If Desmond Pfeiffer is this fall’s most despised new show, the WB’s teen drama Felicity is its most lavishly praised. For symmetry’s sake, I wish I hated it, but I’m just bemused to see such likable drool dressed in so much tactful, tasteful subtlety. The show has nuance like real teens have homework, but what it’s finding nuances in is mush—coming-of-age clichés that were chestnuts back when L.M. Montgomery wrote the Emily books, which were tougher-minded.
Having impulsively thrown over a premed berth at Stanford, Felicity (ultra hypeworthy Keri Russell, who’s cute as a whole button factory) is now making her tremulous freshman way at NYU—cunningly disguised as “UNY”—and hoping to become an Artist. Will she make it on her own? Not to worry: even her UNY guidance counselor gazes upon her as if he’s just met Joan of Arc. Her pals must have been briefed that the show’s named after our gal too, since the Boy (Scott Speedman) keeps apologizing for wronging her even when she’s at fault. This doting youth saga turns sensitivity into a speech impediment; when Felicity haltingly asked her dorm adviser, “You don’t have [gulp] feelings [pause] for me [blink], do you?” you wouldn’t have been surprised to see him with a beard down to his waist in the reaction shot. Instead, he answered just the same way.
The series is undeniably appealing, partly because the cast’s attractive and partly be cause sometimes treacle doesn’t taste so bad. But it’s the latest stage in TV’s fetishization of beautiful youth, and its swoony camerawork and poignant music stack the deck. One reason Dawson’s Creek is great is that Kevin Williamson doesn’t need to keep proving to kids he’s on their side