The show follows a teenage girl called Lux, given up for adoption at birth, who's had enough of foster care and decides to get in touch with her birth parents (an "unexpected" reunion, some might say). Tube Talk caught up with executive producer Liz Tigelaar to see what lies ahead in this Juno-like tale.
What can you tell us about the series?
"It's a coming of age story of two adults who reconnect with their kid that they gave up for adoption at birth. The girl wants to get emancipated from the foster care system and in order to do that, she has to get permission from her birth parents. In the process, the judge ends up putting her back into their custody! Because of that, these two unaccountable, flawed, damaged, thirtysomethings have to become her parents and in the process, she kind of raises them into grown ups."
"For The CW, Life Unexpected has an indie feel - it's not as glossy and it has that sort of slightly darker look. I'm not sure if you could call it edgy - it doesn't have threesomes, or cocaine or anything like that! - but the comparison to Juno probably comes because there's a strong, interesting, teenager at the heart of it and the subject is an unplanned pregnancy. But Cate is the Juno of this story, not Lux."
Is there another show that you think it's similar to?
"Obviously there are similarities to Gilmore Girls - it's like the reverse of that - but in terms of what it compares to, I could only say what I would aspire for it to compare to. Shows like My So Called Life, which has a realness and authenticity to it, and Friday Night Lights - that show to me has so much heart and you care about the family so much and you care about how they care about each other."
What sort of a journey will Lux go on throughout the series?
"As Cate and Baze are forced to grow up, the idea is that Lux gets to grow down. The biggest child-like wish is that your separated parents would be together. For Lux to even have that fantasy, she'd have to grow down. She's too much of a realist - she knows better than to think that two people who had sex in the back of a minivan in high school are meant to be together! Her journey is similar to Cate's journey - they're so similar. They have the same flaws and insecurities, so they can't quite come together."
"I think there's always a chance! It's pretty clear that something's there, it's just a case of who wants it to be there. For Cate, there are feelings of abandonment and rejection. Her feelings do run deep, but do deep feelings always mean love?"
Which other characters should the audience be looking out for?
"Kerr Smith plays Ryan, Cate's fiancé. The part becomes much bigger when we cast him because he's great! There's definitely a triangle between Cate, Ryan and Baze. Basically, this guy was proposing to a single, unattached woman, and suddenly he inherits a daughter, plus her father!"
If Ryan and Cate break up, will there still be a place for Kerr Smith on the show?
"Absolutely, because he's her partner at the radio station. And as the series progresses, he does have this great relationship with Lux. Eventually, he even makes his peace with Baze. He definitely has a place, but the triangle is the strongest thing."
Where are you at with production?
"We're shooting episode eight, and we're going to 13. We started later than everyone else because we're midseason. I think it's getting exciting now because I've shown the actors the first three episodes. The other shows have premiered, come and gone, been hits or not. So we're waiting our turn. It's nice to be doing it all without a fan reaction yet. By the time people see it, we'll be pretty much done - then we can either celebrate, or drink heavily!"
"Definitely. I feel pressure for the show to do well and get numbers that are competitive with the other CW numbers, but the thing I'm excited about is that this is a show that will have to pick up steam. We're not gonna be a show that premieres to The Vampire Diaries ratings - we're gonna have to build. The Beautiful Life didn't get a huge chance to build, but we get to air all 13 back-to-back, and that will give us a chance for people to find us."
Finally, why the capital 'X' in the title?
"It's not gonna be like that eventually. The idea was that we were gonna highlight LUX because she is the unexpected thing in their lives. But because the 'L' and the 'U' fall at the start of the words, it looks like just the X is capitalised! On the sign we have at the moment, the 'F' and the 'U' are connected, so it kind of looks like 'f**k you!' We keep getting it almost right. It was originally called Light Years. By the time we get on the air, we will have this solved!"
Life Unexpected begins Monday, January 19 at 9pm on The CW.
Do you like the sound of Life Unexpected? Will you be tuning in for it in January? Add your comments to this entry below!