Take Dawson’s Creek, throw in a dash of My So-Called Life and a smidgen of Melrose Place, and you’ve got Beautiful People. A night-time soap opera on all levels, the series focuses on Lynn Kerr (Daphne Zuniga) and her daughters Karen (Torrey Devitto), 19, who wants to be a model, and Sophie (Sarah Foret), 16, who just wants to fit into the fancy private school where she’s known as the poor scholarship kid. Though the show’s title could be used to describe the three leading ladies, it actually is the name for the high school’s popular clique.
Executive producer Paul Stupin worked on Dawson’s Creek, and that earlier show’s essence is all over this series. Foret could easily pass as Katie Holmes’ slightly less glamorous sister, and she utters the same preternaturally mature dialogue as the Creek kids as well. And while the plot lines are never as concise or thoughtful as it was on the Creek, they do have a clumsy charm.
The back story to the series is that Lynn moves her girls from New Mexico to New York after her husband has an affair with Karen’s best friend. While Karen (a pouty dead ringer for Angelina Jolie) cuts ties with her dad, sensitive Sophie keeps him filled in on their lives with regular emails. That action, ultimately, will force her to choose between her parents. And Melrose Place fans will delight in seeing Zuniga verbally spar with her estranged TV husband Grant Show (her co-star on Melrose).
There are some moments in the series that are heavy on the ick factor: an older man’s creepy serial killer-like obsession with Karen; Lynn’s involvement with her old college sweetheart, who happens to be the father of Sophie’s boyfriend; and the clumsy handling of two of the students’ sexual insecurities.
There are also some inconsistencies in the characters’, well, characters. For most of the 16 episodes–which aired on ABC Family from April 2005 to April 2006–Sophie’s friend Annabelle (Kathleen Munroe) harbors a huge crush on their friend Gideon (Ricky Mabe). But after their first makeout session, she rather coldly tells him that it’s not working for her. Flash forward a couple episodes and she’s pining for him again. Sophie’s dream boy Nicholas (Jackson Rathbone) is presented in the beginning as a good boy with some bad friends who tries to appease her nervousness with quips like: “Don’t mistake pretension for what’s just old fashioned in breeding.” Near the end, viewers are supposed to be convinced he’s a nasty boy who takes innocent girls to sex parties. Not buying it.
The casting director also could’ve done a better job of hiring peripheral actors who actually look young enough to play high school students. Instead, many of the so-called teenagers look as old as the teachers.
Though not up to par with the more sophisticated My So-Called Life or Dawson’s Creek, it’s more often than not melodramatic and fun.