TV Review: 'quarterlife' characters self-absorbed, artificial
How you react to NBC's "quarterlife" may depend on your affinity for past shows from producers Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, the guys behind "thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life," "Relativity" and "Once and Again" -- all shows about introspective characters who love to discuss their feelings.
If that's your cup of tea, you'll love "quarterlife" (10 tonight, WPXI). Me? I was a "My So-Called Life" fan, but it's important to note a distinction: It was written in the voice of head writer Winnie Holzman ("Wicked"). The character she created, suburban Pittsburgher Angela Chase (played by Claire Danes), may have been self-absorbed, but at least she had an excuse: She was a teenager.
Alas, Dylan (Bitsie Tulloch), the video blogger at the heart of "quarterlife," has no such excuse. She's a twentysomething woman who is so obsessed with chronicling her life on camera that in one episode she actually takes her laptop into the bathroom to continue video blogging while brushing her teeth.
- When: Previews 10 tonight, NBC; regular time slot is 9 p.m. Sundays beginning this weekend.
- Starring: Bitsie Tulloch.
I'm not sure what kind of audience there is for such a video blog or what would compel a woman to reveal on said vlog that a friend has a crush on his best friend's girlfriend.
"I have to be honest. You know that," Dylan whines, when confronted about the invasion of privacy. "It's like a fetish or something."
Narcissistic tendencies, perhaps?
In addition to Dylan, "quarterlife" follows the lives of filmmaker best friends Jed (Scott Michael Foster, who also plays Cappie on "Greek") and Danny (David Walton, "Heist"). Dylan lusts after Jed; Jed has the hots for Debra (Michelle Lombardo), but she's dating Danny. There's also Lisa (Maite Schwartz), a bartender/acting student whose acting teacher is played by Herskovitz.
"quarterlife" premiered on MySpace.com last year with much fanfare: 36 eight-minute episodes were created, and they've been cobbled together to make six one-hour episodes. But they hang together so well that I suspect the show was actually scripted in hour-long segments for broadcast TV and then carved up for the Internet.
The "quarterlife" pilot is, strangely, both artificial and semi-realistic at the same time. While all of Dylan's direct address grows tiresome and sometimes sounds too much like the hyper-literate kids of "Dawson's Creek," she nails it when she notes, "The sad truth about our generation is we were all geniuses in elementary school, but apparently the people who deal with us now never got our transcripts because they don't seem to be aware of it."
Alas, Tulloch's delivery makes it less-than-clear if Dylan is being serious and sincere or that she's in on the joke that today's twentysomethings grew up in a time when every Little League player earned a trophy just for showing up.
A future episode, written by "My So-Called Life" cast member Devon Gummersall (he played Brian, Angela's neighbor), is a total angst-fest. Demanding Dylan can't even strike up a romantic relationship with a house guest without it devolving into a snit-fit in bed.
"I've been totally self-absorbed, I know that," she finally admits.
As frustrating as it is fascinating, watching the "quarterlife" characters is like gazing at animals in a zoo: You may recognize some human-like characteristics in their behavior, but too many decisions they make in their day-to-day lives bewilder the observer.