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'Finding Carter' review: MTV series finds the drama

"Finding Carter" is a new unconventional family drama on MTV that centers on Carter, a teenage girl who thinks she has the perfect life until one night after a police bust at a high school party she is told that the woman who she believes to be her biological mother actually abducted her as a toddler. Photo Credit: MTV

THE SHOW "Finding Carter"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on MTV

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Don't let early appearances fool you. MTV's "Finding Carter" is not some "teens rule/adults are tools" show with a must-hear soundtrack. It also isn't the second coming of "Gilmore Girls," despite the intro's pretty young mom-daughter duo.

Watch the characters roll out and crash into each other. Too-smart Carter (Kathryn Prescott, "Reign") is none too happy at age 16 when she's yanked from have-fun single mom Lori (Milena Govich, "Rescue Me") and returned to the birth parents from whom she was kidnapped at age 3: uptight cop Elizabeth (Cynthia Watros, "Lost," "Titus") and wrote-a-book-about-you dad David (Alexis Denisof, "Angel"). Unsure whether to cheer or fear are sheltered twin daughter Taylor (Anna Jacoby-Heron) and astute "replacement child" Grant (Zac Pullam).

Of course, the "Finding Carter" pilot delivers MTV-requisite "cool" behavior (drinking, merry-go-round breaking-into), plus music montages (mom and teen go shopping) and name-checks ("Brad Pitt's development person"). But it also layers in some savvy friend-boyfriend rapport.

MY SAY This is an absolute boatload to accomplish in a single pilot hour. (Stick around at 11 for an unscreened second episode.) So keep your eye on one Emily Silver, the series creator who otherwise writes for "Bones." The breadth and depth of her setup is penetrating.

Carter is hardly the fluent fount of wisdom on her surface, instead seething with all kinds of misapprehensions, while her on-the-lam "mom" drops hints of unstated secrets. The birth parents have developed their own dicey inner lives.

Watros gets the best of it in the pilot, revealing much more self than the caricature Carter calls her. But Denisof's character looks like he'll grow in importance. Young Pullam and Jacoby-Heron, too, flesh out distinct personalities and perspectives on the family.

BOTTOM LINE "Finding Carter" isn't some teen show. It's a stellar drama.



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