The following is a review rated S for SPOILERS.
Murder mystery? Back stabbing lesbians? small town girl turned movie star? Roommate drama? Domestic violence? Pop music to country music metamorphosis? Baby daddy drama? Love triangles? Double crossing former besties? Alcoholic child stars falling off the wagon? Con women? Emotional immaturity on a frankly impressive scale? Famous in Love has it all. And it’s just as much of a chaotic mishmash as it sounds. It sounds dramatic, but not the kind the viewer wants to watch. It sounds confusing, and it is.
The first episode of the “Famous in Love” series, based on a novel by Rebecca Serle that I haven’t had a chance to read, hit the Freeform airwaves just two days ago. While I yearned for the show to fill the glamorous Hollywood drama hole left in my entertainment queue after “The Arrangement” let me down, I did not find it here.
The timing of the piece didn’t do itself any favors either. The Freeform advertising for “Famous in Love” alongside the big finale episodes of “Pretty Little Liars” made it look like the successor to the dark, cloak-and-dagger girl-power secret-driven show.
We might have more luck with the actual “Cloak and Dagger” TV show hitting Freeform soon. Press gives the show a 2018 premiere date but a full trailer (also touting a 2018 premiere date) appeared on the Marvel Entertainment Youtube page just 12 hours ago.
The series of ten “Famous in Love” episodes have a slow build. Painfully slow almost, with any real suspense relegated to just the final two episodes.
I have to give props to Bella Thorne for her acting job, which was excellent in ways I did not anticipate. The natural ginger and lovely unnaturally blue-haired actress has officially shed her Disney “Shake It Up” persona and wows audiences with her ability to act (even in this shallowly written role). Playing Paige Townsen, an actress, she jumps from the drama of Hollywood life to small-town whiner to heartbroken time traveler with impressive ease.
The problem with “Famous in Love” is the writing, not only the molasses-slow build but the unclear, blurry drama and the flat characters. The intensity is never there, despite the at least decent acting. The character motivations are unclear, the drama doesn’t add any intensity, and overall the story just isn’t compelling. Which is a shame, because the actors themselves aren’t that bad. It’s their characters which are flat, wishy-washy people.
Ranier Devon (pronounced Rain-ur and not Rain-ear like the PNW mountain peak) is not a convincing playboy, Jake Salt and Cassandra Perkins are shallow characters at best and at worst are both self-interested ungenuine friends of the main character. Not to mention Alexa. Literally, you’ll forget about her until they mention her again every episode or two. Manager mamas who are cliche as they come, and a host of other characters are who have slept with at least one of the other characters.
Paige Townsen, the lovely ginger leading lady, is written to be such a small-town nice girl that she’s too wishy-washy to take a stand for anything. She never really gets mad, she just looks upset and cries while simultaneously hating everything about her life yet doing nothing about it. Her overbearing parents make an appearance in the second episode where Paige desperately tries to convince them to let her act (in spite of the fact that she’s a grown adult) which they finally agree to on the condition that she continue her education and behave herself. She starts failing school and her life becomes a disaster, but we never hear from or see her parents again.
I’d have much rather spent ten episodes of my time watching characters Tangey and Jordy as they embark on their journeys of self-discovery, break from their crazy moms, try to move on from their pasts, and attempt their first grown-up relationship together.
What’s truly innovative about “Famous in Love” is how Freeform told the story. As someone who consumes TV and on-demand films at what’s probably an above-average rate I haven’t heard of another series that premiered a first episode before releasing the entire season. All ten episodes of “Famous in Love” are available on demand, on Hulu, on Freeform’s website, and in the Freeform app. This new style is a great attempt by Freeform to keep up with TV binge sources like Netflix and to keep their audience sticking around. I admit, it worked. If this series had aired an episode a week like traditional TV shows I never would have made it to episode 5.
Pros: Unique publishing style, Bella Thorne’s acting, the few minutes of episode ten where the writing finally reaches some dramatic points, and the actual cliffhanger ending.
Cons: Bad characters, mediocre writing, that disappointed feeling you get when you know the creators meant for something to be suspenseful but fell ridiculously short.