Life Unexpected TV Poster Image

Life Unexpected

Family drama is edgy, earnest -- and aimed at adults.
  • Network: CW
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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.


Specific incidents are rare, but the main character alludes to foster homes that were abusive. At least one episode deals specifically with physical abuse.


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.


Some salty phrases like "this blows," "screw you," etc.


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.

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."

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.

Families can talk 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?

TV details

Premiere date:January 18, 2010
Cast:Britt Robertson, Kristoffer Polaha, Shiri Appleby
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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Adult Written byKatherine920 February 26, 2010

Lose UnXpected.

It's rubbish, boring and not appealing. It's very limiting, does not appear in the other countries apart from America, France, Canada and The netherlands because it is so rubbish. No one wants to see a pathetic idea with pathetic actors. The plot was ok but went downhill. Cate's character is completely unlikeble and is an anti mary sue. She lies too much to the point it would be good to kill her character off and replace her with a better character. Baze is drunk man who can't keep his eyes open most of the time and Ryan seems like the only person who is properly acting in this story. I cannot stand that Lux, her voice is annoying and she's a teen version of her immature mother. There are more better teen actress' then Lux who aren't as half as annoying as she is. She's like a D class version of Miley Cyrus. She's just irks me everytime I see her. That's no role model for teens. She can't even dress straight let alone act straight. Her parents in the show can't be bothered to buy her new clothes. They really should do more research about foster kids because to me it looks like they haven't a clue what that life is about. No woman who sees her child for years after throwing them out of their lives as a baby suddenly snaps up and wants to keep the child now. Cate hasn't given a single thought about Lux all those years and was so happy in her life anyway. So why the sudden change? It does not make sense. I see a very negative hasty ending for this show. They could have developed it with Cate and Lux hating each other first but slowing getting to know each other. That would be the interesting point, the main plot of the whole freaking series. Those 3 characters can't act. Cate overdoes it with her freaky eyes, she looks more like a 50 year old then a 32- Baze is so droopy, you'd think he'll fall into an eary grave and that Lux or bux is just too childish and needs to sharpen her acting skils- the same goes for that old looking woman- Shiri Appleby. It's only Ryan that can act in this show. What is he doing with these losers? He could be starring in a top film right now..... Overall, this stupid show get's a 1 out of 10. It's pathetic, complete waste of time, I'd rather be waching re rurns of Glee or Smallville or even Roswell.
Teen, 16 years old Written byFearlessmaster May 23, 2010

An Eye-opening Experience!

LOVE THIS SHOW!!!! Sure it's edgy but it's realistic (like most kids in the world today) and, at the end of the day, the show offers a reality check experience that, as a fan of the show, has caused me to look at my own life and has helped strengthen me beyond a doubt!
Teen, 16 years old Written bychapmas October 31, 2014