What You Should Be Watching On TV: Jack & Bobby

Jack & Bobby
By: Mathan Erhardt

This is the story of two brothers in high school and their single mother, a professor at the local college. Oh and one brother will be President of the United States later in the century.

Let me try to place things in perspective; Grace McCallister is a single mother in Hart, Missouri. She’s a liberal intellectual and occasional pot smoker who teaches at the local college. Her two sons Jack and Bobby are both attending high school.

The awkward Bobby is beginning his first year in high school, whereas Jack has already cemented his social status by dating a cheerleader and becoming a track star. Jack is reluctant to fully embrace his role of big brother in the high school setting.

Meanwhile the college has a new President, Peter Benedict, a widower with two daughters. Benedict is not only Grace’s intellectual equal, but also her conservative counterpart. His eldest daughter Courtney, is Jack’s age and attending the same high school.

Now that we have the main characters in play let’s get into the how things have evolved. Jack shuns Bobby at school, which causes Bobby to become desperate to attain social status. Thus Bobby takes his mom’s stash of weed and brings it to school. Unfortunately he gets caught. Jack gets called down to the principal’s office and ends up taking the blame for stash, so as to save his brother’s fragile rep. As a result Jack gets suspended from the track team.

While Jack and Courtney share a palpable attraction, they both either ignore or disregard the clear sings of attraction. Thus Jack gets back together with his ex-girlfriend, a cheerleader whose father happens to be a preacher. Bobby has a brief romance with a rebellious girl who can’t bear to be seen with him. Grace meanwhile begins a dalliance with a grad student who works directly with her.

On the Benedict side of the street, Bobby seeks the guidance and mentorship of President Benedict, much to the chagrin of Grace. Courtney begins a covert relationship with a college student.

Of course Jack and Missy, his girlfriend break up, as Jack realizes that there is more to high school than being in with the “in crowd.”

Did I mention that throughout each episode we get glimpses of the future via interviews with members of President McCallister’s staff, his rivals and even his wife; Courtney McCallister. Yes that Courtney.

The Writing

The writing is sharp and relatively clever. For instance when dealing with the subject of teenagers and drug use, they wisely flip the cliché and make the mother the pot smoker and the teenagers anti drug. Likewise the May/December relationship features an older woman and younger man, as opposed the more popular opposite.

The show deals with heavy topics without being heavy handed. Faith, honesty, fidelity, and the value of friendship are all addressed but in a seamless manner that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the show.

One thing that this show really gets right is the awkwardness of early teenage years. Bobby is the antithesis of “cool.” The dialogue is stilted and flows just like kids speak. The pauses are terrific. They also do a great job of dealing with the hierarchies of life; be it on a high school campus or with college faculty.

The Acting

The acting is stellar. Everyone does a fine job. John Slattery nails his performance as Peter Benedict. He’s arrogant and stodgy yet can be endearing and warm when he needs to be. Logan Lerman inhabits Bobby and instills him with a very sympathetic manner. He’s subtle and fragile. And of course Grace is played by Christine Lahti with extra zest.

At times Matthew Long’s portrayal of Jack can be a bit too dramatic, but on the average he’s bearable. Bradley Cooper plays Tom, the grad student and he does so with such flair. Tom tries too hard to impress Bobby and tries too hard to court Grace. But it’s still fun to witness.

Why You Should Watch

This is perhaps to most criminally under watched of the network dramas. It deals with complex themes in a common manner. It also proves the novel concept of witnessing the events that help shape a future President. The writing is solid. The acting is great. And it’s a “teen drama” that’s more than watchable; it’s enjoyable.

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