While watching the CW's new (and not bad) Life Unexpected we realized we never want to see another answering machine on screen ever again. Here are some other lazy storytelling devices that modern life has deemed irrelevant.
Life Unexpected is a tale about a teenager named Lux who has been bounced around the foster care system her whole life and, on the eve of her 16th birthday, she goes to get signatures from her birth parents—Nate and Kate—so that she can emancipate herself. Of course a judge orders her back into the custody of her newly-discovered bio parents and a series is born! The acting was good and the premise unique, but the plot was so outmoded that we should have been watching this thing at a Nickelodeon at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis after a rousing rendition of "The Trolley Song." We're not the first to say it, but here are some of the crippling devices:
The Answering Machine: Lux tracks down dad Nate, but can't find her mom. Somehow, dad has her number and gives her a call. The phone rings as she is accepting a proposal from her boyfriend. As they make out, we hear the machine pick up and it's Nate's voice and Kate has some 'splainin' to do. Alright, who out there besides my parents still has an actual answering machine that does this? And why does this young, hip lady even have a land line in the first place? Does she also have dial-up AOL service and needs it to connect to the World Wide Web? Even Carrie Bradshaw's answering machine seemed silly, but now it's just stupid.
Technological Fix: Kate accepts fiance's proposal and her iPhone is sitting on the table. It buzzes and they both look over. On the display is a text message, "Unknown Caller: Kate, our daughter is in my bar. We need to talk." They both see it. Done!
Radio: Kate and her fiancee are morning drive-time shock jocks and Lux, before she knows that Kate is her mother, rapturously listens to the radio show every morning! Please, what teenager bothers with something as analog as radio? The only way she would have heard Kate is if Kate had her own Pandora station or podcast (and even those are so "aughts"). Also, being a radio show host is no longer a glamorous job and we might not even have disc jockeys by 2020. Other jobs that TV writers love that are on their way out: well-to-do newspaper columnists, high-flying magazine editors, cute paper boys, and daguerreotypists.
Technological Fix: I hate to say it, but why isn't Kate a blogger? Lux could totally read her Perez Hilton type dish every day on the computer at school or the public library and be in love with her just like she was enamored with this whole radio host idea.
The Wacky Judge: This isn't technologically obsolete, and the "I have a wacky solution to a problem" judge is as old as the deus ex machina itself. But why on earth would any family court judge even bother with a creative solution? The court would be so overrun with cases that the judge would just do the easiest and fastest thing so that she could get on to the next case. There is no time for cutesy rulings or monologues when social services are in the toilet.
Technological Fix: Judge Judy not only comes up with funny remedies, but she makes good television too. And a starving 16 year-old could really use the cash from being on the show.
That's all that we got from the show, but while we're at it, here are some other things that really rev our flux capacitor.
Paper Airline Tickets: Never again do we want to see someone show up and say, "I bought you a ticket out of town," and hand them a little blue envelope with real green and orange airline tickets in it (we think Chuck Bass did it to Carter Basin this season on Gossip Girl). Actual plane tickets haven't been around since the '80s, and no one takes tickets to the airport anymore unless it's the little print out you make after checking in online.
Technological Fix: The character needs something to slap against his enemy's chest when sending him out of town, why not have him use that tattered online check in print out? Sample line, "I never want to see your face in this town again. I booked you a flight to Cleveland, and I already checked you in. I hope a window seat is OK," then slaps the silly little paper on his chest. Modern day burn.
Meetings at the Gate: Since we're talking about air travel, the TSA has fucked up air travel so completely that no one wants to go the airport anymore and hardly anyone can get access past the first automatic door. Whether it's waiting for a loved one to arrive or rushing to stop your lover from leaving on a jet plane at the last minute, please, stop it with the airport hi-jinx. It only reminds us of how fun and easy flying used to be.
Technological Fix: You can still get away with anything on a train and at the train station. Nothing says classic drama like chasing down a train as it pulls out of the station. It's so retro, it's new again.
Getting Lost: Welcome to GPS, my friends. And these days, even the directions on Mapquest or Goggle Maps or whatever don't suck so bad that they can't get you to exactly where you're going. Sadly that means no one is going to stumble into a darkened mansion looking for directions again, but such is the march of the machines.
Technological Fix: Well, the GPS could always crap out, but that seems a little convenient. Hm, we're not quite sure how to fix this one. Suggestions?