn more and more about who killed their friend...and why. Despite this intriguing premise, the premiere episode falls flat.

The episode begins at the funeral of the brutally murdered friend who, at this point, has not been identified. A person who knew them is giving the eulogy as we then flashback to 1986 where the six friends, Will (Will Estes), Craig (Sean Faris), Aaron (David Annable), Samantha (Alexa Davalos), Jenna (Amanda Righetti), and Carla (Chyler Leigh) celebrate their high school graduation. Will and Craig are best friends. Will is a poor landscaper's son while Craig is a smart, rich pretty boy. Craig and Samantha are a couple and Samantha learns that she is pregnant...with Will's baby. Aaron and Jenna are also a couple, although Jenna starts flirting with the group's former high school English teacher. Carla and Samantha are best friends and Carla has an unrequited crush on Aaron. Craig is driving drunk in his Porsche with Craig when they get into an accident. Craig becomes worried about his future when the police are around after the accident and convinces Will to take the fall for him. Of course, things don't go well and by the end of the episode, Will is sent to prison for a year for vehicular manslaughter. Samantha mulls aborting the baby (and even tells Will that she wasn't pregnant at all) but decides against it. Carla, frustrated when she sees Jenna and Aaron make up, decides to go to London with Samantha. Much of this is told from the point of view of Carla, who talks with a detective (Mathew St. Patrick) who is investigating the murder.

This first episode played like a bad teen drama at times. The characters are various teen archetypes: the rich kid who gets everything, the rich kid's poor (but earnest) best friend, the geeky guy in love with the hot girl, the geeky girl who has a crush on the aforementioned geeky guy, the girlfriend who slept with her boyfriend's best friend and so on. Every plot development could be seen from a mile away. Anyone could have figured out that when Will took the fall for his privileged friend that things would get worse for him. Also, in addition to the predictable storyline, the show had a plodding pace to it. It felt like it actually took a year to get through this show rather than just an hour. Reunion does benefit from having a pretty cast that includes two cancelled show castaways, Amanda Righetti of North Shore and Sean Faris of Life As We Know It. However, an attractive cast doesn't make this show worth watching.

Reunion is a waste of a high concept premise. The murder mystery and the complex story structure could have made for "can't miss" viewing. Instead, the show is bad enough that it strives to become a guilty pleasure. Part of me wonders if things will get better as the show progresses. Maybe the writers had no experience writing good teen drama and since the show starts off while the characters are still teenagers, things were bound to be bad. I wonder if, as the characters get older, the show will actually become more realistic (or at least more entertaining). I really hope it does because otherwise, the show might not last long enough for the characters to even graduate college.

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