One of the pop YA novels in recent times is the book, “One of Us is Lying”. The premise? A merger of Gossip Girl and The Breakfast Club.
You may know that Gossip Girl was centred around an anonymous social media feed that dished all the dirt from the high school. Who was doing who, whose parents were having blowout fights, who was bribing who, etc. It didn’t stop with simple teen angst, it went deeper at times. The ultimate addiction. If you were in the school, you had to read it to know what everyone was talking about.
Switch to OoUiL, and the premise is adjusted. Instead of being anonymous, the author is known. Which is a ridiculous premise. Based on the stuff he’s posted previously, it’s clear that someone would have beat the crap out of him daily the entire previous year at least. Or a group of them. He talks to people who actually respond to him frostily as opposed to smashing him in his face or walking away the moment he opens his mouth. But whatever. He’s isolated except for a girl who has the not-so-secret hots for him, and maybe she did it, but hard to say.
Anyway, it’s the first day of the new school year, and he’s promising to reveal what they all did for the summer, starting with a big news dump on the upcoming Friday. The sports guy who has a huge secret; the skank who has been stepping out; the A student with another huge secret; and a felon who has been, well, felonious.
And what a coincidence, they all end up with detention on the first day. Enter the Breakfast Club. The teacher in charge is not quite as stupid as the BC teacher, but she is pretty rude and off-balance. There’s a distracting event, the student takes a drink of water, and BAM! down he goes choking. Yep, dead of either poison or some sort of allergic reaction, and the kids are the prime suspects. If the teacher doesn’t turn out to be the killer, I’ll be very surprised. I never read the book, but she makes the only obvious NON-suspect which means she’s my prime suspect.
I want to hate the show. I want to tell you it’s stupid, teen angsty, terrible premise, and totally unwatchable. The first three are true, the last one is not. It’s pretty good. If I was about 35-40 years younger, I’d probably tune in.
Marianly Tejada plays Bronwyn, aka the brainy A student with a secret. In the premiere, she also stole the dead guy’s laptop to protect her secret, and then someone stole it from her. Which pretty much eliminates her as a real suspect, I guess, but they’ll come back to her for awhile. I still think it’s the teacher, but hey, that won’t come until near the end of the series. Tejada doesn’t have a lot of previous experience, and I haven’t seen her in much, but if you want to know what she’s like, picture Kaylee Bryant from Legacies. She’s basically channelling an almost carbon copy of her academic intensity. Sounds bad, but it’s not, she’s watchable but you’ll have to wait to see if she’s given something else to do in the series.
Cooper van Grootel plays Nate, aka the felon. His character is the one that makes zero sense as the dead guy has been banging on him for a while, revealing secrets that could get him sent to jail, and he’s like, “Yeah, whatever”. Really? Not too likely. Anyway, whatever, I like his presence. It’s more than simple blonde hair dude, he has a bit of presence and gravitas. I haven’t seen him in anything before, but he’s decent.
Chibuikem Uche plays Cooper (yep, there’s an actor named Cooper on the set and a character named Cooper, so I’m sure that’s not confusing at all to anyone), aka the athlete with a secret. Which you find out pretty early on is that he’s gay, but doesn’t want to come out because then nobody will draft him to play baseball. I swear someone called Central Casting and said, “You know that show All-American? Find me a Daniel Ezra-like face to be our Spencer James”. Oh, but we’ll pair him with a dad who’s been training him rather than single mom. Uh-huh. And yet I like All American, so I like him too.
The skank, Addy, is not really a skank, just a blonde girl who is a bit superficial, has a healthy libido, and doesn’t quite hew to monogamy. Played by Annalisa Cochrane, I swore I had seen her in other shows before. She has one of those faces where you think, “I’ve seen you in 20 other shows playing the same party girl, right? Maybe as a scream queen in a horror flick?”. According to IMDB, nope. Of the 10+ credits she’s had, all the way back to soaps and before, I have never seen her in anything. I don’t want to watch her full time as the character isn’t very interesting, but the actress is fine. She looks like Tara Reid a bit, but isn’t so flighty.
And while there are various other actors running around, I’ll skip them to talk for a second about the victim/blogger aka Simon, played by Mark McKenna. He’s listed as appearing in multiple episodes, so I assume there will be flashback scenes. He is cast to look like John Cusack from a variety of John Hughes shows, and the script even drop-references Hughes at the start. He has the most presence of all the actors, annnnnd then he’s dead. But to be honest? He seems to deserve it. He fashions himself as the avenging journalist who roots out secrets, but his first reveal is a new girl who has started at the school and is trying to start her new life. So he outs her as having stabbed her English teacher the year before. Which no doubt is going to turn out to be some sort of sexual assault thing that she was avenging, and his reveal was just mean-spirited, but regardless, that’s already clear. As someone else confesses anonymously from his laptop (ignoring the fact that a hacker would have had it password protected, particularly as he was posting at school and could get expelled), he deserved to die and everyone hated him.
If I had to choose a killer, I’m going with the teacher. If I get two choices, I’ll throw in the girlfriend who has been following him around and would know he would need water during the detention. However, for plot, there’s only two characters who could guarantee all five of them would be in detention — the teacher or the victim. Unless it’s a revenge suicide, I’m going with the teacher.
Except, I confess, I won’t be watching. It’s well done. It’s compelling. And if I was in my teens, I could see a reason to watch. But I’m not the demographic for this show, and I’ll pass. Yet there is still one other factor that bothers me. All of the actors seem to be channelling other actors/characters. It is not a coincidence that I see Legacies’ Josie, or John Cusack or Tara Reid or All American’s Spencer…or any of the other derivative choices. Someone deliberately cast them that way, and that disappoints me. It’s almost like someone threw elements from seven different shows together and said, “Hey, let’s try this”. I’m also disappointed that it turned out well.
I think it is better done than Gossip Girl too, so I’m going to predict renewal. I have no idea what they’ll do for S2 as a premise, but hey, that’s someone else’s problem. I suppose they could pull the Cold Case episode that was Breakfast Club-like that led to a possible suicide that was actually murder and rip that show off too.