By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Family drama is edgy, earnest -- and aimed at adults.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Although the show's message is about the importance of family -- no matter how it might be defined -- and stepping up to responsibility, characters' iffy decisions don't always seem to have negative consequences. Even the adults don't have their acts together, and they seem just as confused as some of the teens.
Positive Role Models
The main character doesn't act like a "model" teen -- for one thing, she talks back to adults, occasionally lies to her guardians, and is so used to raising herself that she resists others' attempts to parent her. That said, her independent streak and her ability to think for herself occasionally surface as admirable traits. Her birth parents have their fair share of flaws, too, but they try to step up to the plate and play a positive role in their daughter's life.
Violence & Scariness
Specific incidents are rare, but the main character alludes to foster homes that were abusive. At least one episode deals specifically with physical abuse.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The central teen character is the product of premarital sex (her parents slept together once after a formal dance when they were in high school) and was given up for adoption. Adult characters are occasionally shown in bed kissing passionately in lingerie, etc., with implied sex -- and a few morning-after regrets. There's also a good bit of sexual innuendo, and, at one point, the teen protagonist is involved in a secret affair with her teacher, although they don't have sex.
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Some salty phrases like "this blows," "screw you," etc.
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Products & Purchases
A few brand names mentioned (Zima, etc.).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character's birth parents were drinking when they conceived her in high school; as adults, they get drunk by doing shots and sleep together again. The father lives above the bar he owns, and several scenes take place there.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that teens will probably relate on some level to the main character of this drama: a 15-year-old girl who's spent most of her life in the foster care system and has had her fair share of disappointments when it comes to parental role models. As a result, she's outspoken and independent -- and often snippy -- when she talks to adults. There's a healthy dose of sexual innuendo, too, and the protagonist is the product of premarital sex between two teens who slept together once in high school after they'd been drinking. (At one point, she even has an illicit affair with one of her teachers.) Although there's not a lot of swearing, per se, the language can get salty, with characters saying something "blows" or making references to "drunk dialing."
Where to Watch
Based on 4 parent reviews
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What's the Story?
It's LIFE UNEXPECTED when 15-year-old foster kid Lux (Britt Robertson) goes looking for the birth parents she never knew, only to find a bar owner father with a bit of a Peter Pan complex (Kristoffer Polaha) and a morning show host mother (Shiri Appleby) who makes her living sparring with her soon-to-be husband (Kerr Smith) on the radio. Lux doesn't want a family -- all she needs is her birth parents' signatures so that she can get a judge to emancipate her. But when the judge orders Lux into their temporary custody, she ends up with an unconventional mom and dad who might still have unresolved feelings for each other.
Is It Any Good?
If you can get past the show's convoluted premise -- and a few downright ridiculous character names (Lux, Baze, and ... Math?) -- you might be unexpectedly charmed by this talky, teen-centric drama that's clearly drawing from shows like Gilmore Girls and One Tree Hill. Robertson proves particularly beguiling as 15-year-old Lux, while Polaha and Appleby have palpable chemistry as her barely grown-up parents. And once a judge awards them temporary custody over their long-lost daughter, you don't need a crystal ball to see where the plot is going. Life Unexpected picks up points for originality...although, for some, it might be too original. And, despite the presence of teen characters, it seems to be courting older viewers, devoting the majority of most episodes to adult relationships. That said, the writing is sharp enough that the characters eventually become real rather than ridiculous, leaving you rooting for them despite their quirks -- and hoping that they get it right.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how this show tackles the topic of teen pregnancy. Does it paint it as a good thing, a bad thing, or as something in between that had both positive and negative consequences?
Do you think teens are capable of being responsible when it comes to having sex and dealing with all of the potential pitfalls that come with it (including emotional stress, STDs, and pregnancy)? How does the media typically portray teen sexual behavior?
Do you think this show is intended for teens, adults, or both? Which group will like it more? Why?
- Premiere date: January 18, 2010
- Cast: Britt Robertson, Kristoffer Polaha, Shiri Appleby
- Network: CW
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: December 16, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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