Popular: Second Season (April 2/05)
In its first season, Popular got a lot of mileage out of it's odd-couple premise: two socially disparate teenagers must learn to live with each other after their single parents begin seeing each other. It's an intriguing concept that quickly proved to be far too limited to base an entire series around, as that aspect of the show was resolved by the end of the first season.
On the plus side, Popular features a likeable cast that's complemented by a bubbly, colorful sense of style. The show revolves around Brooke (Leslie Bibb) and Sam (Carly Pope), the aforementioned social rivals who - in season one - were forced to deal with the prospect of becoming sisters. Consequently, most episodes dealt with the frustration and comprises that naturally arose due to the changes in both Brooke and Sam's lives. Season two, on the other hand, finds the characters used to the idea of being related (despite a storyline in the first two episodes that finds Brooke mulling over a move to San Francisco in order to be with her mom), leaving the show with nowhere of any real consequence to go.
As a result, the majority of the second season's episodes place the emphasis on wacky subplots - an unusual choice given the presence of some unusually serious storylines (ie the temporary split of Sam and Brooke's parents). This would be fine if the aforementioned wacky subplots were in the least bit funny, but more often than not, this is the sort of stuff one might expect to find in an episode of Lizzie McGuire (where it would be done a whole lot better, too). Were this a half-hour sitcom, there's no doubt that the show's humorous elements - accompanied by canned laughter - would come off far more effectively than they do here, primarily because there's nothing organic about these jokes (ie they feel less like things that could actually happen and more like gags a clever scriptwriter thought up).
Having said that, Popular essentially remains a watchable - if entirely forgettable - little show, thanks mostly to the performances, the majority of which elevate the material considerably. Bibb and Pope are quite good as the series' leads, while supporting characters are filled by talented performers such as Sara Rue and Scott Bryce. But the bottom line is that Popular - unlike other shows revolving around high school life, ie Dawson's Creek and Beverly Hills 90210 - doesn't have a lot to offer older viewers, though there's no denying that audiences that are closer in age to the characters will probably get a kick out of it.