ABC has made a pretty bold move with My Generation: The fake-documentary premise is kind of difficult to explain, the ensemble cast is relatively unknown, and the miscellaneous cultural references are targeted toward, well, my generation. But you know what? In this case, bold just might be brilliant.
I’ve always had a soft spot for high-drama high school shows, but this one goes way deeper than anything served up on the CW in the past few years. Whereas One Tree Hill did the fast-forward-a-few-years thing, My Generation starts in the present and looks back to the past, and with a slight twist on on the typical flashback: We see footage of the now-twentysomething characters as filmed by a “documentary” crew while they were all in high school. So, instead of learning about their past shared experiences through awkward voice-overs and written-after-the-fact "memories," we actually get to see how their relationships have evolved.
The back-and-forth format presents an intense challenge for the actors, because instead of merely thinking about their characters’ backstories, they get to act them out. Which brings me to the show’s greatest strength: the acting. It’s easy to forget you’re watching actors, because the show is filmed like a documentary—and that is ultimately a testament to how real the show feels. Each actor has successfully created a believable high-school-aged character as well as their older counterpart, and the things we learned about each character in the pilot were definitely intriguing enough that I'm definitely looking forward to the next episode. I was particularly impressed by Keir O’Donnell, who portrays Kenneth Finley, the most tragic of the group. He’s desperate to have a family but can’t ever have kids, so he’s retreated into this safe world of teaching and pining for a friend’s knocked-up girlfriend. And Daniella Alonso (who you may know as One Tree Hill’s Anna) plays a highly-motivated DC lawyer with a lot of unresolved high school issues hanging over her head. Plus, it’s always nice to see Mehcad Brooks and Jaime King back on the small screen.
I know that this show won’t resonate with most people, because the nostalgia that it digs up isn't that likely to translate to folks over the age of, say, 32. But for those of us who've graduated from high school within the last ten or so years, those of us who grew up amidst the Slim Shady and Enron and Monica Lewinsky debacles, this show could be our pride and joy. Let’s just hope it finds its audience.
What did you think of the series premiere?
Follow TV.com writer Stefanie Lee on Twitter: @StefAtTVDotCom