“All About Honesty”
September 16th, 2008
Since it’s the theme of the episode, I guess I should open with a little bit of honesty: I really quite like this show.
There’s nothing special about Privileged’s various parts: JoAnna Garcia is strong but not perfect in the lead role, the two daughters are total (well-played) stereotypes and the conflict between them and Megan quite simplistic, the love triangle between Megan and her two suitors is about as much of a cliche as you could imagine, and the family drama is like every other family drama you could imagine.
But the sum of these parts is what makes the show stand out: none of the elements feel like traditional exploitative soap opera storylines, but rather actual investigations into family, sisterhood, friendship, and the idea of attempting to confront all of them while deciding what to do with your future. It has a lead character who isn’t just a slightly less narcissistic member of the elite, but an outsider with a unique connection to this universe. This episode’s issues of trust and honesty don’t just feel like a frame narrative out of any sort of playbook, but actual important topics for someone in her position.
And this type of connection means that Privileged is doing something its lead-in (90210) isn’t: it’s trying to be something new. And, you know, good.
If I have one complaint about the show, it’s that Laurel honestly seems to be almost schizophrenic, turning and twisting around Megan for a lot of reasons that I don’t quite understand. I get that she’s reacting to the mistakes Megan is making, but it’s making it really difficult to get any sense of her character. She reminds me of the Kirsten we first met on The O.C.: someone who is cold and calculating until she finally realizes that leaving Ryan in prison (after he was arrested for burning down the Model Home). What we got there was a side of Kirsten that not everyone else got to see, but for now we’re seeing Laurel only through Megan’s eyes.
There, of course, this is natural: Megan is trying to balance two scheming teenage girls while she has to handle her sister, so she’s bound to anger her boss. But while I mostly commend the show’s decision to start right where we left off (the party was a tense location, and it helped to use the two episodes as a dual pilot to allow for more time developing characters), it did kind of make it seem like this girl had more ups and downs in about three days than anyone you could imagine. The episode is smart, though, by ending with a fresh start: Megan’s proper interview will definitely help to clear the air, and perhaps usher in a new and less finicky relationship between the two.
This week worked well for the girls, too: I continue to love Lucy Hale as Rose, fully displaying this innocence that is both charming and a good source of dramatic interest and tension between Sage and Megan. It is clear that Sage is not the best role model for her sister, but she’s quite right to point out that sometimes you can’t force people to do anything: Rose has to learn on her own why Max might not be the best thing for her, and while I would argue that bribing a police officer is a poor strategy I do think that the girls are not hopeless cases (which would have been an easy stereotype to fall into).
I just wrote that Greek needs to stay away from love triangles, so I should really be admonishing this one more. What works here, though, is that there is something very sweet and innocent about it all. Charlie is a lifelong friend who clearly wants more, while Will is a member of this opulent culture that offers not just a romantic perspective but, best of all, a connection to his publisher father and the potential therein. In other words, while a love triangle, it doesn’t exist purely to create dramatic tension onscreen but within Megan as a character. As long as it feels like the conflict is actually advancing something other than the amount of sex on screen, I really don’t have any issues with it.
More importantly right now, the show remains charming. Sure, its storylines aren’t breaking any ground, but there’s a certain charm to the proceedings that seems to extend across the board. Even scenes between characters like Charlie and the Girls work because of the writing (Rita Mimoun, developer/showrunner, penned this episode on top of the season premiere) and the performances – it doesn’t feel like anyone is on some different show, except for Lilly who is supposed to be. Although I thought her bringing a joint to a fancy party seemed out of character even for someone apparently so unhinged, there is value to her character as it serves to ground Megan in something real.
So even though it might not have the potential to innovate, Privileged is definitely the new Tuesday show that has the best sense of its own identity – and as long as it keeps itself honest, I think it’s a show that people should make an effort to watch, even in a crowded time period and with its lagging ratings.
- I’m worried about the show’s future on The CW completely because it’s not designed to win buzz: it’s a show that is about being quirky and charming, building an audience early. However, considering the network’s struggles, it is much more charitable to shows that have strong recognition – I don’t even think people know this show exists.
- Michael Cassidy got enough experience on The O.C. playing the other guy, so he’s almost too comfortable in this role: I do hope that they expand on his character a little bit more in the future, just to give him a life outside of work and Megan.