An unexpectedly charming new show from the CW

To never expect great things from the CW is to live a disappointment-free life. The UPN / WB merger may have ended the late–night dilemma of which station to give your half-hearted attention, but it spawned bad decisions galore — axeing “Veronica Mars,” but keeping “One Tree Hill, to name a few — barely a year into its debut. - The new CW show “Life Unexpected” brings back everything viewers loved about “Gilmore Girls,” but in a more realistic way.

How the CW’s witty and, God help me, heartwarming “Life Unexpected” managed to make it past the blockheaded execs in charge of this often–senseless network is a complete miracle — one we should simply bask in the glow of and not question.

“Life Unexpected” has garnered rather positive feeback, with reviewers stating that the CW’s newest Monday–night staple is akin to both “Gilmore Girls” and “Everwood.” In plain English, that means that “Life Unexpected” is snarky in all the right ways, well–acted yet rarely over–the–top, and also able to tug on your heartstrings with surprising strength.

Lux (Brittany Robertson), a fifteen–year–old foster–care veteran, decides she has had enough of the system and tracks down her birth father Nate “Baze” Bazile (Kristoffer Polaha) and her mother Cate Cassidy (Shiri Appleby, a long way from Roswell) to have them sign the papers that will make Lux an emancipated minor.

Things go awry when a judge grants Cate and Baze temporary custody rather than allowing Lux to run free, making parents out of two adults who opted out as teenagers.

“Life Unexpected” shares a lot with “Gilmore Girls.” Baze’s parents are uptight, snobby and rich, yet buried somewhere beneath their insulting exteriors are beating hearts.

Cate is the responsible mother with a solid job, a solid house and a radio show where she hones her considerable verbal skills, and Baze is the semi–irresponsible father who struggles to keep his bar running and lives in a loft with his roommate.

But Lux is nothing like Rory Gilmore, though she’s certainly smart. Lux is snarky, independent and rebellious — a perfectly imperfect character whose strengths and vulnerabilities are subtly revealed as the episodes progress.
But these similarities aren’t entirely what drew me to this show. Where “Gilmore Girls” was secure in its relationships, “Life Unexpected” is not. There is no clear familial bond; Lux’s parents gave her up as a child and she has taken care of herself ever since.

These relationships are tenuous and fragile — the slightest conflict spirals all of the characters into later resolved but harsh circumstances. There are no guarantees.

This is the central part of “Life Unexpected:” Lux’s growing bond with her mother and father, her attempts to adjust to or reject her new life, which includes a new school, a new home and a new world and her loyalties to her fellow foster kids, friend Natasha (Ksenia Solo) and boyfriend Bug (Rafi Gavron).

Enough conflict exists on “Life Unexpected” to last for several seasons.
The tensions between Baze and his parents, Cate and Baze, Lux and Baze, Lux and Cate, Cate and her family, Lux and her friends, and Lux and the world are almost tangible.

So here’s hoping the CW continues to look the other way and chooses to keep this little gem of a program instead of replacing it with a craptastic series.