Privileged was an American TV show that aired on the CW from 2008-2009. It was adapted from Zoey Dean’s novel How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls (which I actually, embarrassingly enough, really enjoyed). The show’s premise focused on Megan Smith (Joanna Garcia), a Yale graduate with aspirations of becoming a serious journalist. Megan’s plans are derailed when she gets fired from her lowly position at a tabloid magazine, her apartment burns down, and she meets Laurel Limoges (Ann Archer), a cosmetics tycoon who ends up hiring Megan to tutor her twin teenage granddaughters Rose (Lucy Hale) and Sage (Ashley Newbrough).
Things don’t go exactly as Megan plans, and she struggles to get the girls to open up to her and care about their grades and academic future. To complicate things further, being a live-in tutor at the Limoges’ mansion means that Megan is back in Palm Beach, Florida, which just so happens to be where her estranged family lives. Predictably, drama ensues.
Here’s the problem with a TV show based on one (relatively short) novel: after a while, they’re going to run out of material. In order to counteract this conundrum, the writers decided to flesh out some of the secondary story lines of the characters and make the one-hour drama a little sudsier. This had a mixed level of success: giving twins Rose and Sage (Hale and Newbrough, are, in my opinion, the strongest actresses on the show) a complicated sisterly bond added a complexity that much of the rest of the show lacked. Other plot twists didn’t work so well: having Grandma Limoges admit to an affair years past fell flat, as did the romantic quadrangle Megan finds herself in with her best friend Charlie (played rather flatly by Michael Cassidy), her hot next door neighbor Will (Brian Hallisay, who is so boring that I practically fell asleep every time he was given screen time), and Megan’s sister, Lily (Kristina Apgar). It felt played out before it even began.
There’s also the problem of Megan herself: Garcia plays her with such a manic intensity that it’s hard not to hate her. She’s perky, full of self-righteousness masquerading as good intentions, and full of quirks that make her downright irritating. The fact that the twins are trying their best to get rid of her is completely understandable.
The show was a blatant attempt by the CW to recreate the popularity of Gossip Girl with another show, but it doesn’t ever quite work. While Gossip Girl certainly has its faults, the first two seasons or so were clever, funny, and fast-paced. This show is not funny, not clever, and full of bland, cardboard cut-outs passing for characters. It’s wish-fulfillment at its finest: a lot of white, rich people navel-gazing and whining about their problems.
I finished the entire series (which comes in at a whopping 18 episodes), but I don’t know that I’d recommend it. Is it brain candy? I guess so–but it’s third-rate brain candy–Circus Peanuts or off-brand gummy worms or something.