Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

My Generation: Premiere Review

Posted by CJ Cregg on September 27, 2010

Brenda's and Steven's younger versions of themselves

I loved this show.  It’s the one thing I’ve seen so far this season that I’m actually excited about.  Sadly, it’s in a timeslot that doesn’t work well in my schedule, so I’ll have to try my hardest to keep up online.

The premise is this.  A group of 9 high school seniors were followed around during their last year at of high school in Austin, Texas.  Now, they’re all part of a follow up documentary to see what happened to the class of 2000 10 years later.  The overachiever is a surf bum in Hawaii.  The beauty queen married the rich kid and have a failing marriage.  The class punk married the jock and are expecting their first child.  The wallflower got knocked up by the overachiever on prom night and has been a single parent for the last nine years.  And so on.

Somewhat contrived circumstances have led to them all being back in Austin, and we get to see what happens next.  For example, the beauty queen and the overachiever (aka Jackie and Steven) go out for a drink because she’s unhappy in her marriage and he can’t face meeting his son.  Blossoming romance?

The characters feel so genuine, and I can totally relate to them.  They laugh at the high hopes they had in high school.  And they cringe when they see themselves on screen in the ten-year-old documentary.  In current times, they react believably to having their lives on film.  There are constant awkward pauses and suspicious glances off shot at where the cameraman would presumably be standing.  They even sometimes beg him to stop filming when they sense a particularly embarrassing situation approaching.  The understated but solid acting performances make this show seem real.  Although I hate the character Jackie (played by Jaime King) for her vapidity and stupidity, most of the other characters are likable.

I like that the shots from high school and transitions are played under a soundtrack from 2000, and the opening montage to Eminem’s “Real Slim Shady” was awesome.  And (although this may be the scholar in me reading too much into it) it seemed an appropriate statement about the difficulties of being genuine and getting by in a digital age.  (Yes, how DO we know what’s real anymore?)  At times, when the anchor of the documentary tells a character’s backstory, the female voiceover will talk about what happened in the world to shape these characters.  Major events highlighted in the pilot include the Enron collapse and 9/11.  Admittedly, I can’t decide whether these montages of familiar snapshots are contrived or shockingly unique.  I think probably the latter.

Our characters have changed since high school.  And one of the most poignant moments was when the overachiever-turned-surf bum gets asked what happened after high school.  He shrugs and replies, “Nothing.”  Seeing them rationalize the changes in their lives is fascinating.  For example, Brenda, who is now living in Washington as a lawyer tells the anchor that “the world has changed so much since high school.”  And she’s right.  And that’s one of the strengths of this show in my opinion is that it places characters in the broader context of events that have undoubtedly shaped our lives.  (It’s a far cry from shows like Desperate Housewives or Grey’s Anatomy that operate in their own little worlds without reference to real lives.)  But it’s interesting to note the differences between Brenda’s and Steven’s perspectives on how life has changed.

My one concern is that I don’t really know where the show can go.  I want to learn more about the characters, and I want to see them re-meet after ten years, but they’re not going to stay in Austin forever.  Brenda and Steven seem to be back only for a couple days.  It would be too unrealistic to have them all just move back to Austin, so I hope the writers have a better answer for me as they develop their storylines.

At any rate, I’m really interested to see where this show is going to go.  It has a great cast and some really interesting characters.

Grade: A-

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2 Responses to “My Generation: Premiere Review”

  1. Mr. Feeny said

    Add this to my list of frustrating shows. The premise is so unique, and, admittedly, awesome. I love the way it’s filmed, the constant “archive” footage (how did they make them all look so young?), and the nuanced acting you pointed out. That’s all really great.

    But I also have a ton of gripes. Let’s get my usual one out of the way. Attention to detail. Kenneth told the nurse his father died when he was 19. His father died in 2004. Kenneth graduated in 2000. Yeeeeeeeeeeah. This blatant and easily detectable mistake in just the pilot episode does not give me confidence moving forward.

    But so much of the show seems — to use a word you did — contrived. Stephen’s father happened to work for Enron, and Kenneth’s father just happened to have his life savings invested in it? That’s out of 9 people. Seriously, how many people in all hundreds of hundreds that you know were affected in any way by Enron? And two in the same small group? That’s my main problem with the moments connecting to real events. They showed three major events from the beginning of the decade (Bush/Gore, 9/11, and Enron). Again, how realistic is it that those events actually affected 4 of the 9 people in this group to such a large degree? How much do you want to bet someone’s connected to Hurricane Katrina?

    More on the contrived front: the chance encounters. Jackie just happens to meet Stephen? Caroline happens to see him while driving? He happens to walk into the same bar Kenneth is at? This is not Mayberry. It’s fricking Austin, Texas. And don’t kid yourself for a second. Stephen is definitely going to stay in Austin to be a father and Brenda is definitely staying to care for her mother. And Falcon will probably get a job or gig there next episode. Nice and convenient.

    Another big problem I had with the show is the storytelling device. I like the idea of doing it as a documentary crew, but it’s utterly inconsistent. First off, how is everyone else around them not acting weird around the cameras (except for one token guy)? Second, if the camera crew is outside, how can we hear conversations perfectly well? They’re not miked. Why are they all so surprised to see each other and/or the cameras? If they’re being filmed, wouldn’t they assume the other 8 people in their group are too? What are the limits to the crew? They can just be everywhere all the time? Oh right, they can’t go to Afghanistan(yet there were moments with Rolly that weren’t filmed like the Dutch crew…yet another continuity gaffe…IN ONE EPISODE).

    Yet more contrivance: the characters are so cliche. How about that scene where they’re all describing their futures in one word. So obvious. How could it be any more so? Oh right. Everything everyone wanted is the exact opposite. Great. And not believable to such a huge extent. And the circumstances so predictable. A one night stand on prom night? An unhappy high school marriage? The only one unique is Kenneth, who’s also my favorite. I feel for him.

    I agree that once the last 10 years are completely revealed, what’s going to be interesting about following these people in a documentary format? Will it move out of that into a traditional drama? I feel like it pretty much has to.

    Also, I’m pretty sure you love this only because it’s written by the guy who wrote “The Unusuals.” 😉

    Grade: C-

  2. […] should say something about My Generation.  I know I was really excited about the pilot, but I watched the second episode too, and it was really boring.  And pretty stupid.  It seems I […]

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