The thing is, there is already so much intrigue, fascination, and promise built into the very basic roots of Finding Carter that it would be a good show if not for all these unnecessary additions. I would love a hard-hitting emotional drama about Carter’s struggle to rejoin a family full of strangers, or her confusing bond with a new twin sister, or the whirlwind of being thrust into a media spotlight, or the resentment from her siblings, who suffered the brunt of their parents’ anger, frustration, and overprotection after Carter’s kidnapping. When Carter explains, “I just had my entire life ripped from under me. My name is all I have left,” it’s obvious there’s enough in just those words for a gripping series. But then Finding Carter piles useless extra twists on top of it: her mother is hiding a predictable secret, Taylor and Carter are interested in the same boy (yawn), there are some high school party hijinks and police sting operations.
This all says more about MTV as a network than Finding Carter as a show. Finding Carter would have its problems anywhere — some of its soapy, emotional beats all but come with a blinking sign saying, “YOU SHOULD FEEL SOMETHING NOW,” and though the acting, particularly by Prescott, is admirable, the dialogue is so clunky that I often found myself laughing. But these problems are endemic on MTV, a network of excess. Faking It could have risen above a shoddy premise if it didn’t keep piling on bullshit throughout the season, while Awkward. destroyed three great seasons of a clever teen drama with a fourth season that turned into a sociopathic thriller, complete with an actual crazy wall. Even the network’s reality show staple The Real World couldn’t escape MTV’s endless need for more, and saw an over-the-top twist introduced just last season.
I welcome MTV’s renewed interest in the world of scripted series, and I’m patient enough to stick with the network (and this show) as it tries to figure things out. MTV has a basic idea of what stories it wants to tell — and kudos to MTV for exploring this narrative as a scripted series instead of a True Life: I Was Kidnapped as a Child episode — but it’s not entirely sure how to tell them. Finding Carter fits on the network, largely on the strength of its premise. It will surely find its audience, but I worry that it won’t find the strong, narrower focus that its story deserves.