A sly, sweet look at high school, “Life as We Know It” is so good that you immediately make room on your shelf for the cult-fave DVD because you know this is the kind of show that gets canceled after five episodes. Pity poor Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who also created “Freaks and Geeks,” and again offer up a show that’s stuck in the wrong timeslot and too smart for the demo the network markets it to.
Earnest, well-spoken teenagers have never met with success from a mass audience. Moreover, “Life” is too racy for the typical ABC aud but too subtle for those looking for “American Pie”-style antics. It will struggle to find an audience against a killer 9 p.m. Thursday lineup, where it faces the “CSI” juggernaut on CBS and NBC’s “The Apprentice.”
Based on Blighty writer Melvin Burgess’ novel “Doing It,” show takes a realistically lewd look at three high school boys. Dino (Sean Faris) is a hockey star lusting after g.f. Jackie (Missy Peregrym), whom he really might actually totally be in love with. Ben (Jon Foster) is under the spell of his hottie teacher (Marguerite Moreau) — the tritest storyline, but one still played with sufficient warmth and humor. Jonathan (Chris Lowell, in a clever homage to Jason Schwartzman’s character in “Rushmore”) sees his friendship with Deborah (Kelly Osbourne) taking on a new importance.
Each major character gets a turn in close-up to speak to the camera and explain their actions, a gimmick that would seem cutesy if the writing wasn’t so on the mark. Each confessional gives depth to actions that take place later in the show. After Jonathan worries about what his friends would think if he’s schmoopy in public with zaftig Deborah, the payoff is sweet when all they do is smile knowingly, with approval.
Sex — and the almost sex — is presented realistically, and it’s refreshing to see smart teenage girls who have thought through the consequences and proceed without becoming pregnant, or homewreckers, or pregnant homewreckers. (Yes, the WB, I’m looking at you.)
Actors are above par, and even though they play high school students, most actually don’t look a day over 20, which is refreshing. Even Kelly Osbourne — yes, that Kelly Osbourne — brings tenderness to a character that could otherwise have descended into a cute, chubby alternachick stereotype. Despite an off-and-on British accent, she shows much more potential as an actress than she ever did as a singer.