There are some shows that change your life in the most obvious of ways. For me two of the most recent shows to do that are West Wing and Six Feet Under. Then there are other shows whose effect you never saw coming, that have a profound affect on who you are and how you come to see life. That’s what Anyone But Me is for me, and I’m pretty certain several other people too.
The story starts with Vivian McMillan, a 16 year-old girl forced to move away from New York and the world she knows because of the respiratory problems of her father, a firefighter who was part of the 9/11 rescue effort. Hard enough for a teenager to do but compounded with the reality of having to leave her girlfriend – the love of her life, behind. The fact that she has a girlfriend is not the story here, it is much more about trying to figure out where you belong. Every character in the show is trying to find out who it is they’re supposed to be when their worlds are changed.
This show is truly my addiction. There’s no other word for it. I can’t explain why else I would put myself through the (albeit exquisite) pain of waiting for each episode. All but one of my converted friends were fortunate enough to not have to experience the agony of waiting months between each episode for the next 10min segment that would leave us screaming, ‘NO!!!!’ as the titles came up. The wait, however, is part of why I love the format of ABM. There is no other show that I watch where you can watch every single episode before the next one comes on without losing a significant and possibly unhealthy amount of time. Every time you know a new episode is going to be aired you can literally do a mini ABM marathon.
So why do I love it? I’m not a NYer and I’m certainly not a teenager anymore. I grew up with Angela Chase and Daria Morgendorffer as my models for what it was to be a teenager, this probably explains a lot. One of the reasons is that there is an unbelievable amount of talent on this show. The way the stories and the characters are written is outstanding, Susan Miller deserves (and has rightly been awarded some of them including an Obie) every writing accolade there is. She crafts dialogue and situations which ask important questions and raises issues that should be at the forefront of our minds without ever making you feel as though you’re being preached to. All of this is brought beautifully to our screens by Tina Cesa Ward. I don’t know a thing about directing but whatever instruction she is giving the cast it works. Absolutely. And what a cast!
The whole cast are believable in their portrayal and though the majority of them are young (although they’re playing a lot younger) they approach their roles with the maturity and fearlessness required. I think that the fact that they are 20-somethings playing high school kids – convincingly, only further demonstrates how talented they are.
Admittedly I have my favourites amongst the cast, we all do for whichever shows we fall in love with. Forever there will be a place reserved in my heart for CJ Cregg. If the character continues to develop as she did in the first season I think too that there’ll always be a place there for Vivian McMillan. That won’t come as any surprise to anyone who knows me, I believe Rachael Hip-Flores to be a gift from the heavens. A truly outstanding individual who I would probably pay to watch her act as someone painting a wall. As Vivian, you can’t help but fall in love with her. She is trying so hard to be everything to everyone when she’s still not sure of who she is yet. You want so much for her to be happy. To be so emotionally invested in a character through 10 minute episodes is no easy task. It is the talent of Rachael Hip-Flores that makes this happen. She’s simply magical.
Of course she doesn’t do this alone. Her partner in crime once she moves to Westchester is Archibald, played by the lovely Joshua Holland. As Aster says, ‘You gotta like someone named Archibald.’ Indeed! The comic book loving artist who’d rather sit quietly and sketch rather than get involved in team sports and drinking like the other boys in the school. Josh Holland has created the boy that you would have loved to have known in high school. Best friend and hottest guy in school rolled into one but with a sweetness that you know wouldn’t break your heart.
I couldn’t write about the cast without mentioning Nicole Pacent. The other half of the couple dubbed VivSter, Aster Gatson. Headstrong and impetuous and sometimes frustratingly stubborn. There is a passion about the way she lives her life that you know if she was in your world you couldn’t help but be drawn to it. As for Nicole Pacent herself, just one flash of that smile and you’re lost. There is an authenticity to Aster, and even when you want to shake her because of her actions you understand why she’s doing what she does. I haven’t seen anything else she’s in but I have a strong feeling that she is one of those performers who will transfix you whatever the role.
If Rachael Hip-Flores and Nicole Pacent are forces alone, when you team them up it’s just…I don’t know how the world doesn’t implode from the chemistry between them. My heart was equally battered to pieces and stitched together with selotape during the last episode because of these two. I looked like a crazy person jumping from the biggest smile to waving my hands at my PC wanting to yell, ‘What are you doing?!?!’ I fully expect to become this mad person once ABM is back. I know that the writers are going to do the televisual equivalent of throwing my emotions into a washing machine over these two. Still I hand it over willingly, such is the faith I have in everyone involved in this wonderful show.
Even if it was just a gathering of amazing talent I don’t think it would be enough to make me as wrapped up in this show as I am. I don’t actually know how people stand it sometimes the amount I bang on about how good this show is telling anyone who’ll listen that they need to trust me and watch it.
Despite its setting and the age of the majority of the characters I can still relate to the themes that run through the show. My favourite of their promos is one I’ve only recently discovered. In it some of the younger members of the cast describe how things are different after 9/11. You see it in their faces how much life has changed, how fragile they realise everything now is and they ask, “So what do we do?”
I could say that I forgot the effects 9/11 had, but it’s truer to say that I never even thought about it. Of course I know the impact of that day but I hadn’t considered the change it would have on the young people who were growing up and had their lives changed because of it. I suppose events such as those of that Tuesday resonate differently. I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news and I know exactly who my thoughts were of, and they’re who I pretty much always think of when I remember that day.
At the time when all of the security alerts were going off and everyone’s senses were so heightened in case there was another attack I kept thinking that this was how I’d always grown up. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started using the tube, and whenever I did I never told my mum coz I knew the lecture on safety I’d get. That was life in London. Every day you’d expect to have some kind of a delay because of an IRA bomb threat. You knew that was why there were no rubbish bins anywhere in the underground stations. That’s just how things were.
ABM reminded me that this was how NYers lived now. Having asked what it is you do in the wake of such an event ABM throws up more questions. It becomes more important to be who you are and to not ever waste a moment, only when you’re that young you’re still trying to figure exactly who it is you are. Circumstance often dictating the limits, if not of who you can be but sometimes how much you can be you.
It’s not just a case of what you know yourself to be but how others define you. That’s something that no matter how old you are you can identify with. Every time you walk into a room or you meet someone else’s gaze they’ve already placed a dozen labels on you. How this and other issues are crafted by the amazing writing-director team and acted by an unbelievably talented cast is what has me jumping like a kid on Christmas morning every time I get a snippet of news about ABM.
Filming on season 2 started today. There are 40 days until the premiere. I’m not consciously counting (although my subconscious might be) but I wait in eager anticipation like those crazy people who start queuing at 3am for the January sales. You can bet that every day between now and then I will be watching the ABM tweets for any new information on what’s coming up and come December 15 – if the wait hasn’t driven me insane by then, I will be logging on to see where this amazing show is going to take me.
If you haven’t seen it then please visit www.AnyoneButMeSeries.com and start watching. The whole of season 1 will take maybe an hour and a half of your time and you will not be sorry. Trust me. Look at how I gushed? There has to be a reason right!