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Watching "Privileged" Feels Less of a Privilege and More of a, Well, Chore

Honesty upfront: I'm not in the target demo for the CW's newest drama offering Privileged, having both a Y chromosome and a few more years behind me than the net's typical viewer.

However, I sat down to view the series premiere--which launches tonight on the CW--with an unbiased opinion. I'll admit that it was difficult to do so. After all, I had seen the netlet's pilot presentation for Privileged last May, which featured a truncated storyline and some bizarro casting (Marsha Mason was since replaced by It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Anne Archer) and I found it to be a mess of a pilot, save for the adorable JoAnna Garcia (The Captain) turning in a winsome performance as the adorably put-upon Megan Smith.

While Garcia is absolutely charming, I did find it somewhat difficult to accept Megan as a Yale graduate who escaped her Palm Beach roots to try to make it big as a Manhattan writer... only to end up right back where she started out. And that's no fault of Garcia but rather that of a seriously shaky script which skimps on things like characterization, motivation, and actual drama.

Smith gets fired from her magazine gig (she can't get into the club she's meant to be covering), accidentally dyes her hair the color of carrots, and has her apartment burn down all in the span of 24 hours. But rather than end up destitute on the streets of Gotham, her boss (Entourage's Debi Mazur) takes pity on Megan (why? we're not sure) and sets her up with her cosmetics empress friend Laurel Limoges (Archer) who is looking for a live-in tutor for her two wayward granddaughters Rose (Bionic Woman's Lucy Hale) and Sage (The Best Years' Ashley Newbrough), whose parents were killed several years earlier in a plane crash.

Based on a series of books from Alloy, Privileged (which had previously gone by the titles Surviving the Filthy Rich and Filthy Rich Girls) tries to be a blend of Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl, attempting to meld together the heartfelt whimiscal quality of Gilmore Girls, complete with life lessons about the joys of teaching (and learning), standing up for oneself, etc.... with the sort of excess and debauchery categorized by Gossip Girl.

However, it fails at truly acheiving either. Instead, Privileged wears its heart on its sleeve, delivering a hell of a lot of cheesy dialogue and sappy sentiment that would have never made its way into a Gilmore script and its roman-a-clef look into the lifestyles of the rich and famous hardly compare to those of Gossip Girl's Upper East Side set. Sure, Laurel and the girls have money to burn but their sins are so utterly tame compared to that of van der Woodsens or Archibalds, that Privileged seems practically toothless in comparison.

Megan, of course, finds herself at odds with spoilt, manipulative Sage while acting as Rose's protector, even while avoiding her own flesh-and-blood sister Lily (Kristina Apgar), whom she left years earlier after their mother took off. (To be fair, she did leave for Yale but that seems to be a moot point as her sister harbors a grudge for leaving her with their "sad dad.") But she does have her best friend to turn to: Charlie Hogan, who's played by Hidden Palms' Michael Cassidy but without the savage charm he displayed on that series.

If this sounds at all cloying, it is. There's also a flamboyant personal chef who dreams of owning his own restaurant, a billionaire boy next door who has his eye on Megan, and a clunky plot device in the form of a written contract between Laurel and Megan in which Laurel promises not to fire Megan if she performs her job and all of her dreams will come true if she gets the girls into Duke. The contract manifests itself after a misunderstanding leads Laurel to fire Megan, after she wouldn't allow Sage and Rose's provocative photo shoot go forward. (I say provocative within the contexts of this series, which seems better suited for an 8 pm berth than the plum post-90210 timeslot.)

Had Privileged come along a few years ago, it may have found a home at the old WB but it seems jarringly out of place on the CW, a netlet that this season is categorized by the far more buzz-worthy dramas Gossip Girl and 90210... both of which far more convincingly (not to mention salaciously) deal with the affairs of the mega-wealthy. Here, Garcia and Archer do their best to elevate material that seems positively bargain basement in comparison.

Privileged launches tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on the CW.


I agree that JoAnna Garcia (channeling Amy Adams) is the best thing about this show...just as Michael Cassidy's unsettling performance was the best thing about Wild Palms. Sadly, here he just plays the Good Guy, delivering as many lukewarm lines as the script will allow him. Overall, this feels much more like an ABC Family show than something on the CW meant to go arm and arm with Gossip Girl and 90210.
Vance said…
Huh usually I totally agree with you Jace, but I found this show an absolute delight actually, both charming and funny at the helm of Rina Mimoun's guidance.

I like that it's not a direct Gossip Girl ripoff (which is what I feel 90210 is trying to be while not achieving it) and is taking the whole rich white folks genre in a different direction. Essentially running off Garcia's charms.
Anonymous said…
@vance: This was so awful that I depressed myself by watching it. Yes Garcia was cute but that was it and that's a flimsy thing to hang a show off of. I thought that the girl playing Sage was TERRIBLE and couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. She kept trying to be as tough as Blaire and failed miserably. I won't be watching this crap again.
Anonymous said…
What an absolutely perfect review of a terrible show. I'm in the minority but I cannot stand Garcia. The entire time I was watching her it was like watching a really bad Vegas impression of Lauren Graham. I'll give it another week just to be sure, but otherwise it is off the list for good.
leisa said…
i'm 48 years old, and found myself bored and channel surfing one night. i watched a bit of the show, and well I LOVE IT! i'm looking forward to the new season. i like the rich spoiled sage and paige, their drama of being rich, what to wear, etc. i guess it's silly, but hey all/most shows are! not everyone can agree on all things, thats why we have so many choices on tv and in life.

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