My Generation: Premiere Review
Posted by CJ Cregg on September 27, 2010
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.