Welcome to Hollywood ladies and gentleman! A world where one night stands have to sign confidentiality agreements, where publicity stunts are aplenty and money is no object. A stage where nobodies can become a somebody overnight. That's the focus of FreeForm's newest show, Famous in Love, which premiered tonight, and here's my review of the very first episode.
The show follows ingenue Paige Townsen (Bella Thorne) as she's catapulted into the limelight as a Hollywood actress. Paige just so happens to beat out 10,000 other girls to land the lead role in this movie adaption of "the biggest book series since Harry Potter", Locked. This is a TV show after all and so it shouldn't be a surprise that our leading lady suddenly receives her acting gig (and a big break at that) in the first episode. She's our insight into the world of Hollywood - she's a nobody, just like us, and each fumble she makes only strengthens the possibility of that being any one of us. Throw in a big paycheck and a few hunky co-stars, and you've got us all wanting to sign up for auditions, or is that just me? Even though there's an endearing quality about clammy-handed Paige babbling, it's also a little irritating after a while. It's too full on, perhaps. Plus, she's supposedly flustered and nervous about fame, yet she says "it's just a callback" to her friends. Considering she babbled at the open audition, there's no way that then getting a callback would not be a big deal to her. It would be a big deal to anyone when the callback is for a Hollywood blockbuster - that beats doing her Econ assignments, surely?
Ultimately, I think Paige will divide people. Some will be drawn to her, and perhaps see a part of themselves in the young dreamer, whilst others will simply find her nervous mannerisms annoying. Thorne will certainly also be a factor in whether viewers connect to the lead character. Social media over the past week has been fairly mixed in regards to the casting of Thorne: she evidently holds great influence over some who welcome her as the lead (and no doubt she has pulled in a fair amount of viewers all by herself), whilst others are not so impressed. It'll be interesting to see if perceptions change following tonight's premiere though. Personally, when I first heard of the cast, I was sceptical of Thorne's involvement. Typically she seems to fair well playing the "mean girl" characters, who, like herself, are not immediately likeable. To her credit though, for the most part, Thorne gives a convincing performance as Paige and both actress and character are actually quite likeable in Famous in Love.
Enough about Paige though. One of the strengths of the show is that the ensemble are just as interesting, perhaps even more likeable, than our ingenue lead. In typical TV fashion, Paige is part of a trio of friends. They're like Buffy, Willow and Xander but less interesting or bad-ass! Her best friend, Cassandra Perkins (Georgie Flores) is a hyper, fellow actress-wannabe who encourages Paige to attend the open audition. Cass is the ultimate best friend, for now: she's supportive even when her own audition doesn't land her a callback and she genuinely is interested in helping Paige achieve her dreams. What kind of Marlene King show would this be without a secret or two though? Cass has a handsome secret named Brody, who calls her as Lacey. He's just "some rich dude from Beverly Hills who couldn't find his way home" though, right Cassandra? Well, think again. I wouldn't spoil what exact skeletons the sidekick female has in her closet, but it's pretty dramatic and (a little) scandalous. Moving on from Paige's BFF to her potential BF - the third amigo is Jake Salt, played by the dreamy Charlie DePew. Jake is one of my personal favourites. He may seem to be merely eye candy in the Pilot, but Jake has his own storyline and development in the coming episodes. He's a character I sympathise and relate to more than Paige (at throughout until the episodes I've already watched), and it doesn't hurt that he's attractive either. Will he end up with Paige though, that's what we should be asking? Jake certainly has some competition.
One such being Rainer Devon (Carter Jenkins). The Hollywood hunk is our main man. He's the inevitable love interest of Paige, with sparks almost flying out of the screen when the pair first lay eyes on each other. Rainer is really interesting as a character. He has a past of alcoholism and a heartbreaker reputation, but he's quite complex. His family is complicated and he's far from independent, constantly under the control of his mother. Rainer is a charmer, and combined with Jenkins' baby-face good looks, I suspect he'll be a hit with fans. He's not the only handsome competition for Jake though. Jordan Wilder (Keith Powers) is a far inferior character to Rainer within the Pilot, but give him a few episodes and you'll certainly be into this edgy rebel. Powers gives off that bad-boy vibe naturally, more so than Jenkins/Rainer for sure. Jordan is the get-whatever-he-wants type of guy, unafraid of consequences but equally as interesting as Rainer. The two males used to be best pals, but as the episode liked to constantly remind us, their friendship is currently in tatters. Whilst I enjoy the angst between the two guys, it all seemed a little petty. Let's hope some real fighting kicks off when Rainer discovers who Jordan is sleeping with...his mother!
Speaking of Nina Devon (the glamorous Perrey Reeves) she is one scary lady indeed. She's determined and feisty, particularly in regards to Locked and her son (probably in that order), and will do whatever it takes to get her own way. This bad-ass mom isn't afraid to throw a threat around either - you would not want to mess with Nina, especially as she has friends who "enjoy taking care of [her] problems", friends who "cut". No wonder Rainer is such a successful star - he has good looks, acting chops and has a powerful mother to open doors for him!
There's one more feisty lady who deserves a mention though: Alexis Glenn (Niki Koss). Underexposed in the Pilot, Alexis is the female Jordan in many respects (and kind of a young Nina). She's a tough cookie actress who vies for the role of August, though unfortunately loses out to Paige. Alexis is a little flirty, cunning and definitely someone you would not want to get on the wrong side of (so watch out Paige!). Like Rainer, Alexis has a past involving rehab. The pair were in the same facility together, though it's possible that Alexis' stay was merely for publicity (she assumes Rainer's was!). Rainer's drinking problem is mentioned at various times throughout the first episode, so here's to expecting a relapse later in the season - and with Alexis' out of favour position in Hollywood, I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up involved! The duo form an alliance, temporarily against Jordan with the goal in mind being that if Alexis can persuade him not the read for Locked, Rainer will ensure she gets the role of August. We all know how both those schemes turn out - Jordan does read for the movie and Alexis definitely does not get the role. It was inevitably going to fail as a scheme, merely a plot device by the show to cause some drama, though it was again, a little petty. Alexis does however show a strength of the show. Although clearly having a secret relationship with another woman, Famous in Love is not quick to label Alexis. The Pilot shows her connection with a female lover, but also sexual chemistry with Jordan. Alexis isn't fixed with a sexuality - we aren't really sure if she sleeps with Jordan for pleasure or with Rainer's scheme in mind. Personally I find it refreshing to have a character who is not so quickly or easily boxed into a sexuality. Quite a lot of shows make a point of being like 'this character is gay' as a defining introductory description, yet Famous in Love makes Alexis' sexuality somewhat of a subplot to her feisty, diva-like attitude.
Overall, Famous in Love is a pretty good show. Sure, the production value feels very FreeForm but if you tuned in then you likely expected it wasn't going to be groundbreaking or incredible viewing - it's something fun, easy to watch and entertaining. The cinematography isn't exactly Oscar winning standard but it works with this kind of teen show. I originally hoped this would somewhat fill the void that Pretty Little Liars will soon leave, but it's not as addictive. I binge watched half of the season in one night, and it was an enjoyable experience. It was something light-hearted and fun, but it isn't worthy of season seasons (though PLL hasn't been of late either!).
Let me know of your own thoughts in both the Poll and Comments section below. Thanks for reading this and I shall see you next week!