Review: Freeform misses the mark with 'Famous in Love'

Cast members of Freeform's newest series, "Famous in Love".  (Famous in Love/Facebook)

Cast members of Freeform's newest series, "Famous in Love".  (Famous in Love/Facebook)

Clearly meant to be binge-watched, as the entire first season was released at once on Freeform.com, “Famous in Love” has no distinguishing qualities that would make anyone want to do so. Starring Bella Thorne, Carter Jenkins, Charlie DePew, Georgie Flores, Niki Koss, Keith Powers and Katelyn Tarver, the show is nothing more than mediocre with these former Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stars. “Pretty Little Liars” producer, I. Marlene King, seems to have dropped the ball with this book-to-television adaptation.

The show opens with a shot of Paige Townsen (Thorne) being hounded by paparazzi on a red carpet, clearly already having had her shot to fame. But then it rewinds to a year prior, when her and two roommates were living as college students/starving artists in Hollywood. As audiences see persuasive roommate Cassandra Perkins (Flores) convince Townsen to go to an open casting call for the lead role in the next huge book turned film franchise “Locked,” the plot becomes immediately predictable from there. Thorne plays an unconvincing ingénue. For someone who’s just had her big break with no acting experience whatsoever, she seems immediately at ease kissing celebrities at auditions and being whisked away to elite parties.

The boy who does the whisking? None other than the brooding bad boy and teen heart-throb, Rainer Devon (Jenkins). His mother is a famous producer and we learn right away that Devon struggled with alcohol and went to rehab, sleeps around and got in a physical altercation with another teen star, Jordan Turner (Powers). Regardless, he and Townsen have a love-at-first-sight chemistry from episode one, creating a bit of a love triangle between them and Townsen’s attractive roommate, Jake (DePew).

All of the drama in the show is incredibly naive and innocent, perhaps intentionally, as an attempt to mock Hollywood’s young elite, but likely because Freeform was targeting younger audiences with “Famous in Love.” Admittedly, I did not watch the entire season because finals week is coming up and if I’m going to be wasting 10 hours of my life, it won’t be on lackluster television, but of what I did see, there was none of the murder, kidnapping, or other dark elements so common in Freeform’s recent shows.

The clichéd California playlist and literal inclusion of stereotypical Hollywood images (palm trees, Walk of Fame, the sign) between scenes made the entire show seem like a low budget Nickelodeon show circa 2008.

Thorne appears to be making no efforts to actually act, instead just playing herself.  Aside from the fact that she was never a normal college student and grew up in the spotlight, the character doesn’t stray far from Thorne’s fashion sense or sense of humor. She tried so hard to play the unsuspecting average girl thrown into fame that it had the opposite effect. It ends up producing an annoying, awkward and uncomfortable character instead of a quirky, relatable one as intended. During the second episode, Townsen is trying on dresses for an industry party and comes out looking exactly as she has throughout the whole show, but naturally the rest of the characters were floored.

The cast isn’t very diverse. The one attempt at inclusivity was mean girl Alexis Glen (Koss) having relationships with multiple other starlets.

The writing is pretty terrible, with very little humor and again, predictable plot twists.

Maybe the most dramatic part of the show was the overinvolved momager/producer, who seemed to have a few enemies of her own and a twisted romance with her son’s friend. But actress Perrey Reeves isn’t very convincing as the villain. The whole show is riddled with very lame lines about finding fame, chasing your dreams and finding yourself, too.

“I would love to deal with women getting paid less, women being treated not as well on set, etc.,” Thorne said. “I would like to get into that a little bit more if we could. I think that’s a really good subject to get out there, and the more people take notice and become aware of it, the more things change in the world.”

While I don’t believe this show will be tackling any such issues any time soon, Thorne can dream. A second season has not yet been confirmed. For now, the entire first season of “Famous in Love” can be found On Demand or here, http://freeform.go.com/shows/famous-in-love/episodes/season-1, on Freeform’s website.


Julia Mancini is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.mancini@uconn.edu.