Sons and lovers 

It's an intriguing question, one certain to evoke vivid remembrances and intense emotions: If you could, and you both were currently unattached, would you want to rekindle relations with your "first love"?

I posed the question on my Facebook page last week and, perhaps not surprisingly, the response was an overwhelming "Great googly moogly, no!" "After seeing her a few years ago," one buddy posted, "I don't think so." It should be interesting, then, to see where the audience will come from for the new reality series First Love, Second Chance, premiering at 10 tonight on TV Land.

When they're not filling their schedule with old shows, TV Land appears bent on resurrecting old memories. On the heels of its popular High School Reunion series, which just wrapped its third season, comes this new six-week original companion piece with a premise you probably can figure out without my explanation.

A show like this rises or falls on the individuals featured and their backstories, so tonight's opener, while impressive in its geography, may not be the best possible first case for First Love. We meet Garry, an Australian exchange student at age 17 who had a forbidden romance with his host family's drop-dead blonde daughter, Star Lynn. (Really, should you get involved with any girl named Star?) "I couldn't believe I'd be living in the same house as her," Garry recalls, teen lust drifting back into his 46-year-old eyes. Her parents caught them playfully fooling around and kicked Garry out of their house. Now, nearly 30 years later, each of them flies halfway around the world to see if they can pick up where they abruptly left off.

The setup is each person spends a week in the other's environment, using video "nighttime diaries" so we can learn what they're "really thinking," gets grilled and insulted by the other's friends, then decides at the end of the experience whether they want to pursue love again as a couple. I don't like the fact this Big Decision is delivered through online videos on laptop computers, as if they don't have the guts to face each other in person.

Garry has a child from a previous relationship. Star Lynn has five. After sweeping each other off their feet in Sydney with a sumptuous dinner, a walk along the beach and a day at a koala petting zoo, Garry treks stateside to be told by Star Lynn that an ex-boyfriend lives with her to defray expenses and "I hope it won't be too awkward." What, she didn't think to mention this in Australia? This is where you need to remember how much your TV costs as you start to hurl your remote toward the screen.

A far more pleasing and endearing encounter takes place next week when Pam, the "perfect Jersey girl" (as in Jersey Shore?), re-hooks with her beau of 12 years past, Chris. Recognizing he had a drinking problem, Chris left New Jersey to live with a friend in Miami Beach and turned his life around, working as a "beach supervisor" (read: cabana boy) while building his recovery. "Can I at least call you cabana man?" Pam asks. Will Chris' menial position and lack of life stability be the deal breakers that keep them apart?

First Love Second Chance is not great reality TV. It's too stilted and predictable ("I can't believe I'm flying to see him," she says; "I can't believe I'm flying to see her," he says.) and even The Amazing Race has more pure romantic élan. But those thrilling first moments of reuniting, the awkward first kisses and the looks that say a person is not being seen as they are, but as they were decades ago, are touching, relatable, and feel rejuvenating and genuine. Beats the heck out of Roseanne reruns.


Desert 'Sons'?:
What is it about round, bearded, smart-alecky comic actors these days? To the ranks of Jack Black and Zach Galifianakis we now should add Ontario native Tyler Labine, who cranks his wisecracking slacker character on the CW series Reaper into hyperdrive as lead schmuck of the new sitcom Sons of Tucson, premiering at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on FOX (Channel 2 in Detroit).

Labine plays Ron Snuffkin, a lovable loser who's living in his car and barely making it as a sporting-goods clerk when he's recruited by three young Jersey brothers (as in Jersey Shore?) who've arrived at their family's Tucson vacation home and need a fake dad so they can enroll in school and avoid foster care to remain together. (Their dad's in prison for a rich-guy crime; mom's a nonentity.) This is every inch a FOX comedy, crude, twisted and in your face. You'll remember little Benjamin Stockham, who plays baby brother Robby as Family Guy's Stewie in the flesh, and you'll be embarrassed by how much you laugh.

Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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