TV Review | 18 to Life 1.1

18 to Life‘s (CBC: premiered January 4, 2010, 8:00 PM ET/PT) grand concept is simple.  Two 18-year-olds marry on a dare.  One family’s conservative, the other liberal.

It’s a standard, well-worn sitcom premise, but 18 to Life at least does something with it.  While the first episode has problems, 18 to Life has the promise most debuting CBC shows don’t.

Stacey Farber is merely okay as Jessie Hill, while Michael Seater nails awkwardness very well as Tom Bellow.  They’re veterans of Canadian kids’ television, Farber playing Ellie Nash on Degrassi: the Next Generation and Mary on Dark Oracle.

Michael Seater’s big role was as Derek Venturi on Life with Derek, although he’s been on Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, The Zack Files and ReGenesis.  Both Farber and Seater can handle adult roles, although 18 to Life feels like an aged-up teen drama at times.

As Tom’s father Ben Bellow, Peter Keleghan doesn’t stray from the aloof authority figure he’s made a trademark.  Ellen David isn’t horrible as mother Judith, but she and Peter don’t have good chemistry.  Maybe it’s due to them playing conservatives, although Keleghan only breaks out of Jim Walcott Mode when he’s doing voiceovers for Ruby Gloom and Producing Parker.

Angela Asher and Alain Goulem are better as Tara and Phil Hill.  They actually complement each other, making for a believable married couple.  They’re right for their roles the way Keleghan and David aren’t.  The Hills and the Bellows initially fight, but decide to work together in order to destroy the dare-based marriage.

18 to Life‘s chief strength is that it’s slicker than the average CBC sitcom.  There’s the usual awkwardness common to Canadian sitcoms, but 18 to Life doesn’t incessantly tell the viewer how Canadian and open-minded it is.

18 to Life isn’t that funny, but it’s not actively bad.  It’s miles beyond whatever Little Mosque on the Prairie‘s trying to be.

18 to Life is the only show that could do well for CBC Television this winter.  Michael Seater has had prior exposure on the Disney Channel, thanks to Life with Derek.  TeenNick won’t let Degrassi: the Next Generation die.  If nothing else, 18 to Life is aiming for a specific demographic.  That’s something I can’t say for Republic of Doyle.

C. Archer
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