“Pretty Smart” centers around a sister relationship between the somewhat estranged Claire (Olivia Macklin, “Dead to Me”) and Chelsea (Emily Osment, “The Kominsky Method”). Chelsea is Claire’s opposite in every way; She’s a blazer-wearing, uptight academic and aspiring author who clearly thinks she’s too good for her sister and her friends. We’re meant to understand that the sisters have nothing in common except their blonde hair and their shared childhood, which is long in the past now.
However, when Chelsea is dumped by her Harvard-tenure-track boyfriend Dwayne over the phone midway through the first episode, an argument ensues over who really has an “adult” life. The show also features Claire’s three roommates Solana (Cinthya Carmona, “The Tax Collector”), Jayden (Michael Hsu Rosen, “Tiny Pretty Things”) and Grant (Gregg Sulkin, “This Is The Year”), who is also Claire’s ex-boyfriend. The roommates are respectively an ex-lawyer turned healer, a self-obsessed influencer and a shirtless gym buff and all three are airheads — so it seems.
Throughout the pilot, it’s clear that the show hasn’t yet found its footing. Macklin delivers her lines as if she’s Snow White talking to her animal friends, the laugh track is used too frequently and Sulkin’s American accent isn’t fooling anybody. He certainly doesn’t sound like the Nebraskan his character claims to be, but his wholesome character might be enough to make up for it. Between Sulkin and Osment, the nostalgia factor is certainly fulfilled (rise up my late-’90s and year 2000 babies awkwardly straddling the Generation Z to millennial gap!). Two heartfelt scenes between the duo sow the seeds of a love triangle between their characters and Olivia Macklin’s Claire. While it’s not the best execution, drama lovers are sure to appreciate the plot.
The only redeeming quality of the show thus far is its ability to accurately portray a relationship among sisters. As someone who’s missing her own sister right now, “Pretty Smart,” tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us that even though we might hate each other at times, we’ll always be sisters. As I watched Chelsea and Claire struggle to interact after having grown apart for so long, my heart broke at the thought of being so disconnected from my sister. I paused the show, picked up the phone and called her because I never want it to happen to us.
The show’s 20-minute episodes don’t allow for much of a complex or hard-hitting plot to unfold. The short episodes are, however, perfect for unwinding before bed or a good way to decompress after some long hours of work, lectures or notes. It’s simple, but sometimes we have to demand that. Some shows start out really well, steeped in drama and meaning, but you have to quit watching them because they get so complex and convoluted it makes your head spin. (I’m looking at you, “How to Get Away with Murder” and “The Blacklist”). I really enjoy higher-level stimulation, but truth be told, I don’t want to think hard all the time. Sometimes all I want is to relax and unwind with something somewhat mindless, but just interesting enough to hold my attention. If that’s you too, then I’m sure you’ll have finished Season 1 of “Pretty Smart” by next weekend.
Daily Arts Contributor Emmy Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.