Erica Dasher shines a young woman leading two bland lives
I like to praise ABC Family for having one of the clearest brand identities of any network -- broadcast or cable -- particularly when it comes to dramas.
That doesn't mean, though, that all ABC Family dramas are identical. In fact, they fit into a few easily identifiable categories.
"Melrose Place" with Training Wheels: Teenage girls (and random adults on my Twitter feed) love a trashy primetime soap, even if ABC Family's sure to put a cap on the depicted violence or sexuality. This category obviously includes "Pretty Little Liars" and "The Lying Game," so basically anything relating to teenage mendacity.
Extended After-School Specials: Let's not forget the *family* in ABC Family and let's not forget that it's important to have programming that kids can watch with their parents and maybe learn a lesson. This kind of good-for-you development can yield preachy messes like "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," but it needn't necessarily be a bad thing. If handled right, this category can also include thoughtful, sensitive shows like "Switched at Birth."
Convolutedly Aspirational: "Make It or Break It" is ABC Family's surviving offering in this genre, but it's probably also where "The 9 Lives of Chloe King" -- I still want resolution from that finale! -- and "Greek" might have fallen, assuming your aspirations could expand to include becoming a teenage superhero or a law student.
ABC Family's newest drama series, "Jane By Design" fits squarely into the Convolutedly Aspirational category, since it's not especially soapy and I don't know that watching it is going to teach people anything.
"Jane By Design" is inoffensive and after watching two episodes, I didn't feel the sort of annoyance that I get from two minutes of "American Teenager" or from the full season of "Pretty Little Liars" that I stuck with before quitting. But it falls short of that bar that ABC Family shows clearly strive for, which is "Can we provide enough depth and sustenance to give Dan a reason to watch, even though he couldn't possibly be less in our target demographic?" The answer there is "No." "Jane By Design" is the story of a teenage girl who's living two lives, but since neither of those two lives is especially interesting or original, I think I'll politely check out, albeit without any animosity.
More after the break...