I have a friend who, when we were in our primary school days, confessed that once while staying home sick for got hooked on soaps. This is a statement I would never let that friend live down. While I have never been the most discriminate of television watchers there are two things I’ve always managed to avoid: reality television (post-Real World/Road Rules, all 90s teens are exempt from that) and soap operas. I have been forced as of late to reconsider that last. Sure, as a (mostly) recovered wrestling fan I have acknowledged that the “sports-entertainment” embodied by the WWE is a soap opera of sorts but that isn’t what I’m talking about. Sometimes there is a show you get hooked on, a show that intellectually you’re not sure you really should be enjoying but you, for one reason or another, you can’t stop watching. For me that show, once something of a prime-time soap, is a little program called Kyle XY.
One of ABC Family’s first forays into original primetime television and part of their post-Disney purchase re-branding in 2006 Kyle XY was one of the stations first forays into the realm of science fiction. The show centers around an amnesiac teen who awakens in the forest near Seattle. Covered in a strange slimy substance and apparently ignorant of even the most basic of human needs he is quickly taken by the family of a psychologist, Nicole Trager. Over the course of the first season the show explores Kyle’s growing understanding of life and explores the relationships of the people around him. At the same time we also begin to learn of the strange abilities Kyle has as he delves into the mystery of his past.
There is a certain innocence to the show, particularly in the first season, that is strangely compelling. I found myself drawn to the question of what it might be like to experience the world for the first time as a near adult. Of course this show is also from ABC Family so there is, if not a wholesome element, a strong thread of family values running throughout every episode. More often than not it is the family dynamic, the human element, that takes precedence over the superhuman. Of course even with the focus on family values, this is a family with issues. Both Lori Trager and Josh Trager struggle with issues from drinking, to sex, to drugs. While Kyle often feels too perfect (a result of his super developed brain…I guess) and his relationships often a bit too innocent it falls to the rest of the family to fill-in the “real-life” quotient. This is particularly evident in the shows second season which introduces us to Andy, the geeky chick who worms her way into Josh’s life. The relationship that develops over those episodes is a welcome distraction from the barrage of puppy-dog eyes between Kyle and his love interest Amanda (or the puppy dog eyes Jessi throws Kyle’s way). Yes, there is a saccharine quality to the show. But much like real sugar once tasted it is difficult to stop consuming. Everything is BIG DRAMA for the Trager family and despite my best cynicism at hand I found it difficult to not get caught up in the lives of the Trager family. Yet, I’ve watched almost the entirety of its 43 episodes.
Is there something that explains this? There are countless things I should have been doing while watching this silly little show. A mound of unread books, a stack of unplayed games, unpainted miniatures, Netflix movies that have been sitting around for weeks, and a growing backlog of Fringe on my DVR. It just doesn’t make any sense. I wrote off Kyle XY when it originally aired and even now as I near the end of the third and final season there is a part of me that thinks I shouldn’t be liking this show and that is, surprise surprise, a little ashamed by that fact. That folks, is my prime time confession.