Quarterlife: Angst 2.0

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Sure, My So-Called Life was cheesy, but as a 14-year-old, I bought the sixteenth best cult show ever hook line and sinker. I swooned over dreamy Jordan Catalano. Rayanne “I Wear My Slip on the Outside” Graff was my grunge fashion inspiration. When Angela Chase observed, “My parents keep asking how school was. It’s like saying, ‘How was that drive-by shooting?’ You don’t care how it was, you’re lucky to get out alive,” I thought, How true.

So when I heard that the new web series Quarterlife was produced by MSCL masterminds Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, I hoped it would be just like old times. The problem was, it is.

The premise of the show is familiar enough TV territory: Twentysomethings share house, drama, shenanigans (see Three’s Company, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, for starters). In each 8-minute episode, the gang does all the things that we’ve expected modern singles to do ever since, well, Singles: They flop onto their unmade beds. They leave empty beer bottles around their kitchens. They wonder whether to move in with their girlfriends and boyfriends.

The bummer is this:

Via snippets of her vlog (also called Quarterlife), we’re given a glimpse into the annoying inner life of protagonist Dylan, who, it seems, has it rough. She wants to be “living the life of a writer,” but instead is forced to work at a shallow women’s magazine. Her coworker steals her ideas. And to top it all off, her roommates are prettier and more charming than she. Dylan “often cries for no reason” and is the only one who Really Gets It. “It’s my curse that I can see what people are thinking,” she irritatingly muses. “And what good does that do me if nobody can see me?”

Angela Chase, is that you, trapped inside the body of a 25-year-old? To be fair, I’m not sure how old Dylan is supposed to be, but ostensibly she’s well beyond the throes of adolescence. On teenagers, wanna-be deep/painfully self-conscious is expected, and even charming. On adults, it’s insufferable. But the narcissism doesn’t stop there: When a roommate figures out that Dylan’s been vlogging about her, she gets pissed (“You put my face all over the frickin’ net!”). Dylan’s response? “Things just come out of me. I’m a writer!”

If all this cringeworthy earnestness weren’t bad enough on its own, the producers had the audacity to take it beyond the confines of the series itself. See, Quarterlife isn’t just a show. It’s also a web community for “artists, thinkers and doers.” There’s a social networking area, forums, and a regular advice column about “twenty- and thirty-something life.” From a recent column:

The quarterlife can be a confusing time of contradictions, in which you’re pulled in various directions. It can be:

a time of creativity because the world is your blank canvas, with infinite possibilities.
a time of paralysis because the world is your blank canvas, with an intimidating number of possibilities.

an age at which you’re expected to make important life decisions.
an age at which you feel like you haven’t lived enough to make important life decisions (kind of like the experience Catch-22: employers say they want someone with “experience,” but in order to get experience you have to get hired in the first place).

Ewww! It’s like the What’s Happening to My Body Book for Twentysomethings. And don’t even get me started on the cloying lack of capitalization.

Next time I want to indulge in My So-Called Life nostalgia, I’ll stick to my friend’s box set, thanks.

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