I have a thing for teen dramas and comedies. I got hooked on “Awkward” when it came out and found/find it to be extremely entertaining — although the show could be called “My Four Year Obsession…With Matty McKibben.” Okay, maybe that’s not a very good title, but when “Finding Carter” came out earlier this year on MTV, it seemed like an interesting premise: A teenage girl finds out the person she thought is her mother actually abducted her as a small child. She get reunited with her biological family and finds that she would rather have her old life back. That’s the set-up, but of course since it’s a teen drama, you must have shifting emotional ties, drug use, casual sex, parents who lie, a “shocker” plot twist, and all the other conflicts that keep dramas, well, dramas.
After finishing the first season last night, I came away feeling like the show went south pretty fast. Part of the reason is the protagonist (Carter) isn’t a very sympathetic character. She’s self-centered, overly confident, and sometimes floats around situations with an insouciance that’s really annoying. She only gets riled up when something is about her — which it often is. Carter has a twin sister (Taylor) who, to me, is the one character on the show who sees through Carter’s selfishness and calls her out on it. Carter also has a brother (Grant) who wants to connect with her, and does on some level, but kind of goes through life as the red-headed step child; the “replacement kid” who was conceived a few years after Carter’s abduction. Both Taylor and Grant are more interesting characters because while Carter tends to suck all the oxygen out of the room with her drama, her siblings watch from the sidelines knowing what a drama queen she is as their parents obsess about her, want to have a relationship with her, and coddle her with material things. In medical journals, this behavior is called the “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! Syndrome”
Both the mom and dad have kind of stock backgrounds: they were once in love, but grew apart. The mom is having an affair, the dad knows and get filled with resentment. The mom is a detective and the dad is a writer who wrote a best seller about Carter’s abduction. Their relationship is on the rocks, and it probably would have ended if Carter did not come back into their life. The family is in debt, but only the dad knows how much ($500,000). Tell, me what writer of the dad’s stature gets a $500,000 “advance” and has to pay it back? Isn’t that a loan? And then there are the names of Carter’s friends she makes at her new school: Ofe, Bird, and Crash (who is not a student at her school, but knows the other two). First off, just the names of the friends is enough to say “Oh, please. Can we just give characters names that aren’t stupid?” But, it’s MTV and they want to create memorable names for kids who were born in the mid-90s. I have a kid who was born in the mid-90s and as far as I know, none of her friends have dumb names (or even nicknames) like Carter’s friends. But that’s a small quibble (that sounds like a big one, I know). However, given all the bloviating I just did, here’s where the show came off the rails: the season finale saw most of the main characters act, to quote Cypress Hill, like they “got no brain.”
The “building all season” drama centers on Abductor Mom trying to get Carter back. Turns out Abductor Mom has been stalking the parents years before Carter and Taylor were born, which causes Carter’s affections for Abductor Mom to wane. Biological Mom (aka “The cop”) falls for Abductor Mom’s ruse that she’s a counselor from the city who wants to talk to Carter about the aftermath of a shooting she saw and allows her to meet with Carter at their home for a little one-on-one dialogue. Of course, Carter is home alone when Abductor Mom comes by, but all Abductor Mom can fret about is whether Carter likes her biological family more than her (there’s some hinting that she’s going to tell Carter “the truth” about why she took her, but she quickly fell back into brooding about if Carter likes her biological family more). After their meeting, the dad comes home and asks Carter about her day. Carter tells him that Abductor Mom came by. He freaks out a little. Cut to a “later in the day” scene with Carter and Biological Mom. They are talking about the counselor, but Carter fails to tell her that the so-called counselor is Abductor Mom. Okay, so Carter wants to keep that little tidbit of info to herself. Does the dad tell Biological Mom that Abductor Mom was in their house? Nope. Instead, Biological Mom agrees to meet Abductor Mom in a public place thinking that she’s meeting the counselor to talk about Carter’s emotional well-being in the aftermath of the shooting. Well, by the time the meeting takes place, Biological Mom is in the loop and knows she’s been played. She stations a bunch of undercover cops around the place, and tells Carter to go to a coffee shop and wait there. Carter does as she’s told (a rarity in the show) and Biological Mom waits for Abductor Mom to show her crazy face. Carter is sitting in the coffee shop when a guy puts a cup of…something in front of her (could be coffee, could be tea). Carter says: “I didn’t order this” and coffee shop guy says, “Oh, it’s from your mom.” Carter knows there’s a dragnet being set up, but never wonders: “Gee, how can mom order me a drink when she’s not even here. She’s out there trying to capture my Abductor Mom.” Has this girl never heard of a roofie? Biological Mom is a cop, right? She’s supposed to know how the criminal mind works — especially the mind of the woman who abducted her child 13 years ago. She’s got cops stationed all over the place, EXCEPT THE ONE PLACE WHERE HER DAUGHTER IS ALONE.
Well, I think you know where this going. Abductor Mom isn’t stupid, but everyone else is. Carter is drugged by Abductor Mom who put “something” in her drink and re-abducts her. Biological Mom realizes “something’s wrong” and goes to the coffee shop to find Carter, but is informed that “She left with her mom.” Hahaha Biological Mom. You’re an idiot, and a lousy cop. Oh, and you lost your kid…again.
When charters in shows suddenly act uncharacteristically, you know the writers aren’t sticking to the rules they created for their charters. Instead, the creators of “Finding Carter” did what worked for “Melrose Place” all those years ago: when all else fails, crank up the crazy.