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Network: CW; Genre: Teen Drama; Content Rating: TV-PG (some language and suggested sex); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 – 4);
Seasons Reviewed: Series (1 season)
Part a star vehicle for the adorable Joanna Garcia ("Reba") and part an adaptation of Zoey Dean's book "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls", "Privileged" as a bubbly, agreeable even addicting guilty pleasure. The show starts promising and then does all it can to let the air out of all the fun.
Garcia stars as highly-educated and seemingly unemployable college grad Megan who is presented with an opportunity of a lifetime. In exchange for tutoring Ann Archer's spoiled daughters, Sage (Ashley Newbrough) and Rose (Lucy Hale), she gets to live in a gorgeous Malibu mansion, drive a sports car, hang out with her best friend Charlie (Michael Cassidy) and get advice from the mansion's chef Marco (Allan Louis), who serves as the show's all-knowing advice-giver for Megan.
Starting with what I like about "Privileged", the greatness of casting Garcia in the role cannot be underplayed. Her personality and buoyancy floats in and carries the show. Megan is cute and intellectual, but also thick-headed, judgmental and self-absorbed. She is not a good person, but she sure thinks she is. It's a more complex character balance than you'd expect from a show like this. But the rest of the cast doesn't quite stack up. Sage and Rose are the Legally Brunette figures who like their designer labels and boy toys and use those things to craft their own success – and naturally Megan succeeds in making them look a little bit deeper into what they want to be and do with their life. Archer is the usual hardass boss.
If this all sounds familiar to you, it felt that way to me too. "Privileged" can't just be a light guilty pleasure finding humor in girls and their toys in the lap of luxury. It can't just have fun in the sun with Megan, her romance with the neighbor stud Will (Brian Hallisay) who, of course, is in love with her and her BFF Charlie (Michael Cassidy), also in love with her, as I think "Privileged" would have played out best. Instead it settles into the type of relationship angst and familial melodrama you'd find in any old high school series or prime time soap. Megan's's backstabbing sister, her alcoholic father, her absentee mother who returns so Megan can give the "you can't just waltz back into my life and be my mother" speech. Rose and Sage date guys who aren't part of the societal uppercrust. One by one by one these story lines squeeze the fun out of the show, turning it into an empty melodrama where Meg does a lot of wining and crying about how "screwed up" her family is to anyone who will listen – all based on a past we haven't seen and have no point of reference.
Had it had the commitment to go for the guilty pleasure brass ring "Privileged" could have filled a television void for light-weight, glassy-eyed guilty pleasure. Instead it's worse - a drama with the empty head of a guilty pleasure (the last thing I want is a show like this lecturing me about gay marriage). It can't think of any other way to fill the time than with anything but the most familiar family drama clichés and self-aggrandizing comedy that isn't at all funny.
* ½ / 4
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