Life As We Know It: Complete Series
It is hardly a revelation to anyone but teenage boys tend to think about sex. This has been addressed on television to varying degrees, from the golly gee attitude of Wally Cleaver to the over sexed determination in more recent faire usually shown on the WB such as the OC. A show like ‘Life As We Know’ It would not have been possible only a few years ago. The male characters not only constantly muse over any chance possible to having sex; they are rather proactive in the pursuit of the act. For most high school boys sexual activity is the leading metric for social status, the boys having it are considered ‘cool’ (to use a perhaps archaic term) while those that only dream of it are viewed by their peers as losers. Perhaps one of the hallmarks of the newer crop of sexually oriented television series is depicting the boys as looking for their soul mates, the truth is many boys in high school are just looking for the moment and will do and say almost anything to achieve this goal. While shows like Dawson’s Creek had male characters that would angst over the emotional ramifications of intimacy here the guys plot and scheme with the ever present ‘one thing in mind’. This series was based on the Melvin Burgess' novel "Doing It", and is obviously targeted on the much desired male 14-19 market. There is without a doubt production qualities here that set it above the flock so naturally the series was cancelled, an act most felt was premature and unwarranted.
The lead character here is Dino Whitman played by Sean Faris, a handsome, jock, television style leading man that would naturally bring in some female viewers to this testosterone drive series. Dino has an uncomfortably close relationship to his somewhat loose mother. In order to get her attention he snaps her bra in the first episode, something unthinkable to someone from my generation. His mom is cheating on Dino’s dad, Michael (D.B. Sweeney) with a member of his high school faculty so obviously she is not a role model for restraint and abstinence. Every television leading man needs an attractive female to play opposite him. This is achieved with Dino’s girlfriend Jackie Bradford (Missy Peregrym). At the start of the series the young couple had just broken up but Dino is determined to get back together with his lost love apparently, mostly because his hormones are in overdrive. In this series relationships are only the foundation for having sex, not commitment. The series plots also focus on Dino’s best friends Ben Conner (Jon Foster) and Jonathan Fields (Chris Lowell). They pretty much share the same prime directive with Dino but Ben is having a convert affair with Monica Young (Marguerite Moreanu), an attractive, young teacher. The fact that Ms Young is engaging in a criminal activity seems to have no affect on the situation at all. Ben also has a girlfriend Sue Miller (Jessica Lucas) sort of a backup when things eventual cool with Ms Young. All of this libidinous behavior is well fueled with another reality of teen life, alcohol. This is not exactly a show that parents can point to as an example to their kids but it may provide those parents with a little reminder of what the late teens are really like.
This was the ABC network’s foray into teen drama in a less family oriented way then they where used to. Perhaps this is part of the explanation of why they failed to really promote the series as most would have liked. They where trying to draw viewer ship away from the popular and over sexed teen oriented dramas that proliferate on the WB network. While the frankness is somewhat novel they underlying premise and presentation seemed to be a Dawson’s Creek from the male perspective. There are the usual plot devices such as the school ski trip where the guys dream of a sure thing and the girls have something else in mind. There is the waxing and waning of the relationship between Dino and Jackie including the requisite ‘let’s just be friends’ phase. Although the parental strife is apparent mostly they are just fuel for the growing teen tension.
The casting here is very good but ultimately predicable. Sean Faris is believable as the confused and athletic Dino. He has the physique required to be the central jock of the story without the usually presented dumb jock attributes. Faris plays Dino as a bright kid, upset at watching the disintegration of his parent’s marriage and upset for what ever reasons with the changes in his relationship with Jackie. Jon Foster does well as Ben giving more than the usual one dimensional portrayal of a teen having sex with his teacher. Chris Lowell as Jonathan presents a character that is less founded than the others. Instead of being fixated on one girl he moves between a few of young ladies. Marguerite Moreanu as the beautiful teacher may be familiar as the lead character in the Sci-Fi channel’s Firestarted sequel. While she is more accustomed to younger family vehicles such as The Mighty Ducks flicks and Free Willy 2 she manages to take on the adult role here with talent. One piece of gimmick casting in this show was the inclusion of Kelly Osbourne, yes that Kelly Osbourne, spawn of Ozzy. She plays Deb, a romantic interest of Jonathan and actually does quite well in the lesser role. Personally, I feel she has more going for her in acting is this type of roles than she does in music but that is another story.
Admittedly, I am several decades away from the target demographic of this series but I was able to appreciate what was attempted here. True originality is rare on television lately so the best that can be hoped for is an inventive twist on established methods. This is the case here. ABC, as mentioned above, was trying to puller the younger viewers mostly from the WB. There is a lot taken from series like Dawson’s Creek but they did succeed in giving a realistic male perspective. Most teen series tend to feminize the male characters but this series depicted the guys in true sex crazy fashion. One device that is becoming overused is breaking the forth wall. This is when the actor turns away from the set and speaks directly to the audience. This was annoying here at first but soon became part of the style of the series.
Disney/Buena Vista is jumping on the bandwagon with presenting cancelled cult television series on DVD. They do an excellent job here. All the aired episodes are provided with two previously unseen episodes as a bonus. The audio is a well mastered Dolby two channel stereo that does credit to the dialogue and the rock sound track. The full screen video is clear with a well balanced color palette better than it would have looked on broadcast television. There are several commentaries featuring the musings of the cast a couple of deleted scenes, obvious why the where left on the cutting room floor, and a photo gallery. This series will be much appreciated by the younger set. As for the parents, one viewing and you will want to put GPS devices on your teens.