I tuned into the premiere of Finding Carter a few minutes early and I caught the final minute or so of its lead in, the since cancelled, After Degrassi. One of its hosts said if you like Degrassi you’ll love Finding Carter. In retrospect, I should’ve taken that as an omen that Finding Carter wouldn’t quite be for me (if airing on MTV wasn’t a clue enough).
Finding Carter opens with Carter and her supposed mother arguing amongst themselves at a frozen yogurt bar that romantic comedies are predictable and you can anticipate what’s going to happen—implying they’re kind of tedious and boring. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a joke because if you know anything about Finding Carter, you know it’s about Carter’s life being turned upside down after she learns her mother isn’t really her mom as Carter was abducted when she was three. (Oh, by the way, I’m going to refer to Carter’s abductor as Carter’s mother for simplicity’s sake, because Carter refers to her as her mom on the show.) So, to have them say romantic comedies are essentially boring and tedious because you know what’s going to happen is a bit ridiculous when the show opens with a boring scene where it wastes your time before it gets to what you know is going to happen. It’s aggravating, kinda like how you probably feel about the paragraph you’re reading right now. You already know the show is dreadful and this paragraph barely tells you anything about why it’s awful. However, it’s all foreshadowing as frozen yogurt does become important later on, and not just because it’s frozen yogurt.
Anyway, after that scene Finding Carter dances around getting to the point of the show for another minute or two with the following scene where Carter breaks into an amusement park with a few friends only to be arrested by the police. If the dialogue before didn’t disappoint you, this is when it might. Carter says airhead things like, “Oh, come on, we’re just kids having some harmless fun,” and other lines that felt like they were lifted from a Disney/Family Channel show. Things like “Don’t worry, they won’t charge us, they’ll all let us off with a warning.” Much like Disney/Family channel shows you could tell by that line that she’s not getting out of there anytime soon. The show is peppered with some terrible dialogue throughout. Other classic lines include, “Let’s be friends, but add the benefits,” “Holy crap, you must be majorly freaked out” and “As a wise man once said, ‘Science, yo.’”
However, it gets worse, much worse. As the show progresses the entire plot starts to crumble. For example, we learn the police are holding Carter at the station because somehow, out of the blue, they figure out she was abducted. That doesn’t make much sense, now, does it? Why is she learning this now, of all times and of all places? That isn’t explicitly answered, but of course, the show moves on and becomes even more illogical.
Carter’s actual parents arrive at the police station and upon learning a wee bit more about the abduction, they not only know who abducted her, but were also able to recite some things the abductor said to them before Carter disappeared over ten years ago. So, if you knew that for all these years why didn’t you realize she might have had your daughter before? It’s a bit ridiculous and if that wasn’t enough, later on in the show it was revealed Carter only lived two hours away from her real family. She lived completely in plain sight, while her birth mother, Elizabeth, was a cop. Like this show is beyond unbelievable, it’s preposterous.
Not that Finding Carter seems to care much about logic. In the scene where Carter is driven home by her birth parents, you can see the little nub that locks the door changes virtually every time the camera goes back to Carter. I even spotted another continuity error in the second hour of the premiere.
After meeting the family and demanding they call her Carter, opposed to her birth name Lyndon Wilson, we get the show’s name shoehorned in the dialogue. In the series, Finding Carter is a suggested book title about Carter’s life story so far and a play off the previous book on her Losing Linden. As her dad is a struggling writer, the book seems like a sure-fire way to get the family out of debt, but he feels conflicted about trying to cash-in on the story. Carter then asks to take the family car and actually gets to drive if because if a teenager you haven’t seen in over ten years asks to drive your car alone, you oblige—common sense people.
She then drives back to her old town (which, if you remember is two hours away) and a guy she’s with notices someone watching them from a car rear view mirror. Somehow, he notices this by just turning around for about a second, despite the car being pretty far away. That freaks them out, which doesn’t make sense again because if you turn around for a second to notice someone looking into their rear view mirror wouldn’t it be remarkably paranoid to think you’re being watched?
The weird thing is, even if that makes sense, Carter doesn’t seem to immediately suspect her mom might have sent someone out to spy on her. Like I said earlier, everyone lets random teenagers they never met take their car for a spin, and everyone who suddenly learns their mom is a cop knows they’re not going to watch over you like a hawk. Anyway, Carter tells Elizabeth she thinks someone was following her, throwing some shade, possibly implying that she might have had someone spy on her.
Anyway, despite being weirded out by the stalker, she goes to a party with her newly found twin sister. Her sister is made out to be a loser for having a normal life and not drinking underage or eating pot brownies before, both of which she supposedly did at this party. Also, the two don’t exactly lookalike for twins, where’s Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black when you need her?
Carter and her sister ride home with a guy, and you think Elizabeth would be more angry at the guy driving home one of her daughters drunk and high to the point where she could barely stand up or even just the thought of a guy driving her daughters home late at night. Instead, she gets in an argument with Carter, and Carter blows up at her saying she never told her or the rest of the family she loved them. It nearly makes Elizabeth cry, but when Carter talks to her oddball brother, she learns a bit about why Elizabeth is the way she is—uptight or whatever, however, that doesn’t change much between her and Elizabeth.
I’d go on about the first hour of Finding Carter, but truth is it just keeps digging itself into a hole. It becomes even more illogical and Carter becomes even less likable. For example, Carter simply talks herself into a job at a frozen yogurt shop by just saying she’s coming in for work the next day. If life was really like that we’d all be the prime minister of Canada. The job, however, is mostly taking selfies with random people.
Quite possibly the biggest slap to the face when it comes to logic is when Carter’s mother shows up at the frozen yogurt shop to buy some yogurt complete with a shit ton of gummy bears. The gummy bears are there because Carter’s mom said in the opening scene that if they are ever separated, she would meet her near the biggest tub of gummy bears. (See, that opening scene turned out to be important later on.) The weird thing is that no one notices she’s Carter’s mother as she’s disguised as Julie Andrews. While somehow everyone is miraculously is unaware of her mom wandering about, Carter isn’t as oblivious to everything going on and realizes the police are after her mother. Carter hatches a plan on the spot and takes her mother in the back room (somehow without any of the other staff objecting) to make her dress up as a staff member serving samples with a simple apron and visor. Carter sends her mother back out and she walks right past the police out the door. The idiocy in this show is enraging. It took everything in me not to fling my TV out the window right then and there.
How didn’t the police recognize Carter’s mom when there were so many of them who know exactly what she looks like? How didn’t anyone else recognize her from the news? Even if no one else recognized her, how did the other staff members just allow someone they didn’t know walk out the door wearing their apron and cap? How did she even get samples of frozen yogurt so quickly? Did they just have stale frozen yogurt standing around in the back room? It just all wreaks of stupidity, like for real, how dumb can you get, but, really, I shouldn’t be surprised, this is MTV.
There’s a few twists at the end of the episode, ones I think could turn out to be a big deal later on, but, does it redeem that most of the rest of the show is illogical? Not by a long shot, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
The show’s stupidity snowballs even further in the second hour of the premiere and, yes, Carter is even worse. This time she fakes a panic attack to get out of school and comes across a pool where bets are placed on when her mom would be arrested. Although she gets angry at Elizabeth for going after her mother, because she stole him from her, Carter doesn’t get angry at the guy behind the pool and in fact she becomes friends with him. She also casually mentions she got fired from the frozen yogurt shop and brought a foam middle finger home to take to family therapy. Of course, a shitstorm erupts over the foam finger because her birth mother, Elizabeth, constantly acts as if she has a stick up her ass.
By halfway through the second hour Carter becomes deplorable and by then you may have more sympathy for the devil than for the supposed protagonist. Carter and her buddies hatch a plan to make it look as if her mom is texting her and Elizabeth goes to the mall food court the texts seem to suggest the two should be meeting at. Of course, Carter’s mom isn’t there, but somehow Carter and company arrange a swarm of people to stick up big foam middle fingers at her.
Again, how did the police not suspect the messages might have been fake? What proof did they have that the messages were coming from her mother aside from a hunch? How didn’t they notice all those huge foam fingers when walking into the food court? It’s just all so stupid. Elizabeth looks so crushed at the food court and Carter thinks the footage is a riot. You’d likely feel sorry for Elizabeth if she wasn’t so stupid.
Also, I don’t understand why Carter and Elizabeth make no effort to get on the same level regarding Carter’s mother. Elizabeth wants to go after her mother because, you know, she stole her kid, but Carter still loves her because she raised her well. Couldn’t they talk it out and try to understand what each other is feeling? Carter shows no understanding of the psychological trauma of someone stealing your child and is angry that Elizabeth doesn’t understand the bond she had with her mother. Carter’s selfish and just a plain asshole by driving daggers into the family by making them call her by the name given to her by her abductor, speaking well of someone who stole her from them and could have very well killed her and then wants them to just accept that. Like what the fuck?
Well, if she’s that messed up it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Carter gets really pissed and plots revenge once she thinks Elizabeth took the backpack that she set aside to run away. She’s then given molly by her friends as they think it’s better for her to make herself happy, instead of trying to make her mother miserable. Great…telling kids molly makes you feel really happy when you’re down—good job MTV. Carter then gets high out of her mind and suffers a seizure, just when her sister chastises her for taking the drugs. Not that what her sister says has weight as she drank a lot and possibly ate some pot brownies in the first hour. Carter is then hospitalized and when she wakes up from her coma, her family members are all there grateful she’s alive for the most part.
Then her little brother reveals to her that he took her backpack, as he was afraid of losing her. He returns it, saying he wants her to be happy and go wherever would make her feel that way. Despite having the situation make her turn to drugs and the drugs landed her in hospital, she isn’t mad because no one on this show could do her any wrong except Elizabeth. Carter gives him a hug because understanding that someone knows what you feel like is much more important than your life if you’re a teenager. Spoiler alert (as if the entire review up until this point wasn’t a gigantic spoiler): She obviously doesn’t leave, as the teasers for the upcoming episodes suggest.
Finding Carter is completely asinine. It feels like it’s trying to go for Switched at Birth meets the Carlina White story, but it just completely misfired because it appears there wasn’t any significant thought of how to blend the two in a way that makes sense. If this was Switched at Birth you could understand why someone would want to live with the family they spent most of their life with because no one did anything wrong, but here Carter was abducted and supposedly brainwashed. The person who was her mother not only lied to her, but hurt her family by stealing her. You should want to go back to your real family after that, why would you want to live with your abductor? However, offsetting the absolute stupidity in the series is that it still manages to tug at your heartstrings, it’s well acted most of the time considering the content and it’s shot very well. It’s just enough to save the series from being completely unwatchable.
However, much like other MTV shows, Finding Carter is a bad influence for teens, which I think is its core audience, but with the subject matter I’m not too sure. Carter is an asshole, who only cares about herself and the show glorifies drugs. There isn’t much sex in the show compared to other MTV shows though. There’s a bit of googly eyes between the girls and boys, a kiss, but that’s about it.
Side note: It looks like the debut of Finding Carter was simulcast from the American MTV as it kept pointing out the tracks playing in the background as if it’s enough to make up for not playing music videos. I assume it was a simulcast because the show constantly throws you to findingcartermusic.mtv.com instead of a .ca address. So we get the annoying things from when MTV used to air music videos like only hearing a snippet of the song and MTV randomly throwing things on the screen, but not the music video itself. I mean, do we really need to know that’s “Fancy” playing in the background? Half of the radio stations in town have been playing it nearly every hour on the hour for the past month. Hell, “Fancy” has been the number one song for six weeks.
Since the MTV brand was originally known for music and MTV Canada technically can’t air music videos because of its licence, they throw clips of music videos in commercial breaks instead, which is a perfectly good waste of advertising real estate. Music videos instead of ads may seem good in the short-term, but when you remember Bell Media just fired a bunch of people (including some on-air staff) and axed Movie Night, 1 Girl 5 Gays, After Degrassi, MTV News, Losing It, Video on Trial, The Wedge, Today’s Top 10s, Kevin Newman Live and probably more, I’d rather have an ad opposed to a 30 second music video clip if it means more programming. Maybe Bell Media is monetizing those music video clips by charging the record companies to run them during the commercial breaks, but I doubt it because the clips look like house ads to get you to watch them on the MTV website.
I don’t know why MTV, Much and M3 decided to abandon music videos and run garbage like Finding Carter instead. Perhaps they were worried people would tune in and out between music videos. Sure, you can watch any music video you want online, but watching them on the big screen with some other ones you wouldn’t have bothered to click on is still an experience in itself. Now we’re left with idiotic, lowest common denominator reality shows, raunchy comedies (like Faking it which I reviewed earlier) and brain-dead dramas like Finding Carter. You can throw legends like Meredith Baxter in the show (a.k.a. the mom from that show my parents used to watch reruns of when I was a kid for most of their audience) and hype it all you want, but that can’t save it from being complete and utter garbage.
Episode reviewed: Pilot; The Birds
Finding Carter airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV
(Featured image screenshot via mtv.ca)