06 December 2006

Don't call it a comeback!

Hell yes. Hell yes! What did I say at the end of last season about Taylor Townsend? Far and away the best part of the show. I'm not saying she's my favourite character per se, I'm saying that all the best storylines on the show seem to revolve around her.1 The best stuff last season was her ill-fated pursuit of Seth, and now she's head over heels for Ryan. Last Thursday's episode was better than any single show from all of season 3, and reminded me why I started liking this show in the first place: teenage drama.

The thing about teeagers that makes them so compelling (fictional ones, anyway) is that every situation in their lives is stop-the-presses, edge-of-your-seat, life-or-death drama. Given their unique cocktail of self-absorbtion and hormonal imbalance, teenagers have an inherent inability to distinguish between big problems and little ones. Which is why getting dumped, not making the team, failing geometry, etc, can be just as traumatic as, say, terminal illness in the family. I think Schwartz and co. have a tendency to lose sight of this fact, which is why last season they resorted to peer death as a plot device not once but twice. In the same season. On a dramatic show with adult characters, you need these kinds of events to imbue the show with any sort of gravitas, as (most) adults are quite aware of of the ultimate triviality of most of their problems (mortgage, car troubles, etc.). To get teenagers worked up, you shouldn't need any more traumatic an event than, say, a car accident in which no one is seriously hurt, but the car is totalled and somebody gets grounded. Anything more serious than that and you're wasting drama, 'cause these kids just don't know the difference.

You'll notice, by the way, that the writers left Taylor's star-cross'd schoolgirl crush both unrequited and unresolved at the end of last week's stellar hour. Ryan isn't hooked yet, but he can't help but be intrigued by her dogged persistence and perceptive nature, leaving the door ajar for more awkward hijinx as she tries vainly to melt the ice in Ryan's veins and he repeatedly cocks his head thoughtfully and mumbles to himself, "Am I really falling for Taylor?" Let the good times roll.

One can only hope the writers have the sense to drag this out for at least a few more episodes. After that, who knows? Perhaps they can have her sneeze in front of Sandy, he'll say "God bless you" in Yiddish and start spinning some yarn about "the Nana", she'll go all doe-eyed, and we're off to the races again.

Other thoughts on the unlikely renaissance:

  • And just as we finally get all that Volchok (sp?2) manhunt rubbish out of the way, the show may not even last now that it's got its groove again: the ratings are reportedly in the toilet. The wife, who knows from such things believe you me, tells me it's in one of the toughest time slots in prime time which, if so, I mean why? Just stick it somewhere less competitive. The audience may not be big, but judging by the message boards it's pretty damn loyal.3 The old fans will follow and new ones will be made. What's the hold-up? Mental note: must ask the wife what she thinks the best slot would be.
  • As much as I find Caitlin (sp?4) somewhat annoying, she's an immeasurable upgrade over Marissa. Whereas Marissa was just blandly self-centered deadweight, Caitlin is shaping up to be a scheming little siren just like her mother. And Julie seems to be in top form, going from bloodthirsty murderess-by-proxy to self-made MILF at the drop of a hedge-trimmer. Having the two of them compete over the same mimbo tennis instructor was a terrific subplot, just the sort of goofy romantic triangle of which the show could always use plenty more.
  • This "Che" fucker's a lowlife piece of shit, and needs to get his hippie ass beat down. First he talks the eternally susceptible Summer into accompanying him on some asinine lab-animal rescue mission to free some bunnies from an experiment he knows nothing about (it turns out to be a pretty benign social study), then he turns her in for all these other bullshit stunts he pulled with which Summer had nothing to do! Are you kidding me? On top of all that, he calls himself "Che", which is grounds enough for a slap or two. The whole thing's a necessary plot device, of course, as this will presumably be the catalyst that gets Summer kicked out of Brown so she can return to the sunny paradise by the Great Salt Lake and attend CU5 with the rest of the gang just like we always knew she would. But man, this guy better get his comeuppance before this whole affair's over, or I might just go out and kick some random crust-bucket's ass on principle.
  • Isn't it funny how Seth's become "the grounded one", the voice of sanity in everybody else's crazy life? He's got a steady job, a steady girlfriend and steady prospects for the new year6. He talks Ryan out of killing Volchok, talks Volchok into turning himself in, talks Summer through her tough times adjusting to both Brown and Marissa's death, and now he's the stable one Taylor turns to for advice in her quest to breach the fortress walls around Ryan's heart. We all know this is how guys like him are destined to turn out, but usually it takes them till like their mid-20s to really settle into the role.
  • Still waiting for my dream OC romance to spring to life: Ryan and Kirsten, the ultimate forbidden love affair that you can actually talk yourself into seeing as kind of acceptable. They're not really related after all, and she's never really functioned as much of a mother figure to him, blahblahblah. Maybe if Schwartz gets really desperate for ratings.
  • Aren't we about due for a Tate Donovan sighting? Make it happen, Schwartz. Make it happen. He's still got immediate family members in the cast of characters, so you don't even need to make up some cockamamie plot twist, he's allowed to just show up.

    Tangents & Clarifications
  1. Great casting too, by the way. At any random party Autumn Reeser's one of the hottest girls in the room, crazy cute but not supermodel-knockout levela, but when matched up against all-pro talent like Rachel Bilson and Kelly Rowan she comes off as average-to-mildly-cute. [Return]
    1. This is key, because her hotness gets multiplied by the perception-of-scorability factor; guys know what I'm talking about.
  2. I honestly can't even be bothered to look up the correct spelling of this nitwit's name. Neither the character nor the actor who portrayed him was ever remotely interesting. [Return]
  3. Yes, I check the message boards. Occasionally. Fuck off. [Return]
  4. Probably "Khaetleynn" or some such nonsense. Whatever. Again, can't be bothered to look this one up, even though it would probably have taken me less time than it did to type this very footnote. That's how little I care. [Return]
  5. California U! Alma mater of the 90210 gang! If you already knew this before checking the footnote, pat yourself on the back. In shame. [Return]
  6. That is, until Summer's untimely dismissal from the ivory towers of Brown throw a wrench in his little RISD plans. [Return]

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