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TV Series Review

Ahh. Young love. It makes 18-year-olds swoon, pine, obsess and, apparently, play lots of Truth or Dare.

But this time merely daring Tom Bellow to go nude in public again isn't enough for Jessie Hill. No, she wants a challenge that will determine what her boyfriend is really made of. So, as they're walking in a park together, she dares him to propose.

After locating a plastic bottle-top ring on the ground, Tom actually—and sincerely—drops to one knee and asks his longtime friend to marry him. She happily accepts.

So starts the comedic process of newlywed adjustment—in the Bellows' attic—as the two teens grow into their marriage and their parents adjust to this new, strange reality. Tom's folks think he's simply too young. Jessie's believe marriage is merely "an exercise in greed with absolutely no bearing in reality." And the teens themselves? They're left to unpack what marriage is all about, for better or for worse.

In a world full of youth who either scorn matrimony or postpone it until well into their thirties, it might seem refreshing to think that at least one young TV couple takes it seriously. And Tom and Jessie do seem to take their vows to heart and commit for the long haul. But it's discouraging to see what this sitcom ultimately does to marriage—using it as little more than a gag reflex plot point designed to dredge up a few laughs.

As New York magazine contributor Josef Adalian put it, 18 to Life ends up being "a half-hour mash-up of Meet the Parents, Away We Go, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager." More to the point, Megan Angelo writes, for The Wall Street Journal, "When a pop-culture tide brought us  Juno and Knocked Up, critics decried the glamorization of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. A show about teens getting married just because they're in love should make us all feel good. Shouldn't it? Watch and decide for yourself—but stick around for episode two before you decide. It's then that Jessie and Tom settle into married life—and man, do they settle in. She bosses him around. He becomes instantly crotchety. All of this would be enough to undermine the show's appeal. But what makes it really hard to watch is Tom and Jessie's casual discourse on sex."

Dumb jokes. Dirty jokes. Sleazy sexual situations. Lame role models. Not one of those sitcom staples is stifled at all by the fact that Tom and Jessie get married.

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Episode Reviews

18toLife: 8102010
18toLife: 832010a
18toLife: 832010b



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Stacy Farber as Jessie Hill Bellow; Michael Seater as Tom Bellow; Peter Keleghan as Ben Bellow; Ellen David as Judith Bellow; Al Goulem as Phil Hill; Angela Asher as Tara Hill; Jesse Rath as Carter






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On Video

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Meredith Whitmore

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