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TV Rewind | Felicity: JJ Abrams’ college drama before his sci-fi days

JJ Abrams' and Matt Reeves' created Felicity that ran from 1998-2002. The two are now known for their work in science fiction and superhero franchises but before they found their true calling, they created this gem of a TV show.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: October 28, 2019 8:14:14 am
tv rewind felicity TV REwind: This week we revisit JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves’ show Felicity.

Way before JJ Abrams became the defining voice on science fiction, he created a wonderful college show titled Felicity. His co-creator here was Matt Reeves, who is now directing the Robert Pattinson starrer The Batman. The show was the story of a girl named Felicity Porter (Keri Russell) who travels across the country to be in the same college as her high school crush.

Felicity had four seasons which were all divided into her college years. This was a college drama but unlike many shows of the same genre, this one did a deep dive into the world of an under-confident girl who liked to confide in her friend Sally as they both communicated through recorded cassette tapes.

What works for Felicity?

Felicity started off as an introvert’s story who is trying to find her footing in the hustle-bustle of New York. Her motivation to move to New York is quite bizarre and she realises it soon enough. It is then that she decides that this is the time that she can truly find herself.

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Her conversations on taped cassettes become an important tool of the show’s narrative as many episodes open and close with the shot of her holding the recorder. The show was quite brave for its time as it dealt with consent, date rapes and pregnancy. For the first season, Felicity deals with the concept of sex and expresses that she has always imagined it to be a special experience and even though she doesn’t get pressured directly, the peer pressure seems to get the better of her.

felicity tv show Much of the drama on Felicity revolved around Ben, Felicity and Noel.

Much of the show’s premise was centered on the love triangle between Felicity, Ben (the boy she moves to New York for, played by Scott Speedman) and Noel (her new friend at college, Scott Foley). Felicity’s premise dealt with the issues of college students but the treatment was quite sensitive and mature. And the show was applauded for the same.

What does not work for Felicity?

Much of Felicity’s criticism came in the form of lead actor Keri Russell’s haircut. In the second season of the show, she got a hair cut that chopped off her voluminous locks. This has often been regarded as as one of TV’s biggest fashion faux-pas and is often heard as a pop-culture reference in many shows and films. In fact, many even blame the hair cut for the show’s declining ratings.

felicity hair cut In pop culture, it’s often said that this haircut killed the show and it could never get back to its former glory.

The show held strong for the first three seasons but as the fourth season rolled on, the confusion of Felicity’s future haunted her as well as the viewers. The time travel episodes were an opportunity for the makers to discuss the ‘what if’ scenarios but they left the viewers confused. For me, the show should have ended without those experimental episodes. In hindsight, it was probably around this time that JJ Abrams found his fascination with time travel.

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Felicity is a slow burner that is pleasant to watch. Don’t expect it to present cliffhangers episode after episode.

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