My brother finally decided to watch this show and once he got going, tore through all three seasons one after the other. He conceded it had a rough start but insisted it was much better than I had allowed. Based on his reaction, I decided to at least watch to the end of the first season.
And what do I think now that I have?
The show does get better and seems to be trying to cut loose its original framing and replace it with something new. This is most obvious in the move away from the idiotic book-as-motivation that drove the plot early on. There is also a move toward a longer-term and more complex cross-episode narrative arc. As part of this the sister and the mother have receded a bit into storylines that make more sense than those they started with. The ex-girlfriend plot line can’t disappear but seems to be shifting toward less annoying ground. (The death of the best friend in the final episode helps with that.) Most importantly, with Felicity, the show has found its first genuinely likable (even if stereotyped) character. At last.
There are still things to dislike. The show is written in large part for a tween/teen audience and this results in painfully stilted posturing in the relentlessly central romantic relationships. When characters talk to each other romantically, they say what I imagine a teenager might imagine an adult saying or doing at that moment, and it kinda makes me nuts.
I’m also not a huge fan of the through-the-roof machismo. I take it as an attempt to disavow the way shirtless male bodies are subject to an eroticized gaze in every single episode. (Exhibit A: the chiaroscuro pecs and abs in the series poster.) Still, it’s pretty off-putting.
So what now? Well, I suppose that, despite my reservations, I’d be willing to watch the beginning of the next season just to see how the reinvention that is clearly under way proceeds.