Not long ago on this blog, I wished that the network powers-that-be would create a TV show about real-ish people with real-ish problems who live in real-ish homes, with real-ish jobs that they wore real-ish clothes to.
Unfortunately, somebody did.
Quarterlife is the latest situational drama from Marshall Herskovitz, creator of Thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. It originated as a web program via MySpace, and recently made the leap to network TV. While I have never seen the show in its original format, I can only suspect that something was lost in its translation.
The show centers around Dylan, a woman in her mid-twenties who chronicles and commentates on the life of her circle of friends via her blog of the same name. I'll get to that part in a minute.
Dylan is beautiful. But because she has dark brown hair that she never seems to comb, and wears semi-frumpy clothing, we're probably supposed to view her as the sensitive, smart plain-Jane of the group. She works as an Editorial Associate at a women's magazine called Attitude. One day, she suggests an idea for a potential new editorial section of the magazine to her boss, who scoffs it off as a stupid idea, and then predictably pitches it as her own in an all-staff meeting not long after. Dylan is understandably incensed.
I, and I am sure many of you as well have been in similar situations at work. We pitch a great idea and it takes off, but we don't get the credit for it. That is what people in the real-world refer to as "paying your dues." Normally when this happens we complain about it to our friends over a few beers, sulk a bit and then suck it up and move on with things. We don't do is deliver a rambling, passive-aggressive speech in front of all our colleagues where we take credit for the idea in the most inarticulate and pathetic way possible. But that's what Dylan does and her speech reclaiming the idea from her boss while complementing-but-not the woman who claimed credit for it is one of the most horrifying and cringe-inducing scenes in recent scripted television history.
I'm not sure if this effect was intentional on the part of the show, but way to go for painting mid-twenties career women as whiny, simpering, insecure know-it-alls.
As I mentioned earlier, Dylan has some friends. I can't remember any of their names, but they consist of a pretty, yet insecure actress who beds random men in an attempt to self-validate; a nice brown-haired girl who looks a little like Sarah Polley; two guys who recently graduated from film school; and a weird geeky guy who has yet to reveal his actual purpose on the show other than to fill the "wacky guy" prototype.
Of course there's a complicated love rhombus in there too. The film school guys (a meat-heady player and a sensitive artiste respectively) are both in love with the Sarah Polley look-alike. In typical TV-girl fashion, she is torn in her alliances but for now has chosen to play it safe with the meat-heady player. Meanwhile, Dylan broods over her unrequited affections for the sensitive artiste.
As I mentioned earlier, the complexities of these dynamics are documented by Dylan via her blog.
Now this is the part of the show that I take the most issue with. As anyone who has ever taken pixel to screen knows, the first rule of personal, diary-style blogging is to tread lightly when it comes to mentioning the lives of those around you. If your friends wanted the intimate details of their lives broad-casted for the world to see, they'd have their own blogs.
Predictably, Dylan's friends somehow discover her blog and temporary alienation ensues. Now, I will admit to having written some things about friends that I shouldn't have in the past. Even the slightest criticism of a friend can be construed as a passive-aggressive snipe. I've learned my lesson and try to keep my friends out of my blog as much as possible, especially when I am having a problem with one. But nothing I have ever written comes close to Dylan's so-called revelations when she plays armchair psychologist. In assessing the issues plaguing the pretty actress girl, she writes of her tendency to sleep around and then drink too much in order to forget. Ouch.
In reality thems fighting words akin to those slambooks that were all the rage in the 80's--likely to get you punched and then disowned as a friend. Instead the pretty girl just broods over it for a while, admits to Dylan her sexual inadequacies, downs a shot of liquor and overcomes her insecurities by singing at a bar. In other words, Dylan not only gets to be right, her passive aggression is validated.
Given the span of time in between the resolution of the writers strike and the arrival of new programming from all your favorite shows, Quarterlife seems likely to drag on for a few more episodes. I'm curious to see if it will get better.
Will Dylan learn from her mistakes at work and with her friends, or will she continue to enlighten us all with her unsolicited opinions?
Will the wacky guy reveal a purpose for himself? 10 bucks says he's in love with Dylan ala Ducky in Pretty in Pink. Or he's gay, ala Steve Zahn in Reality Bites.
Will the Sarah Polley girl stay with the meathead, go with the artiste, or choose herself ala Kelly Taylor in 90210?
Will Dylan comb her hair?
Will the actress girl grow a spine and become more sure in herself, or will the show follow TV history in punishing the slut by giving her terrible disease?
Will I keep on watching this show for its trainwreck appeal? Probably. But like Dylan, I will hate it, and myself, just a little bit more as a result.