Thursday, September 18, 2008

TV: Privileged

Stop the presses: I've found another show on the CW that I like. Which brings the current grand total up to... uh... two, I think, once Reaper returns.

And it's about the unlikeliest of shows that I would enjoy: Privileged, the tale of a spunky young journalist wannabe who winds up as a live-in tutor for two ultra-rich, ultra-spoiled teenage girls.

This show has most of the ingredients of other programs targeted at a similar demographic that I despise: uptight fish-out-of-water (usually with dark secret) contrasts with wealthy, responsibility-free hedonists, complete with plenty of beach and pool scenes, a fetishistic worship of fashion and cars, and one (1) snarky gay guy (often of color, to take care of two tokens with one stone). But somehow, I found this iteration to be charming and entertaining.

Most of that has to do with lead actress Joanna Garcia, playing Megan, the tutor. She's a bubbly, amusing presence, enthusiastic but grounded, with a slight bit of sharpness. What's really surprising, though, is that her character is nice, a pleasant person you wouldn't mind being around. She's allowed to be smart without being an outcast, she can be girly but still convincingly display a backbone, and rarest of all, she has a self-awareness characters in shows like this tend to lack: she considers and questions her goals and motivations, not in a navel-gazing, self-obsessed way, but just enough to make her a rounded, believable character, rather than a caricature plugged into plot points.

Even the rich girls have hidden depths. Rose (played by Lucy Hale, whom I hated hated hated on Bionic Woman, but who is actually sweet and enjoyable here) aspires to higher education and achievement beyond celebutante-hood, and the bitchy exterior of Sage (Ashely Newbrough) conceals deep fears of being outed as intellectually curious by (and therefore different from) her peers, and even deeper fears of being abandoned by her sister.

It's not a perfect show, but it has a kinder, funnier, smarter core than most of its ilk, and I was fully entertained. Whether I tune in every week is questionable, especially when I seem to be cutting back on all TV in general, not just the new season premieres. But I was pleasantly surprised, and that's a fine accomplishment right there.

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