On paper, "Reunion" has everything going for it -- a sexy teen soap with a gimmick, as each episode counts forward from 1986 toward the 20-year reunion of a group of high school friends shrouded in mystery, betrayal and even a little murder. Hold the party streamers, because the show seems considerably less than the sum of its premise and ad campaign.
On paper, “Reunion” has everything going for it — a sexy teen soap with a gimmick, as each episode counts forward from 1986 toward the 20-year reunion of a group of high school friends shrouded in mystery, betrayal and even a little murder. Somehow, though, none of it is particularly convincing, beginning with the close-knit bond between these half-dozen teens whose raging hormones simultaneously explode during the pilot. So despite being well promoted and smartly scheduled behind “The OC,” hold the party streamers, because the show seems considerably less than the sum of its premise and ad campaign.
Opening in the present day, we learn that one as-yet-unidentified member the group has been murdered by assailants unknown, while the chain-smoking Carla (Chyler Leigh) sits through a police interrogation that bleeds into flashback.
The series thus begins in earnest in 1986, which essentially allows it to play like an episode of “The OC” with Wham UK, A-ha and other Brat Pack-era references woven into it — a nod to nostalgia unlikely to reel in an audience old enough to appreciate it, especially if the writing doesn’t improve.
At its core, “Reunion” describes a group of supposedly inseparable friends with the usual Fox-type problems. Rich-kid Craig (Sean Faris) is dating unbeknownst-to-him pregnant Samantha (Alexa Davalos), who his poor-kid pal Will (Will Estes) secretly pines for. There’s more pining by wiseacre Aaron (Dave Annable) for party girl Jenna (Amanda Righetti), despite the fact that Carla secretly loves him.
It’s all the standard soap contrivances, all right, but without much conviction, as the audience is asked to take the depth of these relationships on faith, before a life-changing moment that brings Craig’s oily country-club dad (Gregory Harrison) into the mix.
If the dialogue is any indication, exec producer Jon Harmon Feldman (who shares “created by” credit with Sara Goodman) has a tantalizing idea that’s otherwise underdeveloped. Even by teen soap standards, a line like, “If Halley’s comet is going to come back early for anyone, I think it’d be for you” sounds bound and determined to induce groans.
The cast is attractive, of course, but none of them really pops in the pilot, with everyone looking about 25 at the outset and only Leigh somewhat awkwardly bridging the 18-to-38 span. “Six Feet Under’s” Mathew St. Patrick provides the one face of color as a detective investigating the shadowy crime.
Youth-oriented serials with a twist have always been an alluring subgenre (look no further than Fox’s “Point Pleasant”), and given timeslot competition that includes a diminished “The Apprentice,” ABC’s “The Night Stalker” revival and the WB’s relocated “Everwood,” “Reunion” has a better-than-average chance of taking root if it can get its creative act together. (As a footnote, production shifted to Vancouver after the pilot lensed in L.A.)
Fox deserves some credit for thinking slightly outside the box, but everyone appears to have been so preoccupied with the shiny wrapping on this “The OC” and “24” blend that they neglected the package’s contents.
Halley’s comet, by the way, is officially due to return in 2062. Even when TV doesn’t fully deliver, it can at least be educational.