Premiere Date: July 8th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Finding Carter (Pilot, The Birds)
Starring: Kathryn Prescott, Cynthia Watros, Anna Jacoby-Heron, Alexis Denisof, Zac Pullam, Milena Govich
Where do you fit in if everything you knew, and everything you thought was true of your life wasn’t? If all of a sudden in a whim of a moment, you were told that the person who you thought was your mother, was in fact your kidnapper, and that you had another family, a real one, desperately waiting, worrying, agonising, and anticipating your return after 13 years of not knowing whether you were dead or alive?
This is the premise of the new MTV TV show Finding Carter, with the above rhetorical questions being experienced by the titular character, Carter Stevens. While I must admit that this is my first TV show review, I will try my best to showcase a glimpse into what I reckon is one of the most relevant, and possibly what will be one of the most critically acclaimed, new shows of this year’s June/July ‘summer’ TV show debut period. Acted flawlessly by Brit Kathryn Prescott (of U.K. TV show Skins fame); Carter’s world-shattering news that anchors the TV show is a moment from which the characters, situations, circumstances and drama all unfold as Finding Carter quickly becomes one of my favourite new television series of the year so far.
Without giving much away for those who may not have seen the first two episodes, Finding Carter brings the kidnapping secret front and centre almost straightaway into the double episode premiere. Straight after Carter and her teenage friends are arrested by the police for trespassing into an amusement park, Carter is told of her fate- that her mother is rather her kidnapper, her name is formerly Linden Wilson; and that her real parents would love to meet her. Now if I were told that news one day, if I were to discover- by no fault of my own- that my parents weren’t my parents; I’m not sure how I would react. Would I be angry, upset, mad, like Carter expresses in the show? Would I want to follow the authorities into the arms of my new family, or stay with the one I knew, even in the light of the shocking truth?
The dilemma of Carter’s is shown in a great way as Kathryn’s acting abilities shine through throughout the 82 minutes (2 hours with commercials). Coming home to media and press wanting to make a spectacle and circus over the reappearance of Carter in the lives of the Wilson’s; we meet a tense family reunion, with Carter introduced to her twin sister Taylor (Anna Jacoby-Heron), and her younger brother Grant (Zac Pullam), or what he is often referred to in the episode, the ‘replacement brother’.
It is from then on that we see the struggle this unique family has as they adjust to having Carter (yes, Carter herself insists to be called Carter, despite the attempts of her ‘real’ parents to call her by her birth name Linden) back in their lives. From her biological mother’s attempts to have Carter followed due to mistrust, to her little brother executing a desperate attempt to encourage Carter to stay with the family instead of running away and finding her ‘mother’; this is a premiere episode worth watching if you are a fan of teen drama and family orientated shows, like Switched at Birth, One Tree Hill or Parenthood.
With regards to acting, the show shines in almost every department. Kathryn Prescott does a great job in her acting as Carter- even I couldn’t even tell that Kathryn was British when I watched the episode (I haven’t seen Skins, but I may check out the trailer later on after seeing Kathryn’s performance in this MTV show). At times I felt that Cynthia Watros’s mannerisms as the biological mother, and her acting time with others throughout the episode, were a little forced. Maybe that was intentional in the episodes as we hear a very intense, honest, and truthful explanation in the pilot episode, from Carter to her mother, that ‘…You’re stiff. You’re humourless. You’re a control freak. You operate from this place of fear. My mom used to tell me every day that she loved me, and I haven’t heard you say it once, not to any member of your family…’
While I felt that that particular comment by Carter to her biological mother was harsh, even though it was coming from a real, emotive and maybe even honest place (because honestly, who wants their child to say to them that they don’t say ‘I love you’ to their kids enough?); the show nevertheless gives a down to earth and relatable portrayal about the aftermath of a kidnapping, and one that, in my opinion, accurately predicts how any parent would feel if their child’s fate was unknown after a kidnapping (and suddenly became known).
Yet despite my reservations for the acting of Cynthia, the supporting characters made up for the lack and then some, with major kudos towards Alex Saxon (of The Fosters fame) with his portrayal of Carter’s ex, Max. The inclusion of Alex in the cast made Finding Carter feel like an ABC Family drama, which is not a bad thing. Considering that Finding Carter doesn’t feel like an MTV fit, it is great to see something unique, and different on a channel primarily famous for their video hits- and more recently Awkward and Teen Wolf.
Overall, the 2 hour episode left me with much more intrigue, interest and genuine excitement for myself than how I felt going into the episode- not knowing much, if anything, about the show. Will the show survive at 10pm on Tuesdays moving forward? It depends. With shows like FX’s Tyrant, TNT’s Perception, NBC’s The Night Shift and USA Network’s Covert Affairs as the show’s ‘summer’ competition, it’ll only be a few weeks in where it’ll be decided whether the show is a hit or not (usually, pilot episodes have way more viewers than subsequent episodes).
Should you watch the show, regardless of viewers? Like I said before, Finding Carter will definitely be a more appropriate fit on ABC Family, with the show likened to other family drama shows currently on the network like The Fosters and Switched at Birth. I would definitely recommend the show to anyone who loves a bit of drama, or would want something unique and fresh, compared to what else is on offer on MTV. While the subject matter of fitting in a new family after finding out the one you were used to was a result of a kidnapping can seem like a dull, despondent and heavy premise; Kathryn’s acting and the heartfelt and real moments in the two starting episodes makes the show compelling enough to want to keep watching.
Did Finding Carter leave a lasting impression on you? Which theme in the first two episodes spoke to you the most? What elements of the show remind you of something in your everyday life that you may not have paid much attention to prior to watching? Let us know in the comments.
RIYL: Parenthood, The Fosters, Switched at Birth, One Tree Hill
Rating: 4/5 (based on 2 episodes)
Finding Carter airs every Tuesday at 10/9c on MTV.